Study Abroad

Students with disabilities can and do study abroad. If you are a student with a disability and interested in studying abroad, inform Student Accessibility Services and the Office of Global Engagement (which oversees International Programs and Partnerships) early on so that accommodations can be considered. If a student with a disability is not currently registered with SAS, please see Registering for Services.

Due to the changes in diet and living conditions in a foreign setting, some conditions may worsen while abroad. For example, students with respiratory problems may discover that the quality of the air in certain cities or a change in altitude affects them adversely. Likewise, students with a history of mental health conditions may find that adjusting to a new environment may exacerbate symptoms.

It is important to keep in mind that many foreign countries do not have the same accessibility laws as those in the United States. Therefore, it is imperative that you inform the study abroad office of your needs and/or concerns so that they can be of assistance. Depending on the accommodations needed, it may take a considerable amount of time to arrange them. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that students contact SAS and the Office of Global Engagement regarding accommodations during the application process to study abroad.

Quick tips for students with disabilities traveling abroad:

  • Disclose your disability needs to program staff well in advance of travel, so appropriate arrangements can be made in a timely manner.

  • Please have your list of medications and dosages available in case it is needed.

  • Remember that other cultures may provide disability access in a different way--learn about what types of accommodation are typically provided in your host country, and be flexible and open to different ways of accommodating your disability.

  • Before you go, find out as much as you can about your host culture and how they view disability by reading, talking to other students, and attending pre-departure orientation sessions. The more you know, the better prepared you will be for the interaction between your disability and the new environment.

The Office of Global Engagement encourages all students to plan ahead while remembering that even with good planning, students could well encounter unanticipated challenges. Students may not like to talk about the “what if,” but those who have traveled abroad know how important it is to plan ahead. The more information an adviser can share with the host school, the better. The process can take many months. It is recommended for the student to set aside 9–12 months for planning starting the conversation in early fall, for example, for the following summer. If the accommodation includes a service dog, students must abide by the laws of the host country for bringing an animal. Some countries have a six-month quarantine requirement necessitating many preparatory steps over a long period.

Flexibility is another factor that is key to success. Advisers and others in the Office of Global Engagement shun the notion of discouraging students with disabilities. The attitude all bring to the enterprise is a will to make it work. This includes recognizing there may be some programs that are not appropriate for some individuals. The advisers do not encourage or discourage, but explain the reality of participating in a particular program in concrete terms and guide students to consider a range of options.