College of Education > News and Publications > 2015: 07-09 news > Summer program abroad provides insight into culture, disability in Ireland

Summer program abroad provides insight into culture, disability in Ireland

A group of 10 Penn State students from a variety of majors traveled to Ireland this summer for a month-long examination of the country's culture through the lens of disability advocacy and accommodations.

“There’s more than one way to solve a problem, and there’s more than one right answer to difficult questions.” 

This was one of the most important lessons Taylor Morris, a psychology student at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, says she learned from her experience this past summer in the monthlong Culture and Disability program in Ireland. 

The summer study abroad program offered 10 students the opportunity to explore another culture through the lens of disability advocacy and accommodations. 

“The primary purpose of the program was to learn about the ways Ireland handles issues surrounding disability and compare and contrast them to the ways the U.S. handles these same issues,” said Morris. 

“(The summer school) really opened my eyes to the fact that law is the most important aspect when it comes to getting people with disabilities the services they need.”

The trip’s itinerary included stops at Mental Health Ireland, Deaf Village Ireland, Friends of the Elderly, an equine therapy facility, and the National Institute for Intellectual Disability at Trinity College in Dublin.

The last week of the program was spent at the International Disability Law Summer School, hosted by the Centre for Disability Law and Policy at the National University of Ireland in Galway. 

“(The summer school) really opened my eyes to the fact that law is the most important aspect when it comes to getting people with disabilities the services they need,” said Katie Haskins, a rehabilitation and human services major in the College of Education. 

Students said that comparing policies and practices in Ireland with the U.S. helped give them new insight into their own future careers. 

Learning about the Irish history and culture was another important part of the program. 

“This part of the program included things like going to a play, learning about the troubles and tensions between the North and South, taking tours of historical landmarks, and hearing old Irish fables and where they originated,” said Morris. 

At the end of the trip, students returned home with a heightened understanding of different ways to assist and accommodate people with a wide variety of disabilities, and what it means to live with a disability. 

“To me, disability is a part of human diversity. When trying to accommodate people with disabilities, I think there is an idea of, ‘How can we make it so they can live like everyone else?’” Morris said. 

“We should be asking, ‘How can we make it so they can live the way they want to?’” 

The program is open to students in all majors. Students interested in participating in 2016 should contact Wendy Coduti in the College of Education.

By Tory Fryer, University Marketing (September 2015)