Studying abroad is an exciting opportunity. You get to see new places, meet new people, and learn about a completely different culture. Ask anyone who has studied abroad, and they will most likely tell you it was the best time of their lives. Before jumping into this exciting adventure though, you will need to do some research to find out how accommodating your new home in the U.S. will be. If you have a disability, there are a few additional steps you must take to ensure a smooth transition into the U.S. educational system.
Keep reading to find out tips for international students with disabilities who are looking to study in the U.S.
Find the Right University
Choosing which university to attend is the most important decision you will make before studying abroad. With so many universities in the U.S., it can be hard to pick just one.
For students with disabilities, however, finding the right university is even more important. Because you may need additional accommodation, depending on your disability, you must make sure that the university you want to attend offers the necessary arrangements. If you have a physical disability and you require a wheelchair ramp or special facilities, for example, check with the school to ensure that its buildings have the proper infrastructure. If you have a learning disability, ask the school about the specific resources they provide to accommodate your disability.
Regardless, you should contact the potential universities you would like to attend (before you apply) and ask them any questions you have. It is important that you tell the university you are applying to about your disability before arriving on campus, so you will know ahead of time that they will provide you with the necessary accommodations.
Know Your Rights
Although you are probably familiar with the disability laws and regulations in your home country, when you move to the U.S. to study abroad, different laws will likely apply. This is why, before you decide on a school, you should do your research and look into the disability rights, regulations, and laws in the state where you want to study.
Additionally, many universities will have a student guidebook or an orientation guidebook on their websites. You should read these guidebooks because they have valuable information that will prepare you for on-campus academic and student life, and they contain resources that can help you with your disability.
Finally, most universities will have an Office for Students with Disabilities or a Disability Resource Center, so do not be afraid to contact them with any questions you may have.
Inform the University About Your Disability
Universities want to know as much as possible about their incoming students. They want to know your test scores, your personal information, as well as your future career plans. Most importantly though, they would like to know what they can do to make your life as a student easier. Although you are not required to disclose a disability on your application, if you will need some form of accommodation or academic adjustment on campus, you should inform the university on your application so that accessible facilities or modifications can be provided.
The Office for Students with Disabilities or Disability Resource Center on campus will most likely be able to answer any questions you have and provide you with details about the available accommodations. But they can only do this if you tell them about your disability.
Many students may want to keep their disability private, and it is your decision to do just that. However, if you do not tell the responsible office or person at your school about what you need, you cannot expect your needs to be fulfilled. Your disability information will be kept private, so you should not be hesitant about disclosing it.
Find a Supportive Organization
Each country has its own organizations dedicated to different disabilities. These organizations offer advice, counseling, and support to those with particular disabilities. Moving to a new country can be challenging and may require some adjustment; and when you have a disability, it can make things more difficult.
You can find a list of disability organizations in the U.S. on the National Center on Disability and Journalism website. By connecting with the relevant organization(s), you have the opportunity to meet people who have been through similar experiences. They may be able to help you out and even become your mentor to help you adjust and get the most out of your study abroad time in the U.S.
Know Your Options
If you are unable to go abroad to study, you do not have to give up on your dream of an American education. Technological advances have made it much easier to find customized programs that do not require you to move to a different country.
You can find the university you want to attend and try their distance learning program, or you could work out a combination of on-campus and distance learning classes. If you enroll in a distance learning program, be sure to check whether there are accommodations for students with disabilities and do your research on how the class will be conducted, as well as what the student expectations are.
If you have hearing or visual disabilities, inquire whether they offer closed captions or audio lectures. The more information you know about your options, the better choice you will make.
Studying abroad is a unique life experience. You will find that there are people and organizations out there willing to help you during your study abroad experience. Do not hesitate to take advantage of the opportunity to study abroad and get a U.S degree!
If you’re an international student interested in studying in the U.S., apply for a credential evaluation today to find out how your academic accomplishments compare to the U.S. academic standards.