Therapy Abroad

Therapy Abroad

About

Therapy Abroad offers short term study abroad programs for undergraduate and graduate students in the field of communication sciences & disorders, speech-language pathology & audiology, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and music therapy. Therapy Abroad creates an interactive educational environment for students and professionals to learn and enhance core competencies in their field, as well as to enjoy the richness and challenges of service learning and traveling abroad. Working with partner organizations overseas, students are given the opportunity to work directly with clients, receive specialized training, and learn from experts in their field while also contributing to a unique cultural exchange experience. No other student travel program offers the kind of hands-on experience specifically students that want to be therapists that Therapy Abroad does.

Founded
2015
Headquarters

1820 W Orangewood Ave. Suite 105
Orange, CA 92868
United States

Now Accepting Applications for Summer 2020

Therapy Abroad is now accepting applications for all of our summer 2020 programs. Programs fill on a first-come basis and are limited to just 12 students per date. Apply now and secure your spot for one of our award-winning programs in Belize, Thailand, and the Dominican Republic!

Reviews

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Adriana
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Words don't do this trip justice. The itinerary was spot on with great places to stay, delicious local restaurants, various cultures, breathtaking scenery, awesome group leaders (Chad & Ellen, hey!) , and beautiful people. This trip was nothing short of amazing. This opportunity really served as an eye opener to me. I am even more grateful for all I have and the fact that I am earning my masters in a field that does great things for great people who are so deserving. I wish I never left Belize. I will be back.....SUMMER 2021 I'm coming for ya! If you have the opportunity to study abroad with therapy abroad...YOU MUST DO IT! You won't regret it! :-)

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Nina
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

It was really fun. Good balance of education and free time. The supervisors were great and Ellen was amazing. I loved Monkey Bay and the trip to Caye Caulker was a nice way to unwind after working at narcie for the previous two weeks. The one thing I didn’t love was everything I was expected to know prior to this trip. I am not studying SLP at my university and felt as though I was supposed to already be accustomed with everything we did. It was less about learning and more about applying the information. I wanted to go on this trip to help me decide what I want to do in graduate school and whether or not I wanted to pursue SLP. Other than that it was a great trip.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Bring lots of bug spray and sun screen. Be prepared to have fun.
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Lauren
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Throughout this experience, I was able to learn in an interactive educational environment and enhance core competencies in the field of speech language pathology, as well as enjoy the richness and challenges of service learning and traveling abroad. I was given the opportunity to work directly with clients, receive specialized training, and learn from experts in the field while also contributing to a unique cultural exchange experience.

Housing:
For the first few days of the trip, I stayed in Monkey Bay. It was dorm style housing. I stayed in a room with 8 other girls in the program. It was charming and SO much fun. Ellen was there every step of the way to make sure we had everything we needed. As a whole, I can't say enough nice things about Ellen! Monkey bay was great. The only downside of this place was the WiFi never worked. It made report writing and sharing very challenging. We tried to overcome this challenge by using and sharing flash drives. Also, the bugs at this location were pesky so don't skimp on bug spray!

Next, we stayed at Martha's Guesthouse in San Ignacio. This was another awesome accommodation. The WiFi and AC was a significant upgrade. There was plenty of room to complete our reports. The staff was friendly and the food was amazing.

Therapy Experience:
The therapy experience was amazing. We were able to see a wide variety of clients. We were not given much information on the clients before seeing them. This forced us to be extremely flexible. Prior to seeing the clients, we were only given their name and a possible date of birth. If you are a student clinician, here is a list of things I wish I had brought: nasal mirror, PECS to leave with families, latex free gloves, English and Spanish visuals with Belizean pictures, a tongue depressor, and ASL visuals.

Overall, this experience was incredible. If you are given the opportunity, GO! You will not be sorry.

What would you improve about this program?
I would recommend that as the program progresses, that Therapy Abroad give more information about the clients to the student clinicians prior to leaving for Belize. This way clinicians can be better prepared with materials and assessment tools. The program only had two formal assessments. If we were provided more information, we could have brought more to help us better assess. The program should also obtain a formal articulation test. Another recommendation for the program would be to have more audiometers. This was a problem throughout the trip as we only had access to an audiometer for one day. Access to an audiometer would allow clinicians to better assess the clients and rule out any existing concerns. One part of the trip that was difficult was leaving. I would recommend a trip where specific groups go for caregiver and/or teacher training. This way we could provide functional communication strategies to a wide range of people.
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Emily
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Going to Belize for the two-week program was an amazing experience. The supervisors were nothing but nice, the food was delicious, and the hands-on experience I participated in was exciting. I loved how all of the meals and excursions were paid for and how we got to stay on an island for the last weekend in Belize. Working with the children both at NaRCIE and during home visits in Belize was a humbling experience. I would highly recommend this trip to all who love to travel and speech pathology!

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
I was so excited that we saw monkeys in the wild multiple times at the Mayan Temples!
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Alexis
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Therapy Abroad provided me with a once and a life time experience to not only travel the world but provide meaningful therapy to individuals who otherwise could not afford or access services.

This unique opportunity provided me with skills that can not be taught in a typical placement or classroom. Working in Belize required quick creative thinking, dynamic assessment, and thoughtful recommendations that were appropriate for the people we worked with. With limited WiFi access and materials, students were asked to get creative and utilize objects, screeners, and materials in new ways to obtain information (e.g., using an articulation picture screener as a tool to assess "wh"-questions). I also evaluated a range of disorders, syndromes, and deficits that I may not have worked with here in the US.

Some staff were wonderful to work with. Ellen was a great resource during our time in Monkey Bay. She was delightful, knowledgeable, and eager to help in any way she could. She made us feel safe and made my experience at Monkey Bay memorable. Tyrone was also a great wealth of knowledge and a great person to have around for the trip. We wished he could have been our driver for the entire trip.

It was a pleasure working with the community health workers (CHWs) and their work/experience in Belize. They were great translators when we needed them to act as such. One CHW said that she was learning a lot from us as we were learning from her. She came everyday happy and excited to work.

I had an amazing trip that was fun, educational, and at some points emotional. Home visits were the most emotionally taxing and most rewarding. Providing families with strategies and ways to support their children or loved ones was such an empowering experience.

I highly recommend this trip for students who want hands on experience, challenging clients/environments, and want to be a better report writer (because you write a lot of reports and you need to be through for the next clinician; no detail is too small or unimportant!).

What would you improve about this program?
There are several things I believe can be improved about the program. While in Belize, we were never such of exactly what we were walking into in terms of expectations (e.g., providing services or just providing education and support to Belize staff) or client disorders/deficits. This provided a great learning experience and is often unavoidable, however, the following suggestions for improvement are provided:

1) Providing a list of potential names and documentation previously submitted to Therapy Abroad (e.g., Evaluation reports and SOAP notes) a week prior to group arrival in Belize. As per parent report, several of the children I evaluated had already been seen by Therapy Abroad on separate occasions, however, I was not provided with other team's reports. It is unnecessary to preform evaluations on individuals who were already identified by Therapy Abroad has having a delay or disorder by other SLPs. My services would have been better utilized by providing these individuals with the treatment they need and dynamic assessment.

2) Client Intake forms. For some school districts or community placements, providing a client intake form might reduce the amount of referrals for non-speech/language concerns and give students an idea of what to assess for the children referred. This would also serve as a document to alert communities of our arrival. There was an instance where a school district was not aware we were coming and felt that the school procedures were being overlooked. Eden was present for this conversation with administrative staff, and the principle required that any documentation be pass on to the school so the relationship was mutually beneficial.

3) Documentation and Materials. Often, the Belize supervisory staff was unsure of the work expectations required of us at a placement. For example, if we were observing or treating individuals at a nursing home. We were directed to leave all therapy and evaluation materials at the hotel because either the expectation was uncertain and/or the placement had materials for us to use. Upon arriving to a placement, it was apparent that having our materials accessible would have been better than having nothing at all. In my personal opinion it is better to be over-prepared than under-prepared regardless of placement. Students should not be instructed to leave materials at the hotel but rather encouraged to bring them in the event they are able to conduct therapy/evaluations. The exception to this was the hospital visit with Ryan which was strictly just a tour of the facility and a learning experience for students.

4) Language used with students. During orientation and several times throughout the week at dinner time the language regarding adult beverages was infantilized. Although the program is considered to be a dry program, my group consisted of graduate students who were 24, 25, and 26 years old and can make appropriate decisions regarding drinking outside of the program. Students and supervisors (both from the college and the therapy abroad program) enjoyed a drink at dinner and reiteration of the policy of drinking was unnecessary at each dinner meal, orientation to the program was sufficient. Furthermore, there were inappropriate comments made by Belize supervising staff regarding religious affiliation of students. My college is not affiliated with any religion and a comment about the assumption that we would act as "good christian girls". This comment was not only unnecessary and inappropriate, it was offensive to those who do not practice Christianity.

5) Provide a translator that speaks Mayan. It's hard to do a speech-language evaluation on a child that only speaks Mayan and no translator. It's unethical on our end.

6) Provide an FM system for Belize staff. On the bus or on tours it was difficult to hear information that was provided by Belize supervisors, tour guides, and bus drivers about the history, culture, and additional information about Belize while traveling.

Programs

Displaying 1 - 5 of 5

Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Julianna Valencia

Julianna is a first generation Chicana graduate from California Polytechnic University in Pomona. She is currently applying to grad school to become a speech language pathologist. Her interests include cooking, baking, reading, hiking and traveling.

Why did you choose this program?

The moment I received an email from my post-bac program advisor, I opened it and I was excited to read about a bilingual SLP program in the Dominican Republic! I did my research on Therapy Abroad and applied right away and waited anxiously to hear back. As soon as I was accepted, I started fundraising. I even told a friend about the program and she went too!

I loved everything they focused on from hands-on experience with children with speech disorders, to have the opportunity to work alongside certified SLPs. It was the perfect combination of being able to work in a Spanish speaking country and to work with children with speech disorders.

