Students with disabilities can and do study abroad!
Remember to research your country of interest thoroughly before finding a program that fits your academic and personal needs. Your host country may have different attitudes to people with disabilities compared to what you are used to here in the U.S. This might manifest in the way people treat you and/or in the resources that will be available to you abroad. Many disability services that are provided on a UC campus may not be available overseas. For example, some countries do not offer note-taker services or may not recognize learning disabilities.
- DON’T let these challenges dissuade you from studying abroad!
- DO research about your program/university of interest well in advance (preferably one year before) to ensure that any accommodations can be met.
Since Berkeley Study Abroad supports programs beyond UCEAP, we'd like to direct students to our Explore page to see all of the programs available to them.
1. Meet with Disabled Students Program (DSP) to discuss what types of accommodations you may need while studying abroad
2. Request letter of DSP Verification/accommodation letter
- Your disability specialist can write you a letter informing the University/Program abroad of the accommodations you will be needing.
- This letter should include information about any campus funding available for these accommodations
3. Request and submit this letter as early as possible. The earlier the accommodation request is made, the more Berkeley Study Abroad can help you to research and arrange accommodations. Appropriate arrangements and reasonable accommodations need to be made in advance. Some accommodations may require three- to six-months advance notice.
Three main things to consider when doing research on your program of interest: accommodations while abroad, financial assistance, and medical care:
If you are registered with DSP to receive on-campus accommodation, you may be eligible for overseas accommodations when they can be arranged.
B. Financial Assistance:
Refer to our Financial Aid page to understand how financial aid works for the various types of study abroad programs
Combining multiple scholarships and rewards can have a big impact. You can find a list of scholarships available for study abroad on the Scholarship page of our website.
Berkeley Study Abroad Scholarship: The Berkeley Study Abroad Scholarship is available to eligible Berkeley students. Eligible students are automatically considered. No separate application necessary.
- Gilman Scholarship: The Gilman Scholarship Program is open to U.S. citizen undergraduate students who are receiving Federal Pell Grant funding at a two-year or four-year college or university to participate in study and intern abroad programs worldwide.
- UCEAP Scholarships: UCEAP offers over 10 types of scholarships for all categories of participants and for a comprehensive range of programs. Students only need to submit a Global Scholarships application for most awards.
- IES Abroad Disability Grant Application: To enhance study abroad opportunities for students with disabilities, IES Abroad offers grants to students whose disabilities may add significant costs to their study abroad experience. Only students who study abroad on an IES Abroad program which is an independent program administered outside of Berkeley Study Abroad and UCEAP.
Other Sources of Assistance:
- Department of Rehabilitation:
- If you have a disability you may qualify for funding with the Department of Rehabilitation (DOR). They can help pay for programs, tuition, and books. If you are already enrolled, ask your DOR counselor about what costs they can help with.
- AAHD Scholarship Program: The AAHD Frederick J. Krause Scholarship on Health and Disability is awarded annually to deserving students with a disability who are pursuing undergraduate/graduate studies (must be at least enrolled as a sophomore in college) in an accredited university and who are pursuing studies related to the health and disability, to include, but not limited to public health, health promotion, disability studies, disability research, rehabilitation engineering, audiology, disability policy, special education and majors that will impact quality of life of persons with disabilities.
- AG Bell College Scholarship Opportunities for Students with Hearing Loss/Disabilities
C. Medical Care Abroad:
- Before departure, work on a plan with your physician or University Health Services about medication management and medical care needs.
- Contact your DSP officer and your Berkeley Study Abroad adviser to organize accommodations and discuss health insurance abroad.
- If you study abroad on a UCEAP program, read more about the UCEAP Travel Insurance Policy
- If you study abroad on a UCB Summer Abroad or Global Internships program, read more about the UC Travel Insurance Policy.
Emotional Support Animals vs. Service/Guide Animals
In considering whether or not to bring your emotional support animal (ESA) abroad, it’s important to note the difference between an emotional support animal and a guide or service animal. Many countries do not recognize ESAs in the same way the United States does, and they may not be able to enter businesses, museums, or restaurants. To clarify:
- Service animals have received specialized training to do work or perform tasks related to a person’s physical disability, such as dogs who guide blind or visually impaired people, who warn their owners of an imminent seizure, or alert hard of hearing owners to sounds in their environment.
- Emotional support animals provide emotional support alleviating symptoms or effects of a person’s disability, but have not received specialized training.
The use of a trained service animal is much more likely to be legally protected. Information regarding rules and regulations in your host country may be found on the internet or by contacting the US Embassy in your host country. It is up to the individual student to determine a country’s policy toward service animals. Remember that planning is key: it may take up to a year to obtain a pet passport, for example, and there may be vaccine and quarantine requirements in your host country that are vital to note.
Emotional Support Animals
Emotional support animals (ESAs) can be essential to the care of students with disabilities, and it is important to know that depending on the study abroad program, it may or may not be possible for a student with an ESA to bring their ESA with them on their study abroad program. This may be due to the regulations of airlines, the host country, the host city, the host institution, and/or housing provider that the student must comply with in order to participate.
We are here to support you in your journey abroad. Please reach out to your Berkeley Study Abroad adviser to let us know if you have an emotional support animal and would like to see if it is possible to bring your ESA with you on your study abroad program. When you reach out to us, we can discuss whether or not medical documentation may be required to bring an ESA on a study abroad program, and whether or not animals are allowed in program housing. We will also check in with you about your own research regarding the considerations and questions below.
If you are allowed to bring your ESA by the program regulations, it will be up to you to research if and how you can bring an ESA to your host country (including airline logistics) as well as your host country’s and host institution’s guidelines and requirements for those with an ESA. We encourage you to incorporate this research into the program selection process so that you may make as informed of a choice as possible and can be reasonably sure that your ESA will be able to accompany you. Some important considerations include:
- Quarantine requirements for the ESA.
- Which housing accommodations may be available that would allow for an ESA to live with the student.
- If and how long an ESA may be left alone while you are at class, an internship or other activities.
- Complete care of the animal, including arranging for necessary care during times when the student is in class or participating in program activities.
- Researching the specifications of a “service animal” in the country where you will be studying, including understanding the local laws, culture, and attitudes toward service animals in public places such as restaurants, stores, and public transportation.
- Feral dogs and cats and other health-related risks in the country if your EMA leaves the home (with you, or escapes).
- Whether the ESA is allowed in certain businesses (restaurants, shops), public or private transportation, and where your classes take place.
In addition to these considerations, we encourage you to research the following questions:
- Is there a local vet who can take care of the pet if sick or injured?
- What food would the ESA be eating?
- How will the ESA be considered by the local community?
- How will weather affect the ESA?
- What water will the ESA be drinking and what to do to prevent dehydration?
- Who would take care of the ESA if you get sick or leave town for a program excursion - or while you are in classes?
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).
The APHIS pet travel page can be a useful tool for students to stay up to date with rules and regulations on exporting animals outside of the United States. Airlines are no longer required to treat ESAs as service animals so it’s important to know the classification of your animal and the rights you have to travel with it.
U.S. Department of Transportation.
The US Department of Transportation has outlined their code of federal regulations in regards to passengers with disabilities to travel with service animals. Students should be familiar with this code and understand that ESAs are not classified as service animals for the purpose of airline travel.
Meet Sara Mahoney!
This guide was created by Berkeley Study Abroad alumnus Dinasha Dahanayake and updated by Berkeley Study Abroad advisers on June 29, 2022.