January 14, 2019
By Melissa Rey
When I decided to study abroad, I was excited to be accepted by one of the top universities in the world. My research showed it would be a good fit for a student with LD. Classes were taught in English, and the university told me any accommodations I needed would be available. I could join a study group of LD students in my major. I patted myself on the back and packed my bags.
Studying abroad was fantastic in so many ways. I was immersed in a new culture. I traveled. I sat at the same café table where J.K. Rowling wrote the Harry Potter books. I stood in Anne Frank’s Secret Annex. And I totally aced my Guinness pint pouring class.
And then there were the academics. When I arrived, all of the upper division classes that I pre-registered for had been cancelled. Only lower level classes were available. These classes were huge, and the professors were lifeless. The material was easy, but the assignments were confusing. Teaching Assistants were in charge of questions, and they gave minimal, unhelpful answers. The LD study group didn’t exist, and the only accommodation available was extended time for testing. I learned very, very little.
Here is the mistake I made. I didn’t speak with an LD student from the U.S. who had studied at this university. I accepted everything the LD contact person told me and most of it was incorrect. There were no LD students from my college who had already studied there, and when traditional learners described their semester abroad as “great,” they were referring to life outside the classroom.
My main piece of advice for anyone wanting to study abroad would be to make sure you talk with a former student who has your same diagnosis, and ask them specific questions about academics.
Don’t pass up the opportunity to study abroad. But do ask the right questions before you go.