When asked about the most rewarding part of studying tropical biology in Costa Rica for nine weeks, Andy says "More than anything just being away and in a different culture and just spending time in an environment that is completely foreign." His coursework combined extended field trips with lecture days: "For the first few weeks my housing situation was the tent I brought with me….it was a field trip going to all different national parks." Later on, he stayed with a host family for a few weeks, which gave him a taste of Costa Rican culture.
Although he found the intensive coursework to be quite challenging, he didn't let Attention Deficit Disorder interfere with his international experience. "I was really open with everyone down there-students and professors both. It was really not a big deal. I was able to talk to people who had misconceptions or didn't understand." Cultural perception of disability was a tricky issue for Andy. "It would have been nice to know how a culture perceives disabilities beforehand, but that's kind of hard to do….Especially in my family I didn't really bring it up because I wasn't sure how they would react or how aware they were. I'm sure not a whole lot of kids [in Costa Rica] get tested for learning disorders or ADD or anything like that."
Andy felt it would have been helpful to know more about the structure of the classes in advance, such as how much writing would be involved and the frequency of exams, which would have helped in knowing what disability accommodations might be needed. Although he did not request any accommodations in advance, he was fortunate to have professors who were flexible about test arrangements. "Before I left I didn't request anything. When I went down there, I found that the accommodations I received were in taking exams. When we did essay exams, those usually took me a couple of hours to complete, which was longer than most people. I talked to the professors about it and they said that was fine-and I took them in different rooms. After that they said take the test wherever you feel comfortable, we trust you."
Overall, Andy felt the experience was definitely worth it, and he wouldn't hesitate to study abroad again. "Just the experience in general, you can't really describe it. It's just so rewarding and fulfilling, it's hard to put a monetary value n it….Especially going away by yourself, you find out more about yourself, and it gives you time to think."
The information presented here is derived from the reports of students who studied through Access Abroad. Access Abroad does not endorse or verify the accuracy of disability information on specific to culture in the countries named.