20 May 2016

A Disability did not Prevent me from Studying Abroad

Like so many other students, Julie Fabricius Faustrup decided that she would not miss the opportunity to study abroad during her studies. A disability does not have to be a disadvantage, Julie explains.  

A new adventure
Julie is a student in the MSc programme in Animal Science at the University of Copenhagen and is currently studying abroad via the University of California Education Abroad Program at UC Davis. A lot was at stake when Julie left for her study abroad in September 2015, anxious and excited about what the next year would bring. “I always knew that I was going to study abroad during my studies at UCPH”, Julie informs us. Julie’s case is slightly different, however: she is deaf.

Arguments not to go abroad could have been plentiful. For instance something as simple as not knowing how it would work with sign language in class or how to even communicate with all the new people Julie was going to meet. Instead, Julie was eager to embark into a new adventure, and going on a study abroad seemed obvious.

Let your network help you
“I did not even consider how it would work out in terms of interpreting services, but I was certain of one thing – that it would all work out in the end!” And that prediction turned out to be accurate. 

The Danish state provides Special Education Support funding for Danish students in need of special services during their education, including during a study or internship abroad. Thus, how to fund interpreting services while studying abroad was not Julie’s main concern, but instead how to make a new everyday life work, being so far away from home and not having the accustomed network of friends and facilities around her. 

“I am really impressed with all the opportunities available for students and how everybody is helping each other”, Julie explains and informs us how she has made use of local student networks in Davis to learn about extra-curricular activities. This also enabled her to facilitate an internship at a locally-owned goat farm, something Julie would not have been able to experience in Denmark. 

”Start your preparations early and use the help available to you from your advisors, both at home and at the host university”, Julie emphasizes as the recipe for a successful experience, but also leaves no doubt that it has not all been an easy journey: “It is hard work, for sure, but you will come back enriched and a better version of yourself”. 

Embracing the different 
The number of students who have applied for Special Education Support funding during their studies at UCPH have doubled in the past three years, and UCPH is expecting to see an increase in the number of students, who will need funding during their study abroad.

"It is important for us at UCPH that students, such as Julie, are provided the support they need in order to ensure that all students have the same opportunities to study abroad.”

Anni Søborg, Vice Provost for Education

With two months left of her year abroad, Julie looks back on her own experiences and with a clear message to other students with special educational needs: “Don’t be afraid to leave your accustomed surroundings at home. Expect that things will be different and embrace the difference!”