Studying abroad is an exciting and rewarding experience for all college students. We want all of you to get lost in the culture and enjoy experiencing something completely new; but we also want you to be prepared. There are plenty of things to consider when going abroad with a disability, and our education abroad advisors will help you as much as we can.
Before You Go:
It’s important that you research your host country and program very carefully. Some countries are more accessible than others. Check with your healthcare provider for recommendations related to travel. Obtain a letter from your doctor on letterhead explaining the need for any medical devices or medications. After getting the okay, research which programs can best accommodate any special needs you may have. Visit this site for information on finding opportunities abroad, funding your experience, your legal rights internationally and how they differ from your rights in the United States, and strategies and resources about disclosing your disability and making sure you get the disability-related accommodations you need.
Another helpful way to prepare is to learn disability-related vocabulary in the language of the countries you are visiting. This will make it easier to address accessibility and disability-related issues as they arise. Before you leave for your study abroad program, make sure that you can properly answer the following questions:
- Are you planning to travel with a service animal? Have you completed the necessary documentation early enough?
- Do you have sufficient medication with you, and have you packed enough for the duration of your program?
- Do you use a personal assistant? Have you made arrangements with your study abroad program to arrange for the services of an assistant abroad?
- Do you have adequate medical insurance?
- Have you researched your location(s) and its accessibility?
Funding your Study Abroad:
Murray State offers an Under-represented Students scholarship for the 2013-2014 academic year. See our scholarship page for more information on how to apply for this and many other scholarships.
A nationally competitive award, the Gilman Scholarship Program, aims to support students who have been traditionally under-represented in study abroad, including but not limited to, students with high financial need, community college students, students in under-represented fields such as the sciences and engineering, students with diverse ethnic backgrounds, and students with disabilities. Awards range from $3000-$5000 and you must be Pell grant eligible to apply.
While students are encouraged to study abroad wherever they feel comfortable, Murray State offers a signature program designed to fit the needs of those with disabilities: London Spring Break 2014. This week long program offers a choice of CIV 202 or HIS 390/690 Special Topics: History of London. The program runs from March 14-March 22, 2014. The application and scholarship deadline is November 1, 2013. If this program sounds like something you would be interested in, check it out online or make an appointment with your study abroad advisor for more information.
Traveling with a disability can be a difficult and stressful experience but it does not have to be. In order to ensure your safety and make the process as easy as possible, contact the airline early to make sure that any medical equipment meets the airline’s regulations. If you must undergo a personal search during airport screening, you can request for the screening to be conducted in a private area of the security check point. If you have a connecting flight, allow for at least 90 minutes between flights to make sure you have adequate time to transfer between gates. If you have a pacemaker, do not walk through the metal detector or be hand-wanded. Instead, carry a Pacemaker Identification Card and show the security officer.
The most important thing for students to do is set realistic expectations. In order to avoid unnecessary stress and ensure a successful study abroad experience, you might want to make a fairly structured itinerary if one is not provided for you.
Other Information/tips to remember while abroad:
- Pack everything you’ll need while you’re away from your lodging for the day, and be sure to bring a back-up supply in case of emergencies.
- If you take medication or use other supplies, keep up with your schedule.
- Remember that people with disabilities may be treated differently than you are accustomed to. Research before you go so you have some idea of what to expect.
- Let your program director, counselor, or professor know about your disability, if you are comfortable doing so, so that accommodations may be made.
- On a periodic basis, reach out to your support group of friends, family, and faculty to ease any culture shock or homesickness you may experience.
Resources on campus:
The Office of Student Disability Services
423 Wells Hall
Office : (270) 809-2018
TDD: (270) 809-5889
Other helpful resources online:
Information adapted from: