Jake Robinson trekked through a village in Ghana, where he met this young man giving him a high-five.

Jake Robinson trekked through a village in Ghana, where he met this young man giving him a high-five.

Living a year abroad can change you forever.

That’s what happened to Susan Sygall when she went to Australia way back in 1975. While earning credits toward her master’s degree at the University of Queensland, she also took time for adventures.

“My studying in Australia can only be described as a magical time,” says Sygall, a paraplegic since 1971. She heads up Mobility International USA, which, among other things, facilitates cultural exchange programs for people with disabilities from around the world. “Suddenly every single day was absolutely a new experience … food, culture, smells, friends, romances, and perspectives on myself and the world.”

Her adventures included joining a previously all-male wheelchair basketball team, camping for 30 days in the outback — “being the only disabled person and attempting to climb Uluru rock,” she adds — and getting her boyfriend from Berkeley, California, who was also a para, to join her in hitchhiking throughout New Zealand for six weeks.

Once her year abroad came to an end, she wasn’t ready to come home. “I traveled with a new friend who was also studying abroad from Canada, and we took local buses through Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand on our long journey back home to North America,” she says.