CIEE Study Abroad in Dublin, Ireland, Summer 2016. CIEE/MIUSA Access to the World Scholarship. Minneapolis Business College graduate.
Rachel is a strong advocate for disability rights with insatiable wanderlust and goals to compete in the Paralympics someday. She has put her degree in travel and hospitality to good use by travelling to more than thirteen countries using a wheelchair. She also studied American Sign Language and is an award-winning, exhibited, and published photographer. Rachel is an advocate for disability civil rights and works closely with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) related programs in her hometown community in Minnesota. Her experience travelling abroad has offered a unique opportunity to compare and contrast accessibility in other countries. A true global citizen, Rachel has a strong sense of wanderlust and adventure that is sure to take her on many more travels to come. Her globetrotting experience offers great knowledge for the international education community in learning about accessibility differences worldwide.
What made you interested in studying in Ireland with CIEE?
I attended the ADA 25th Anniversary celebrations in D.C., and when I returned home I saw that there was a scholarship being offered to 25 students with disabilities from MIUSA and CIEE called "Access to the World," so I applied and received it. I was asked where I'd want to go and why, and I said Ireland because I have part Irish heritage and my disability is most prevalent in Ireland. So, I wanted to see what life would have been like if I had been born with my disability in Ireland had my family not created the Irish colony where I am from in Minnesota.
Where else in the world have you traveled?
I've mostly gone on cruises, but in total I have been to 13 countries and 32 states – Jamaica, Haiti, England, France, Denmark, Iceland, Mexico, Italy – to name a few.
What does being a global citizen mean to you?
Learning about others’ beliefs and customs and respecting our differences. Contributing when you feel you are able to offer something of value, and being open to trying different things.
The Summit revolves largely around making study abroad accessible to everyone. What are your thoughts on this?
As a person with a disability who has an educational background in travel and hospitality, I took the difficulties I faced in my study abroad in Ireland and our Intercultural Comparative Experience (“ICE”) weekends in Spain and Germany, and it made me want to look for ways I can contribute to making the lives of Europeans with disabilities, and lives of others like families and caregivers, easier where I see significant flaws. The trips made me want to find ways to make their lives better, which would in turn make the lives of everyone with a disability better. Seeing the difficulties that they face and that I don't deal with in the U.S. made me want to meet more of them, to look for a possible committee on accessibility, understand if they see a change being needed, and to offer them ideas or advice which I think may help.
What thoughts are you excited to contribute to the IIE Summit?
How better accessibility and removing barriers would greatly improve the quality of life for their citizens with disabilities in Ireland, and give those citizens more opportunities to shine. Better access for the country would mean a greater tourism boost and a better economy. Disabled visitors to the country would be able to get a better understanding of the Irish, their history, and the country itself. If accessibility needs are understood and barriers are removed, everyone would benefit; more people with disabilities would be able to travel independently in the country, and more citizens of the country would become self-reliant rather than potentially feeling like a burden or charity to caregivers. Quality of life for not only the disabled but those around them would be greatly improved with access. Europe has great adaptive equipment inventions, and if I were to run a country with that distinction, I would want to have people with disabilities front and center showing off our achievements.