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


Developing Contingency Plans and a Support Network

Here are 6 steps to getting ready to study abroad if you are a student on the autism spectrum. You can read the first part here - Should Students on the Autism Spectrum Consider Studying Abroad? - Part I 

1. Know what to do in the event of an emergency

An emergency can take a variety of forms from a personal medical emergency to a natural disaster, an incident of terrorism, to civil unrest. Have an emergency contact plan devised with your family regarding how to tell them you are safe and where to find you. Let the embassy or consulate of your home country know that you are studying there, at which university, and how long you plan on being in the country. Find out how the embassy helps tourists and students, and the types of situations in which they can be the most helpful. You should also let them know you have an autism spectrum disorder so that they can help to facilitate this. 

2. Establish a local support network

Often programs will offer mixers or previews of the study abroad program. Make sure you attend one of these. Get to know your fellow students before you leave. Exchange e-mail addresses and cell phone numbers. Some programs offer orientations once you arrive at the host university. Network there as well and exchange contact information with your fellow students. The same holds true for your classes at the new university. Join clubs at the new university in an area of your interest.  Through these contacts, find out with whom you can travel on long weekends and school breaks while you are in residence. Take advantage of the opportunities to explore neighboring countries with these new travel companions. Also, identify faculty members who you can turn to for help should you need it.