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Last Updated: 02/23/2018

 Article of Interest - Studying Abroad

Prepare for Your Career: Participate in an International Exchange Now

from the Social Security Administration

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To be successful in an increasing number of jobs, young adults need to have leadership and cross-cultural skills. These skills can be developed and enhanced through international exchange or study abroad. Plan now to gain international experience in high school or college. This experience will give you an edge in applying for jobs in the future.


Broaden Your Horizons


From participating in an intensive French language program in Switzerland to interning with an international business in Singapore, from taking part in a school-to-school exchange in Mexico to studying wildlife in Kenya, youth and adults with disabilities can participate fully and equally in international exchange programs. Start planning early, see the world and enhance your employability.

The Social Security Administration and Mobility International USA want to ensure that young people with disabilities, parents and the professionals who work with people with disabilities understand the importance of international exchange and options for including it as part of education and employment preparation.

Some people with disabilities are eligible for assistance under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program if they meet the definition of disability and their income and resources are within the allowed limits.


The Social Security Handbook states:


"A student of any age may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits while temporarily outside the U.S. for the purpose of conducting studies that are not available in the U.S., are sponsored by an educational institution in the U.S., and are designed to enhance the student's ability to engage in gainful employment. Such a student must have been eligible to receive an SSI benefit for the month preceding the first full month outside the U.S."


Understand your benefits and options


To continue to receive SSI while studying abroad, ensure that:

  • The international exchange course of study is not available to you in the U.S.

  • The study abroad program is sponsored by a school in the U.S.

  • Participation is critical to your educational and vocational success

  • You are eligible for SSI for the one month immediately prior to leaving the U.S.

  • You will earn academic credits towards your high school or college degree while abroad

If you receive SSI payments and plan to study abroad for up to one year, work with your transition or benefits specialist to arrange to continue your SSI payments while you are abroad.


What young adults can gain from international experiences…

  • Improved competitive stance in applying to college and future jobs;

  • Improved maturity by causing youth to take responsibility for themselves on their first significant "away from home" experience;

  • Exposure to new ideas and cultures, helping young people to understand underlying difference among people and improving their tolerance of those differences;

  • Education about the culture, history and language(s) of another country;

  • Experiences to help in making choices about future career directions, including those in international education, international relations and diplomacy; and

  • A new excitement and optimism about the world they live in.

The Council on Standards for International Educational Travel/CSIET, Administering Youth Exchange.


Vocational Rehabilitation funding options


Vocational rehabilitation (VR) funding is available to some individuals with disabilities. Students with disabilities who receive VR funding for their education should consider studying abroad to be competitive in their future careers.

Propose the Inclusion of Study Abroad in Your VR Plan

  1. Visit your campus study abroad or department head office to find out about study abroad programs related to your major.

  2. Contact the National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange for other programs, accommodations abroad, and financial aid resources.

  3. Check with your international exchange advisor and health insurance provider to find out about medical coverage abroad.

  4. Bring information on a study abroad program that is required or supports your educational/vocational goal to your VR counselor's attention.

  5. Write down the program information in a letter to your VR counselor.

  • Clearly state how the experience will enhance your educational and vocational goals

  • List all the study abroad program expenses (students can request cost information from the study abroad office, and consider any disability accommodation expenses)

  • Include how much you are able to financially contribute towards the expenses

Study abroad expenses that VR has funded:

  • Tuition, books and supplies for a student with a visual impairment to study for a semester in the Czech Republic and Greece

  • Personal Care Attendant (PCA) wages when a PCA was needed for a student who uses a wheelchair to spend a summer session studying in Scotland

  • Tuition and room/board for a student who is Deaf to study Spanish for one semester in Costa Rica, and for one month of summer school in Mexico

  • The program fee for a student who is blind participating in a summer educational program in Costa Rica

  • Rental of a golf cart for transportation for a student using a wheelchair on a large university campus in Australia

  • Tuition, housing, fees and books for a student who has a visual impairment to study for a year in England

People with disabilities succeed


"Having international experiences on my resume was definitely an asset in my job search. The work I'm doing now is for an organization with offices all over the world, so they do look for people who have that international experience."

"I put my international exchange experience on my resume and it did spark questions in my job interview. I'm now a camp program director and a quarter of my staff are international, so I'm sure that my international experience really helped me to get the job."

"I put my Mexico and Russia exchange experiences on my resume and it worked - I got a job at an independent living center and I actually work with Deaf people from different countries who are living in the US."

"The international experience helped me to change my job. Now I'm working for international NGOs."

"In my job, we're serving more and more Japanese people with disabilities. My international exchange experience helped me to be more sensitive to other cultures."

"My year of study in England really put disability rights law and policy issues into a global framework. Now I envision a career that brings domestic and international law together. I see them as inseparable now."

"I was fascinated to learn about how the government in Germany addresses disability issues, and to compare that to what we do here in the US. That comparison made me interested in policy. Now I'm working with a policy-making organization that advises our state government on disability issues."

Get the experience you need to get a job

It is important that youth and adults with disabilities recognize the importance of international experience, and, when possible, include it as part of education and employment preparation. The National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange (NCDE) offers free information and resources related to the numerous international exchange options available to people with disabilities of all ages. NCDE is managed by Mobility International USA and sponsored by the United States Department of State.


Read a Mobility International USA Success Story

International Exchange Flyer for Printing and Distributing
Microsoft Word Format


For more information contact:

Mobility International USA and
The National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange
PO Box 10767
Eugene, OR 97440
Telephone/TTY: (541) 343-1284
Fax: (541) 343-6812


Christa Bucks Camacho
Youth and Transition Coordinator
Office of Program Development and Research
Social Security Administration
6401 Security Blvd.
3656 Annex Building
Baltimore, MD 21235
Tel: 410 966-5147
Fax: 410 597-0825

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