Should Students on the Autism Spectrum Consider Studying Abroad? - Ernst VanBergeijk, Ph.D., M.S.W.

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A rite of passage for many college students is spending their junior year studying abroad. Spending a year studying abroad has a number of distinct advantages over simply remaining on campus. It is an opportunity to have an adventure, get out of one’s comfort zone, and experience and learn new things. Being overseas exposes students to new languages, cultures and food. It provides the student an opportunity to see their country from a distance and perhaps re-assess their assumptions about their home country and its place on the world stage. Employers value graduates who have foreign language skills and can travel internationally on business. Anyone who has traveled overseas can attest to the fact that you must be adaptable and a problem solver when faced with novel situations, which is yet another skill set employers value.

Spending a junior year abroad can be trying at times, even for non-disabled individuals. Homesickness can affect anyone traveling a long way from home for an extended period of time. Should college students on the autism spectrum consider studying abroad? The answer is a resounding yes. However, a student on the autism spectrum needs to conduct a careful self-assessment to see if he or she is ready for the adventure and must plan contingencies as well as develop a support network in the country he or she plans to visit.

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