Many students choose well-traveled study abroad destinations in Europe – or none at all! – because of worries about the change in lifestyle. Will I have to dress differently? Can I drink the water? Will I get food sickness? What if I get lost, how will I find my way home if I don’t speak the language?
Natale is a blind exchange student from Argentina. He fought against reluctant advisors for a year in order to come to the UAE for the last semester of his undergraduate education. As an International Affairs major, he loved Arab culture and wanted to experience it first-hand. His mother tongue is Spanish, meaning that all of the classes at his English-language foreign university are in his second language. Plus, he’s in my advanced-beginners’ Arabic class and speaks it better than everyone else – a fact he likes to disagree with. He also likes to say he is not very knowledgeable, but every time there’s a question about global affairs he’s the first to answer. He finds his way around campus with his walking stick, and takes notes in class using a voice recorder.
When his study abroad advisor was reluctant to let him leave, he called up the ISEP headquarters near Washington, D.C., contacted the study abroad office at the American University of Sharjah, and got a professor at his home university to personally support his decision.
Natale is living proof that when there’s a will, there’s a way.