What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

My university did not assist me with any help, I had to do everything on my own but Therapy Abroad was very helpful. Therapy Abroad’s staff was an amazing source of help and always answered my questions via email or phone. The program itself is very well organized and sends you email updates when forms are due.

The only thing I had to organize on my own was my connecting flight from LAX to Miami because the person in charge of booking this flight was not responding. Other than that, Therapy Abroad was a huge help!

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

My advice would be to really take advantage and network out there. You meet so many people from SLP professors, members from your team, team leaders, psychologists, teachers, and DREAM staff members. Everyone out there is so friendly and willing to help. Exchange emails, numbers and build connections. Remember these people are also on the same page to become SLPs or some of them already went through the process. I recently sent my statement of purpose to one of the professors, that was on the team and he is helping me build my statement of purpose.

Another advice would be to take a journal and write what you did each day. Your journal might help you when writing your statement of purpose or it can just be something to look back and see all the amazing things you did out there.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

The first few days before camp starts, we were preparing our activities as well as getting to know one another and exploring the town of Cabarete. Once camp started, we would meet after breakfast to do a quick overview, questions, or an ice breaker. We would then head over to the school and had about 30 minutes to set up before the children arrived.

Once the children arrived, we would play with them for about 10 minutes and then gathered outside to sing our welcoming name song. After we would all head over to the first activity, which was literature. Then we had basic concepts, behavior regulation, gross motor, snack time and lastly pretend play. These activities were selected by us and we were paired with another team member interested in the same activity. When the last activity was done, we all gathered outside again and sang a song or two and a good-bye song with their names.

After the children left, we gathered and had lunch at the school and debriefed. We would share our glows and grows of the day. When we were done eating we would then have a break for about 1-3 hours depending on the agenda. Some days we had observations that would only give us about an hour break. We would then come back to the school and observe a speech therapy session done by one of the speech pathologists on the team. The therapy sessions were very interesting and helpful to observe.

After we would have a break until it was time for dinner. We would all go to dinner together in a nice and relaxing place by the beach.

After dinner, we would meet at the hotel to go over our activities for the next day and to make sure everyone was on the same page. Most of the time we were free before 9 pm and had the rest of the night to relax, go for a night swim or prepare for the next day.

It might seem like a long day but you will enjoy every single moment of it!

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

The day before my trip to the Dominican Republic, I was very excited but at the same time nervous (like many of us have felt). Many “what ifs” came to my mind. The main one was “what if I get sick?”. I went during the time when it was all over the news that Americans had been dying in the Dominican Republic, so of course, I freaked out. Most of those deaths had happened due to alcohol in certain resorts. As a member of the therapy abroad team, we were not allowed to drink alcohol which was good because then I did not have to worry about getting sick and it was one less thing on my mind to worry about.

It is okay to have these “what ifs” cross your mind; I mean, we are traveling to another country by ourselves. Another thing that helped me was taking a deep breath and just concentrating in the moment instead of worrying about the future. Once you arrive, you really forget about all the “what ifs” prior to arrival. Cabarete is a really beautiful and relaxing place to be.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Ellen McKamey

Job Title
Country Coordinator

Ellen serves as program coordinator for Therapy Abroad’s Belize program. She has over 14 years of experience working in domestic and international special education, including applied behavior analysis, public awareness and child advocacy. Belize holds a special place in her heart as it was the site for her 27 month service in the United States Peace Corps.

What is your favorite travel memory?

My favorite travel memories are definitely on Caye Caulker with my fellow Peace Corps Volunteers while we were serving in Belize. Lots of laughs and great memories were shared on that sweet little island. Late nights, long talks, and dives in the deep blue sea were some of my favorites. It was the perfect recharging station where we could meet up and spend a couple days relaxing with friends.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

Working for Therapy Abroad has allowed me to continue the work I was doing while in Belize as a Peace Corps volunteer, but on a much larger scale. I really enjoy working with the teams we bring down and the fact that we're now in country about 6 months throughout the year aids in our ability to ensure our program's sustainability.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

I love hearing students' individual stories of how Therapy Abroad has broadened their scope. For a lot of our students, our programs are extremely eye opening experiences and sometimes their first opportunity to travel outside of the United States. It's most impressive to me their courage and determination to take on a hands-on learning opportunity in an unfamiliar environment.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

Our company just started a program in the Dominican Republic and I would love to check it out. It would be my first time visiting the DR and I would be interested to see the similarities and differences between there and Belize in terms of services offered for children with special needs and everyday life.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

I think the importance that both the founders of Therapy Abroad and myself put on the sustainability of our programs makes our company unique. As returned Peace Corps volunteers, sustainability is one of our highest values. We seek to work in countries and with partnerships that WANT to work with us. We put a high priority on professional trainings to ensure carryover.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

I believe the biggest factor in the success of Therapy Abroad in Belize are the relationships and connections we're building with not only professionals in the field there, but also with the families and communities we're working with. It's these relationships that create the foundation for change that we hope to see within country's services for their special needs population.