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Navigating Disability and Study Away

Accessibility and accommodations options depend on the study away program chosen and the host country; likewise, attitudes and policies regarding disability and disability services vary from culture to culture. Because accessibility laws overseas will differ from those in the U.S., it is important to communicate with Disability Services well in advance so that we can discuss possible arrangements.

Considerations during the Study Away Process

Deciding to Study Away

  • Evaluate your program and host country. Remember that perceptions and attitudes surrounding disability vary by culture, as do access and accommodations. Think about how you might cope with personal, academic or social stressors while abroad.
  • Determine what supports or accommodations are necessary for you to be successful in a program, keeping in mind that what is considered standard in the U.S. may not be available overseas. If a particular accommodation is not available, be creative and open to alternatives.
  • Evaluate documentation needs:  Check with the programs for which you are applying and ask about their documentation requirements, which may differ than what was provided to Macalester. Updated or additional diagnostic documentation may be required for study away programs and it’s important to plan for this in advance.
  • If you have concerns or conditions that require ongoing treatment, you should consult with your physician and/or psychiatrist about the prospect of studying away.

Selecting a Program

  • Work with the Center for Study Away staff to contact your programs of interest and inquire about accommodation possibilities.
  • Consider the support services available for your programs of interest, such as Disability Services offices or other points of contact for students with disability-related needs.
  • Research potential off-site resources near your programs of interest, including physicians, mental health professionals, and medical specialists.

Preparing to Depart

  • Ensure accommodations and any requests are in place at least 90 days prior to departure.  This includes typical course accommodations and program accommodations (e.g. housing).
  • Have a plan and support system.   Who and what can you connect with if difficulty arises?  If you are a student with a mental health concern what connections are available in your host country or may still be available in the US (e.g. skype appointments?)
  • Identify someone at your host university or program provider who can help you if you have difficulties. Be sure to make contact with that person before you arrive.
  • Pack enough medication for the duration of your time abroad in your carry-on luggage. Look over the Mobility International medications tipsheet for more details about best practices for bringing medications abroad.
  • Ensure you have things set for your return.  Are you returning to the residence halls and have this set? Are you registered for courses?

Living and Study Away

  • Stay connected by reaching out to your support system (including friends, family, and university or program provider faculty/staff in the U.S. and in your host country) to help with culture shock and homesickness.
  • If you take medication, be sure to keep up with your normal schedule. Take inventory often to ensure you’re not running low.

Returning to Macalester

  • Reflect on your experience abroad. What did you accomplish personally, academically, socially, and professionally? How did disability affect your experience and/or your accomplishments? What do the answers to these questions tell you about yourself and your disability?
  • Share your experiences and your accomplishments with others. Remember that you have a story that is worth repeating!