Helping students with disabilities succeed abroad
Resources for NAU students
Education Abroad’s priority is to ensure that engaging, affordable international opportunities are available to all NAU students. EA partners with NAU Disability Resources to help provide reasonable and necessary accommodations to students with registered disabilities in their time abroad and help create the best study abroad experience possible. Students with physical, mental, learning, and other types of disabilities are encouraged to take advantage of opportunities for international education and work with their EA Advisor to ensure that their needs are met while abroad.
An individual with a disability is defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act as a person:
- who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
- who has a history or record of a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
- who is perceived by others as having a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
There are a few things you should consider if you have a disability and plan to study abroad:
- Do research and plan in advance. Ask your EA Advisor and your host institution/provider about housing, restrooms, classrooms, and other day-to-day aspects of your time abroad may impact your disability.
- If you are studying in a country where English is not the primary language, look up some key vocabulary words in your host language to describe your disability.
- Think about what you may wish to reveal to others about your disability while you are abroad. While it is encouraged that you discuss your disability with your EA Advisor to ensure that accommodations may be made, you may not wish to disclose details of your disability to your professors, fellow students, or friends. It is entirely up to you how much you wish to share, but you will want to think about it in advance and plan for how to have those discussions.
- Keep in mind that not every country has legal protections for people with disabilities (such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, which guarantees accommodations to people with disabilities) so it’s important to look into the views of people with disabilities and current practices in the country you plan to study in.
- Remember that even when accommodations can be made for disabilities, they may not be the same accommodations you are used to in the U.S. and at NAU. Be flexible and consider different ways in which you can manage your disability while abroad, in conjunction with your EA Advisor and host institution/provider.
- Research airlines, airports, train stations, and other travel providers to ensure that you will have the necessary accommodations for your disability when you travel in-country and to/from your location.
- Think about possible what-if scenarios; for example, if you use a power wheelchair, what will you do if it breaks down while you are abroad? Create plans for when a situation may go awry to ensure that you have the resources to succeed and remain healthy in your time abroad.
Communicate with both Disability Resources and your EA Advisor on your particular needs; your EA Advisor can work with the institution you plan to attend to help arrange the necessary accommodations for your time abroad. It is important to discuss your disability with your EA Advisor as soon as you make the decision to study abroad to ensure that there is adequate time to organize your accommodations before you leave.
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Finances for study abroad are a consideration for nearly all students regardless of race/ethnicity/sexuality/gender identity/disability status. NAU and other organizations offer special scholarships for study abroad, financial aid (grants, loans) that can be applied to almost all programs, and merit-based NAU scholarships (Lumberjack, Blue, Gold, Transfer) can be applied to exchange programs. Some rules and restrictions apply based on the type of scholarship and program, and your Education Abroad advisor can help explain what scholarships are best for you to apply for. Learn more on our scholarships page.
Many scholarships focus on diversity and sending underrepresented students abroad, such as the Fund for Education Abroad, the Gilman Scholarship, and Diversity Abroad. There are even scholarships specifically for students with disabilities. Students are encouraged to attend our scholarship workshops and apply for any scholarships that they qualify for.
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Some students with Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) wish to bring their animal with them when they study abroad. While EA is strives to ensure that all students have the necessary tools to create the study abroad adventure that is best for them, it is important to be aware that most countries around the world do not recognize ESAs in the same capacity that the United States does. Many countries do not allow animals in public places such as university classrooms, stores, museums, public transit, etc. unless the animal is a professionally trained Service Animal.
There can be confusion about the difference between an Emotional Support Animal and a Service Animal. To clarify:
- An Emotional Support Animal is not trained to perform any specific tasks; an ESA’s main function is to provide emotional comfort and support through its presence.
- A Service Animal is trained to perform specific tasks related to a person’s disability such as guiding a blind or visually impaired person, alerting a deaf person to sounds in their environment, providing early detection of an imminent seizure, or other services required by people with physical disabilities or impairments.
Education Abroad does not have a defined policy on bringing ESAs on study abroad programming, but we do want to emphasize that traveling internationally with an animal can be challenging and may result in difficulties while you are in-country. You will need to take extra steps (and pay additional costs) to get a pet passport and other documents, vaccinations, plane tickets, possible additional housing fees, etc. Some countries also have a mandatory quarantine period for the animal for a specific timeframe upon entrance. You will need to research the type of veterinary care available to your animal in your host country and if the standard of care is suitable to your animal’s needs. You may be legally responsible for any negative behavior for your ESA abroad, such as aggression toward another person or animal. Of course, you may also want to travel when you are abroad, and an animal will make this significantly more difficult.
Your ESA can certainly contribute to your mental well-being. Conversely, the stress associated with travel and adjusting to a new place (for both you and your ESA) may actually add anxiety to your life. EA wants you to make the decision that is right for you based on comprehensive information and sincere reflection on what will make you the happiest, most untroubled version of yourself while you are abroad. If you are interested in bringing your ESA with you when you study abroad, work with your EA Advisor to determine if your program can accommodate your ESA and discuss the necessary steps to bring the animal abroad.