After doing some research and talking to his college study abroad advisor, Jeremiah Swisher learned that there are many different types of international exchange opportunities to choose from. "The group trip to teach in Jamaica over spring break seemed like the best fit for me because it wouldn't interrupt my schoolwork," he says."The idea of traveling with a group of people was much more comfortable than traveling alone."
How you decide which kind of exchange program depends on you and your preferences. What type of international experience would you prefer?
Part of the wonders of traveling include experiencing other people's cultures, including their habits, values, interests, beliefs, and preferences. It takes time for any traveler to learn and adjust to differences in the host culture, and autistic travelers may want to research some specific ways in which the local host culture might impact their routines or preferences. Think about how you might adapt if you traveled to a country that had major cultural differences related to time and punctuality, leisure and schedules, and body language.
Are you eager to get foreign language immersion and to gain new skills for problem-solving and independent living? We asked several students on the autism spectrum to talk about the benefits they gained from studying abroad. Consider the many ways in which international exchange can enrich your life.
You can use your Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) funds towards international academic exchange expenses. Learn how to include study abroad in your VR Plan.
Each year, thousands of American undergraduate and graduate students with and without disabilities travel abroad on international academic exchange programs. These students are brushing up on new languages, advancing their cross-cultural awareness, and building valuable independence - all skills that make a hearty resume for future employment opportunities. You can, too!
Do I have to disclose my disability?
Short Answer: No, you are not required to disclose your disability when you apply for or at any point in an international exchange program. If you do not need specific accommodations, you can choose not to disclose your disability.
Long Answer: If you require accommodations or other types of support that will facilitate your success in an international exchange program, you will likely need to disclose your disability. Many exchange program policies require documentation of a disability in order to provide specific accommodations.
Perseus McDaniel, who is Deaf, was accepted into a study abroad program in Florence, Italy to study literature and creative writing. He planned and organized his trip, which included funding from the state of Washington for two American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters to join him.
Check out the suggested tips and strategies below that can help make international exchange a possibility for you.
Funding can make or break a dream to explore the world. Almost everyone worries about how they will be able to afford the costs associated with international travel. Get ready to learn about many ideas that people just like you have used to make their dream a reality.
As you investigate all funding possibilities, be sure to keep in mind any income or benefits that you are currently receiving in the U.S. There’s a possibility you may be able to use these towards your international exchange opportunity.
"While preparing to study abroad in England, I was concerned about how much it was going to cost. I was receiving SSI benefits and involved with the Department of Rehabilitation Services (DORS), and remained eligible for the year I was in England." - Beth Ocrant, who has a vision disability
For six weeks this summer, I’ll be interning at a media organization in Accra, Ghana. By night I will share a house with fourteen fellow students from the University of Oregon. By day I will likely travel solo to and from work in a densely populated African city. This will also be my first time traveling internationally by myself. Eek!
As I navigated my way through piles of paperwork and broke the news to my family, I was rather amused at others’ reactions to my summer internship.
MIUSA: What was your experience living in the host country?
Tony: This was the first time I traveled on an educational exchange that wasn't disability-related. I wondered whether my learning differences would present a problem in the classes at Yonsei University.
I learn best by seeing and experiencing, and discovered that I was able to comprehend a huge amount at the lectures and on the cultural tours.
Kathleen Coleman dreams of returning to Spain and would like others to know that having a travel companion with Asperger's can enhance an already-unique experience.
In some cases, international exchange programs who are supporting Deaf/Hard of Hearing U.S. citizens abroad may decide to hire sign language interpreters in the destination country. Benefits may include reduced costs and the use of interpreters who have a familiar knowledge of the local language, culture, and Deaf community. However, be aware that most in-country sign language interpreters are trained only in the sign language of that country.
The following resources may be useful to you in locating a sign language interpreter in a non-U.S. country.
Ask detailed questions that help you understand the full nature of the program and the resources you need to fully participate. While international exchange staff may know more about the programmatic details and international contexts, disability-related staff may have more ideas about alternative accommodation possibilities that could add insight to the discussion.