I'm like every other post-college twentysomething in lots of ways: I make too little money, watch too much Netflix and indulge in an existential crisis oh, about once an hour. Also, like many in my cohort, I love the idea of packing up a ratty old duffel bag and heading off to some far corner of the world to taste, see and do all I can, while maybe giving myself either a leg to stand on once I return to the job market here or the warm-n-fuzzies that come from volunteering and/or service learning. All pretty standard fare. Here comes the doozy of snowflake: I'm in a wheelchair and have certain difficulties with speech fluency, owing to my CP and spastic diplegia diagnosis. Try as I might, I can't get myself to give up on the dream of spending a year or more abroad, even with all this in my way. Help me get there, oh beautiful hivemind?
A backstory and a few more details:
Ever since before I began college, I always knew I wanted to go to Israel for a year. Most of my family is there and I had been going ( and continue to go) for vacation once every two years or so. I love the vibe, the national identity and the culture in general and my Israeli mother always encouraged these sentiments in me. I kept delaying things- to finish high school, to start college, to finish college, to lose weight- the anticipation and the dream never crumbled.
That is, until this summer, my first after undergrad, when I swelled with excitement after thinking I would finally have the time and freedom to pursue that dream. I did all the basic research- went poring through MASA Israel's catalog of programs and internships
, went through disability advocacy organizations and even had a few people personally advocate for my acceptance to programs like Hebrew U, Career Israel and the Kibbutz Program Center.
Nothing. As soon as people caught wind of the disability and its potential consequences on the trip ( the vast majority of which were assumed without ever giving me the opportunity to meet with organizers), emails started going unanswered ( or I would need to beg for a response), nonrefundable application fees remained nonrefundable despite the circumstances and I was poo-poo'd away from every otherwise tantalizing opportunity.
All this rejection left me almost physically ill. I was disgusted, because while Israel is nothing like the war-torn wasteland that it's sometimes portrayed to be the media- it's a modern, cosmopolitan country with most every Western amenity and disability legislation that at least on paper rivals that of the US- the attitudes of its people are backwards. On Birthright ( a 10 day tour of Israel for college students), the tour guide would constantly marvel at how it could be that an 'invalid' like myself was on the trip. People on the street take the liberty of gawking at you without a second thought, even as you're staring them in the face and are visibly flustered when you attempt interaction with (most of) them.
This spiraled me into what has now been an 8-month long relapse of my depression. I gave up looking for a job or any opportunities here because everything just seemed so impossible. But I'm done sitting back. I need to start exploring.
All this having been said,I've divided up the question around an if/then framework. Keep this in mind as you brainstorm.
I love Israel, even if it doesn't, and may never, love me back. I want so much to be there for somewhere between six months and two years, gathering experiences both professional and cultural. The thing is that, even though I'm lucky enough to have family there, I can't let myself go until I have:
a) ANY reason to be there ( in the form of program)
b) Accessible and independent long-term, but not permanent, housing ( living with my family members just isn't an option)
c) Reliable transportation ( I can and do use public transportation and paratransit in NY)
I would literally do anything even remotely related to my interests and goals at this point- something in a hospital, writing, volunteering with at-risk populations, the army ( I've seen more than one person with CP serve), kibbutz living, *travel*, or a combination of any of these.
Some of the more popular options for touring Anglos- teaching English and working in communications- aren't going to happen for me, not with the stutter in play.
I should note here that most of the ways in which I've tried to get around this problem of prejudice have come up short because most advocacy organizations or accessible travel groups are either aimed at permanent residents and their struggles or 10-day hotel-and-tour bus types. These people have no idea how to handle a study abroad type of situation. Same goes for the housing issue. I've always loved being unique, but there's a limit. Heh.
Now, I've realized that, despite every effort on your part, MeFites, Israel may just end up being a pipe dream.- a place I can visit but never call my own. That's fine... I've grown considerably since my days of unencumbered idealism. You might also just have no idea about how to navigate this part of the world or the opportunities available there. That's also cool. This is MetaFilter, not my synagogue.
IF ( remember this part?) either of these are true, I'd still LOVE your help along these exact same lines in getting ANYWHERE. So many of my friends are now either traveling or have moved abroad, and I need a salve for my cabin fever desperately.
I've always wanted to go back to the UK ( I was born and lived there for a few years and so feel emotionally tied to it) and it would probably be number two on my list aside from Israel.
The rest, in order of preference:
California ( I know, not abroad, but still a dream of mine)
The rest of Europe- Spain, Italy, Czech Republic, Ireland, France, etc. etc.
Feel free to dream up the rest.
I know Asia is a popular choice. I'm just as deeply curious about it as I am about these other places, but honestly, the culture shock and language barrier might be too much for me at such a nascent stage in my exploration. It's not completely out of the question though, so feel free to make your case.
TL;DR Help a disabled college-aged dude add a couple of visas to his passport and grow/learn in the process.
So, wonderful MeFites, help me believe that I can travel and function in a global society in 2014. I believe I can. Am I wrong?