With Illinois: Students With Disabilities Realize Study Abroad Dreams | College of AHS at Illinois

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[Music] [Amelia O’Hare] I’ve always been passionate about travel.
Ever since I was five, I was determined to travel the world. So when I came here
as a transfer student, I knew the first thing on my bucket list was to study
abroad and so I did it. I did it my first semester, so it was a check off of my
bucket list and it was amazing. [Chelsey Baker] I never really thought it was a possibility for
me because of my disability and then my first year here, I witnessed two friends
with disabilities able to go abroad and then I knew that that was something that
I had to do before I graduated because the thought of just, like, going across
the country and experiencing new things and new cultures and new food was just
really exciting to me. [Susann Sears] The philosophical underpinning of DRES is that we continue
to strive to go above and beyond what the law requires in terms of service provision to college students with disabilities on our campus. One of the
University of Illinois student experiences is to study abroad. We have
one of the top programs in terms of size and offerings in study abroad, and so that
next logical step in my mind was that we look at how can we best collaborate with
(the) Study Abroad (office) to make things more accessible for registered DRES students. [Tim Nagel] So the entire nature of the study abroad program that I did was adventure tourism, right? And just that in itself kind of, like, makes me like cringe ’cause, like, a
lot of that is activities I can’t do, like hiking and, you know, going on rough
trails and different things that don’t seem accessible at the start, right?
And so, initially I was hesitant to even pursue it because I
thought it would probably be impossible. And to be honest, I didn’t even think it
was going to be possible until a couple months before I left for New Zealand. [Chelsey] The most daunting
part of the experience for me was getting on a plane, for sure, even though
that might seem like one of the more simple aspects of going abroad. But for
me, I had heard lots of stories about wheelchairs being damaged on flights or
just flights going bad traveling with medical equipment. And so my biggest
concern was whether I would get to France and my chair would even be
operational. [Tim] Because we planned so much before the trip, I would say 80
or 90 percent of it was accessible and stuff that I could do. And so all the
accommodations we had were accessible, the transportation from city to city,
town to town was accessible, and then the activities that they said were going to
be accessible actually ended up being accessible. Dr. Welty Peachey told the group that they
were able to go on my activities as well if they wanted to switch. And so
always a couple of my peers came with me on those activities so it wasn’t just me
by myself or me with the tourism operator, there is,
you know, always four or five people there. And so I think I got lucky with
the type of group that came on that trip because they were very, very helpful, very
understanding of my situation and wanted me to experience as much as I could. [Chelsey] I would
HIGHLY encourage any other student with a disability looking to study abroad to
do it. It was one of the best experiences of my life. [Amelia] Just go for it. You know, where there’s a will, there’s definitely a way. Traveling, it really changes you and we see a whole ‘nother world and experience something beautiful. [Tim] Initially, you might not be able to think you can go, but if you really pursue it and work with the right people, anything’s possible, really, and it would be really worth it even
though it will be very difficult at times. And at times you’ll be like ‘why am I
doing this? Why am I stuck in the mud and, you know, 8,000 miles away when I could
be home?’ But by the end of it, it’s so, so worth it.

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