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Global Engagement Studies Institute (GESI)

About GESI

The Global Engagement Studies Institute (GESI) is a study abroad program that provides undergraduates with the knowledge, tools, and experiences to partner with communities to confront shared global challenges. GESI provides opportunities in collaborative experiential learning – opportunities that develop global leaders while contributing to the sustainable development of communities in which our students work and learn. Through service-learning in Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ghana, Guatemala, Uganda, or Vietnam, teams of students join the efforts of local organizations to advance community-driven change.

If you are looking for a program where you learn by doing and are ready to challenge yourself in the pursuit of global social change, GESI is for you.

Quick facts:

  • GESI is one study abroad program with six different location options
  • While students select a first and second choice location preference, GESI location is placement based
  • All students live with a host family
  • All years in undergrad and all majors/minors are eligible 
GESI students work with community-based organizations in Uganda.
Beautiful colors: GESI students admire umbrellas in Hanoi, Vietnam

 

Partner Organizations

The GESI team collaborates closely with in-country partners who possess local expertise, including relationships with grassroots efforts and organizations in communities where students will live and work. The partner organization will:

  • Be your 24/7 support in country
  • Place you in a homestay family
  • Help assign your work organization

Learn more about our partners in each of our locations, and about the philosophies behind their work.

"GESI takes everything you think you know about the world and completely flips it upside down in an extremely impactful way. The skills and lessons I learned from GESI will last me a lifetime."

Rachel Gladney (Uganda 2014)

Connect with GESI Alums

Program Details

GESI has three components that make up the structure:

  • Pre-departure orientation
  • In-country
  • Final Reflection Summit

All accommodations and the majority of meals are arranged for students for all three components.

Program dates

GESI 2020 program dates are  June 15 - August 20:

  • June 15 - 22 - Pre-departure orientation at Northwestern
  • June 23 - Departure day to GESI locations
  • June 23 - August 17 - In GESI country
  • August 17 - Return to Chicago
  • August 18- 20 - Final Reflection Summit

All components of GESI are a mandatory part of the program.

Academics

Pre-Departure Orientation

The GESI program starts on Northwestern’s campus where students take two Northwestern courses focused on building an understanding of their role in the process of international immersion and community development. In addition to two academically rigorous Northwestern courses, students will attend country-specific sessions, learn about development topics from practitioners, and attend language classes to prepare them for time abroad. We will spend significant time discussing social identities, health and safety, and sharing resources. GESI students will also work closely with a team of student instructors, who will provide academic and personal support, as well as assist in teaching activities.

GESI courses*:

  • COMM ST 395-SA Doing Development: The Theory and Practice of Community Engagement
  • INTL ST 393-SA Development in the Global Context
*course titles subject to change

In-Country

While in your GESI country, you will be working in teams with local organizations, advancing their efforts towards sustainable change. Topics vary in each location and include focuses like human rights, sustainable agriculture, gender rights, health services, and youth/education. Your schedule will resemble a work schedule common in your location. You will continue to submit weekly assignments for your professors.

Final Reflection Summit

Upon your return from your GESI country, we will be back in the classroom space at Northwestern for three days as a cohort to discuss lessons learned, challenges, and successes of the summer work. We believe that reflective practice is an integral component of study abroad programs. The GESI Final Reflection Summit is designed to help students contextualize their international community development experiences within the larger issues of international development theory and practice.

Pre-departure packets

The pre-departure packets are a written collaboration between GESI staff and the on-site partners. These are meant to be a useful resource for students before arrival.

Travel, Passports, & Visas

Please make sure to have a current passport, valid for at least six months from the end of your program. GESI staff will book group flights. Once you are accepted, you will be provided more information about applying for your visa.

 

If you have more questions about the GESI program, review the program pages for your desired location(s) and read through GESI FAQs.

Student Stories

One active way GESI encourages story sharing is through the Open Letters curriculum. Open Letters are an exercise to deepen reflective practice, reinforce group formation, and provide opportunities for students to convey the impact of their experiences and engagement in new ways. The Story Slam is the live recording of GESI students sharing an Open Letter. These are live recordings that have not been edited or modified.

Story Slam Summer 2016

Story Slam Summer 2015