Abled Abroad: España Edition

As children, we are taught to challenge ourselves and follow our dreams, no matter how big or small. Deciding to pursue these dreams takes courage and commitment. For individuals with disabilities, the idea of achieving such dreams can be hard to imagine when they feel so out of reach. The reality sets in and planning can seem overwhelming, even impossible at times. This fear, however, isn’t something I would allow to keep me from achieving my dreams, even if making them come true would take extra time and dedication. 

I was born with Spina Bifida, a neural tube defect that inhibits my ability to walk without the aid of leg braces. While this challenges my day to day mobility, it has never discouraged me from dreaming big. I have aspired to study abroad in España since the sixth grade when my first Spanish teacher inspired me through her time abroad in Madrid. My excitement to study abroad and my passion for the Spanish language and culture have only grown since then. Now, after a lot of planning, research, and support, I am able to embark on my journey through España!

I spent over a year planning for this trip- consulting with medical specialists and my insurance company about coverage, applying for scholarships, as well as working out logistics of accessibility and accommodations for school, housing, and the host city. I was blessed to earn a study abroad diversity scholarship from the University of Kentucky, enabling me to make this experience financially feasible. ISA staff also consistently supported me in my planning process- answering my many questions and assuring me of my concerns. 

Since I have arrived in Spain, I have been surprised with how accessible it has been. Beginning in Madrid, the walks were long but not an issue when you can take breaks for tapas and treats at every street corner. Toledo was definitely a challenge mobility-wise with the cobblestone streets and intense hills. Nonetheless, I took my time and was grateful for the ISA staff. They happily linked arms with me and we walked together, as they said they did with their closest friends. 

View at the highest peak in Toledo. Definitely worth the hike!

This led into my arrival in Sevilla, España– my new favorite destination. Beyond its beauty, plentiful shops, and tasty tapas bars, it’s very handicap accessible. The sidewalks are smoother for walking, hills are minimal, and it’s a walking city- meaning you can easily walk just about anywhere you might want to go within the city. Locals are very friendly and overall, I feel very safe and secure. 

ISA accommodated me with housing close to the Universidad Internacional Menendez-Pelayo and with hosts who able to accommodate my medical needs. I have been blessed with an incredible, kind hearted and inclusive family that makes me feel welcomed and treasured every day. 

Now, after being in Sevilla for a few weeks, my Spanish has already improved as I use it primarily to communicate. My host family corrects me as needed, encouraging me when I do well and assuring me that I am learning rapidly. Outside of class, I spend my days exploring, getting to know the locals and my host family, and eating lots of tapas. With the aid of advisors, both my family and host family, and the determination to make this dream of mine a reality, I can say I’m abled abroad in España, and I’m ready for the adventures to come. 

Plaza de España after sunset- a MUST SEE!

Lauren Sammons is a student at the University of Kentucky and an ISA Featured Blogger. She studied abroad with ISA in Seville, Spain. 

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