Smiles spread on the Japanese storekeepers' faces as Jonathon, an obvious foreigner, asks them a question in their language. Jonathon, a University of Iowa graduate student who is spending a semester abroad, loves this interaction with the locals, both for absorbing the culture and practicing his Japanese language skills.
From the beginning of her studies at Boston University, Elana knew she wanted field experience helping children with and without disabilities to lead healthy and fulfilling lives.
“I thought it would be cool to do an internship overseas because it would give me a unique perspective from another culture for my future career.”
So she looked into all her options, and took an active role in getting necessary accommodations for an internship while studying abroad in Australia for a semester.
Sean didn’t know what to expect on his first journey abroad, so he focused on the usual.
“I wondered how easy it would be to get around, what people’s reactions would be to me, and how different it would be from what I’m used to in the United States.”
What he discovered in Nicaragua was the travel concerns ended up being much less of an issue, for which he now admits he may have over prepared. Instead, he found himself grappling more with the cultural contradictions he discovered there.
- Remember the benefits: This experience is an incredible opportunity to gain invaluable knowledge and for personal growth.
- Many of your fears will fade away as the unknown becomes known and you become surrounded by new exciting places, tastes, and friends.
- Know that many people with disabilities have successfully traveled to all parts of the world to study or volunteer and more. Learn from their stories in our Resource Library.
- Be realistic about the challenges you may face, as well as open to the possibilities.
Dr. Jack Godwin has made international education his life mission. He is changing the assumption that it’s just about one study abroad experience as an undergraduate. Throughout his professional career as a university administrator, he has participated in the U.S. Department of State-sponsored J. William Fulbright Program to different countries every few years.
While an international experience is voluntary, he finds those who choose it to be most interesting.
When it came to the day she was dropped off at the airport, Yanin’s concerns that had kept her up at night, turned into tears and nerves. She was leaving familiarity behind in order to study abroad. Actually, Yanin, who has anxiety and depression, found the courage to study abroad, twice.
The first time a scholarship attracted her to spend a summer in Slovakia at the University of Economics in Bratislava. It was a group program with other Americans.
By your very presence, and by your active participation in an international exchange experience, you can help challenge negative perceptions. People with disabilities who have traveled abroad have tried a variety of strategies.
From country to country, you will find there are vastly different views on disability that are based on your ethnicity, religion, gender, socioeconomic status, religious beliefs, and disability type. Local politics, laws, geographic setting (rural versus urban), existing services for people with disabilities, and more add another layer of complexity to disability culture and identity.
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.
The experience of traveling to a different country can result in “culture shock” for anyone, disability or not! You might also experience an additional layer of cultural adjustment related to attitudes around disability. As an American traveler with a disability, you may experience positive and negative cultural disability differences.
In the summer of 2018, Shea Megale, a woman with spinal muscular atrophy type II who uses a power chair, participated in the first-ever Czech Republic filmmaking program organized by Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA).