An Exchange Student's Experience in Italy

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Robin Smith reflects on an exchange program in Italy in "Observing Inclusive Education in Italy"

Her observations on travel as a person with a disability are worth quoting:


For people with disabilities, I would like to communicate about the interpersonal and intrapersonal aspects of exchange programs. A handicap I experienced was the difficulty of establishing natural friendships and having peer interactions that were not influenced by my having been introduced to my fellow sojourners as a person in need of assistance. Although I had a wonderful time and made excellent connections with some of my companions, near the end of the trip people were tired and functioning on "one cylinder," which resulted in some awkward moments of isolation. I would recommend asking if it makes better sense, when traveling as the only person with a disability on such an excursion, to have at least one peer with whom you have a prior relationship and who is not the main person designated to assist you. This should not be read as a negative but only as a question to pursue as part of the quest to overcome some barriers built into the American culture. While I’d choose to have this experience again, I can't help but wonder if those moments would have been different if "the children had belonged together" when we were in elementary school.

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