Disability Abroad

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 several things to consider when going abroad with a disability, and our education abroad advisors will help you as much as we can.


It’s important that you research your host country and program very carefully. Some countries are more accessible than others.

Research which programs can best accommodate any special needs you may have. MSU offers a program designed for students with disabilities every even year to London for spring break. Many other programs we offer can accommodate various student needs, so if London isn't up your alley it may not be your only option.

Mobility International provides information on finding opportunities abroad outside of MSU options, 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?

See our scholarship page for more information on how to apply for scholarships. The funds from the Education Abroad Office give preference to under-represented students in study abroad, and students with disabilities are in this category.

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 signature programs designed to fit the needs of those with disabilities, including a London spring break program every even year. Contact your Education Abroad Advisor for more information

Study abroad starts with getting to your destination. Travel is stressful for many people, but making arrangements in advance to accommodate your disability through the travel process will ease your stress. In order to ensure your safety and make the process as easy as possible, consider the following:

  • Use online airline resources while determining which company to fly with - or call the airline directly. Ensure any medical equipment meets airline regulations and you'll have the support needed while traveling.
  • The TSA provides guidelines for what can be carried thru airport security, catered specifically for accommodation needs. Check out their guide here, which also includes a searchable database of questions about equipment, medications, and when to carry a medical ID card so you can request a pat down instead of the metal detector.
  • 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. 

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.

The Office of Student Disability Services

Ken Ashlock

Some information adapted from Diversity Abroad and Travel.State.Gov.

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