Robert Thompson returned home to the United States from his volunteer experiences in India very humbled. He noticed the contrast between poverty and luxury, between being appreciative and taking something for granted.
“I loved seeing the smiles on people’s faces after they received something that was of great value to them, whether it was our time with them or new knowledge and skills they obtained.... I have come back with a new perspective on who I am and the things that matter most in life.”
During one of my fall semesters in college, I studied abroad in Rennes, France, on a program sponsored by the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE). In addition to many great opportunities to develop my French language skills, I also explored many new places and activities that I had never had the chance to do before in the United States.
Having a disability does not exempt participants from the terms of the code of conduct (sometimes called behavior agreements) or from experiencing consequences for violating the code.
Providing all participants with site-specific information about the services and support available abroad can reduce the likelihood that a participant with a disability will violate a code of conduct.
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?
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.
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.
Help smooth the transition abroad for by implementing these inclusive ideas into the structure of a group exchange program. These tips, adapted from Autism Network International, can benefit exchange participants who are on the autism spectrum as well as those who are neurotypical.
Will you be welcoming an autistic exchange student or participant on your program for the first time? Great! Brush up on your understanding of neurological differences, respectful language and related lingo so you can advise your participant with confidence.
Have you ever felt like an anthropologist, having to figure out the social habits of those around you? Have you ever had to find new ways to communicate with other people, or had to interpret the slang or figures of speech used by other people? These can be common experiences for people on the autism spectrum, but they are also very common experiences for international exchange travelers! Why not be both?