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Special Needs Students in the Erasmus Program

by adv1 » Sat Jan 18, 2014 7:38 pm

Zoe Maclean from Britain beams when she talks about her 10-month experience studying in Spain through the Erasmus Program.
Named after the 16th-century Dutch philosopher Desiderius Erasmus, the Erasmus Program is a student exchange program that is part of the European Union's Lifelong Learning Programme. Erasmus allows full-time college students to expand their education beyond their home countries. Since its inception in 1987, over 3 million students have participated in the program, and over 4000 higher educational institutions in 33 countries are part of the program.

Maclean describes the experience as an "exciting and unforgettable taste of fun, friendship and freedom." Maclean was able to participate in the Erasmus Program despite the fact that she has a disability that requires her to use a wheelchair. Another Erasmus alumna, Jennifer Murray, participated in Erasmus even though she is blind. Demonstrating its commitment to ensuring that as many students as possible are able to take advantage of the unique opportunity afforded by the Erasmus Program, Erasmus encourages students with special needs to apply and provides accommodations for them.

Accommodations and Funding for Special Needs
Like many other students with special needs, Maclean was concerned about the financial and social challenges that she would face studying abroad. She thought that these issues would prevent her from participating. Erasmus helped to erase these fears.

Erasmus is designed so that students will not have to pay additional tuition for studying abroad. Thus, they end up spending the same amount that they would be required to pay if they remained at their home university. However, because traveling abroad to study will necessarily require additional expenses, students have the option of applying for a grand from Erasmus hat provides funds to help cover the extra expenses incurred while studying abroad.

For students with special needs, Erasmus provides additional funding to help offset extraordinary expenses required to accommodate the special need. For example, the additional funds may be used for assistive technology such as computer equipment and software, personal assistance from an aide, or modified learning materials. As a result students with a variety of conditions such as blindness, leaning disabilities, and various types of cerebral palsy have been able to participate in Erasmus. As special needs students such as Maclean and Murray discovered, the academic experience afforded by Erasmus not only enriches the student academically, but also helps students learn another language and gain intercultural skills. The experience also makes students more attractive to potential employers. Particularly for students with special needs, successfully studying aboard away from the usual resources and support systems, helps students with disabilities gain confidence and become more self-reliant.

Erasmus is a very important and highly-respected educational opportunity for European students. In addition to Erasmus, the European Union's Lifelong Learning Programme also offers Comenius for primary and secondary students, Leonardo da Vinci for vocational educational training, and Grundtvig for adult education. What initiative should the United States make to create an integrated education opportunity so that studying abroad is more financially and socially accessible to both students with special needs and students without special needs?

About the Author:

Andrew Mounier is a passionate member of the End Ecocide movement, an avid legal blogger, Environmental Law Student and writer for Legalnews.tv. He has worked in marketing for over a decade and finds his passion in bringing concepts to life. As a Socialpreneur, he is an agent for positive social change through both his writing and business endeavors.

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