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Global Engagement Studies Institute in Uganda

Global Engagement Studies Institute in Uganda website  (map)

Sponsor: Northwestern University’s Buffett Institute for Global Studies and the Foundation for Sustainable Development

Location: Jinja, Uganda


The Global Engagement Studies Institute (GESI) is a study abroad program that provides undergraduates with the knowledge, tools, and experiences to confront 
shared global challenges. 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.

Areas of work include microfinance, income generation, agriculture, health, nutrition, women’s empowerment, and youth & education. Many GESI students work with financial institutions called Savings and Credit Cooperative Organizations (SACCOs) set up by the community to solve a common problem. Other GESI students have worked with jjajas, grandmothers raising their grandchildren who are orphaned as a result of AIDS. More than 80% of all jobs in Uganda revolve around agriculture, and students might be directly or indirectly working in this sector.

The city of Jinja is located in southern Uganda, right at the mouth of the Nile. Historically a fishing town, Jinja is a mix of an urban and rural environment. The soil is very fertile, and much of the food sold in markets is produced nearby. Students fall in love with Uganda for its hospitable communities, readily available fruit and coffee, and beautiful waterfalls and landscapes.

Host families in Jinja often have three to five children, as there is a cultural preference for large families. In Uganda, you might spend a lot of time listening to the radio with your family, watching and cheering on soccer matches, and having conversations. Extended greetings are really important in Ugandan culture, so you might get used to being stopped for conversation quite often! Many homes have gardens, chickens, fruit trees, or animal sheds.

Program Type: Northwestern-Sponsored


  • Summer

Languages: English

Language Requirements: 



Home stays

Program Costs: 

The program fee is equivalent to tuition for two credits.  In summer 2018 this is $8707. 

Although equal to the cost of tuition, this program fee includes much more, such as room and board while abroad, GeoBlue health insurance coverage, and more.

Visit the GESI website for more cost information details, including our breakdown of additional expenses for use in planning.

GESI Scholarships: 

GESI scholarships exist so that qualified Northwestern undergraduate students have the opportunity to gain international and community development experience, regardless of financial constraints. Learn more about the three types of scholarships that are available to qualified Northwestern students for GESI Uganda:

  • Bonnie and Mike Daniels Scholars: Up to 15 scholarships that cover full tuition and other costs, and are based on financial need, community engagement, and interview/application quality.
  • Buffett Institute GESI Scholarships: Award amounts vary and are based on financial need, community engagement, and interview/application quality.
  • Efrusy Family Scholars Fund: Scholarships are awarded to those studying abroad with GESI to a sub-Saharan African location in varying amounts based on financial need, community engagement, and interview/application quality. 

Visit the GESI website for more information about GESI scholarships and financial aid.

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