Study Abroad Tips

  1. Early Disclosure: If you are studying abroad on UCEAP, inform the Disability Resource Center of your disability related accommodation needs as soon as possible. It is important to let both of these offices know early in the process in order to best advise you. Some accommodations can take 3-6 months in advance to prepare. If you are not sure you will use accommodations abroad, it is still important to make potential needs known so that a plan is in place should an unexpected problem arise. If you are studying abroad on an independent/non-UCEAP program, contact the provider directly as soon as possible to determine their process and if your needs can be accommodated within their program.
  2. Plan Ahead: Research the accessibility of each site to determine which destinations best suit your academic endeavors and accommodation needs (see the disability categories below for questions to think about when planning). It is not possible to anticipate all concerns, but pre-departure planning will help. Among the resources available are the stories of study abroad returnees who can paint a portrait of the potential challenges and adventures of a host country.
  3. Be Flexible: Study abroad requires adaptability for people with and without disabilities. Living in a new culture will bring new challenges, including disability services and accessibility standards that might differ significantly from what you are used to in the United States.
  4. Documentation: The Disability Resource Center, at your request, will write a letter documenting your disability related accommodation needs; this is sent to your host university via UCEAP. Ask for a copy of this letter for your records. In addition, it is important to bring a copy of your medical documentation abroad, including prescription information. A copy should be left with your parent or guardian in the event that your copy is lost or damaged.

Questions to Keep in Mind

Processing Disabilities (LD, ADHD, Psychological, Brain injuries)

    • Will you need notetakers for class?
    • What is your host university’s policies on extended exam time?
    • Are they willing to authorize your usual test accommodations based on American medical documentation?
    • What tutoring services might be available?
    • If you need to see a doctor or therapist for psychological concerns while overseas, have you established this contact prior to departure?
    • Have you considered bringing your personal tape recorder to tape lectures? Do you have permission to tape lectures?
    • Are books available on tape?

Chronic Systemic Disorders

    • If you have respiratory problems or severe allergies, what is the air and environmental quality in the city you are considering?
    • If your condition is affected by temperatures, what is the climate in your prospective host city?
    • What prior notification has been given to the instructors regarding potential absences should your condition flare up unexpectedly?
    • Will you need extended time on assignments?
    • If you normally receive test accommodations, do you have authorization through the host university to receive the same accommodations there?
    • What special dietary considerations might you have?

Deaf or Hard of Hearing

    • Will you need an interpreter or Realtime Captioning? Who will be funding this accommodation? Where will the interpreter be hired? Does the interpreter know American Sign Language?
    • Sign language is not universal and may differ between countries that have the same spoken language. Students should find out the differences before leaving. It may be possible to depart early to learn the new sign language.
    • If you are taking a personal FM system can you obtain batteries in your host country that work for your device?
    • Who will notify your instructor of the need to wear the FM mic?
    • Will you need a notetaker?
    • Are captioned videos available?

Mobility/Orthopedic Disabilities

    • Will you take one or two wheelchairs? Electric or manual?
    • Do you need a transformer? Is the voltage in your host country compatible with your transformer?
    • How will you ship your chairs abroad?
    • Where can your chair be repaired abroad?
    • Do you need to make additional arrangements to get from the airport to the orientation site or to your host university?
    • Are the streets and/or sidewalks paved or cobblestone? Are there curb cuts for wheelchair access?
    • What is the accessibility of the host university and city (elevators, bathrooms, classrooms, housing, transportation, etc.)
    • Is voice recognition software available?
    • Will you need notetakers, scribes or transcribers?
    • What kind of field trips might your program go on? Are they accessible?
    • Are lab or library assistants available in your host country?
    • Do you need extended time on assignments or exams?

Visual Impairments

    • Have you contacted the consulate of your host country to determine if you will need to put your guide dog in quarantine?
    • Will special housing or food arrangements be necessary for your dog? Is your dog allowed into the classroom?
    • Are alternate formats available? (books on tape, Braille, e-text, scanning, CCTV etc).
    • Will you need a mobility assistant to help orient you?
    • Have you obtained maps of your host city and enlarged them to become familiar with directions prior to departure?
    • What kind of test accommodations will you need?
    • Is there Braille signage on buildings, elevators, classroom, etc?
    • Will you have access to accessible computer software in order to write papers or read assignments?

Medication and Medical Care Abroad

Before departure students should consult with a physician, the travel clinic or the UCSC Student Health Center about anticipated medication and medical care needs while abroad. If you take medication, you should inquire if your prescription is legal and available in the host country, or if you will be able to take an extra supply of medication that will last during your stay. If you are an UCEAP student, you can contact EuropAssist ( or (866) 451-7606) to determine how to travel with medications and the availability of these medications abroad. Contact Customs to determine procedures for bringing your medication into the host country. Also, if you may need to see a doctor or psychologist while overseas, discuss with your UCEAP advisor what physicians or medical facilities are available in your host city. Establish contact with these medical providers prior to departure to clarify eligibility for services and payment issues.

Customs Restrictions

Certain items may be restricted by Immigration or Customs (Braille computers, tapes, medication etc.). Students should contact the Consulate of their host country to determine restricted items and what must be done to take them along and bring them home again. Sometimes a letter from the host institution and/or the University of California is required. Students should find out what they will need well in advance. Upon request, the UCEAP System-Wide Office will provide a letter to help with Customs.

Personal Attendants

Students bringing a personal attendant with them must make sure the attendant has the necessary passports, visa, documentation, insurance, and immunizations for traveling and living abroad. Where will he or she live? What kind of funding will he or she need? If students will need to hire an attendant abroad, they should find out before departure what is needed to do so. If you plan to participate on UCEAP and you intend to bring a personal assistant abroad, consult with your UCSC Programs Abroad Advisor before you apply to EAP.

Check Out These Resources: