• "GESI is about engaging a world that is bigger, more exciting, and more complex than most people imagine. This abroad experience has allowed me to learn more about myself as a student, a partner in the work world, and as a member of humanity, and I'm looking forward to my continued growth in all these capacities."

    - Tarik Patterson

  • "GESI is not a program that teaches you how to help others. It is one that enables you to turn "others" into "us". It is real living with real people, and immerses you into a culture that is as sophisticated and complex as your own."

    - Michelle Kim

  • "GESI exposed me to the difficult but rewarding realities of community development: True impact comes from work at the grittiest level. If you're considering a career in a non-profit, NGO, social work, or anything that supports your community, an experience like this is vital."

    - Kirk Vaclavik

  • "There are two ways of learning: by keeping your nose to a book or by opening your eyes to the world. GESI provides the rare learning opportunity as it combines both forms. I know I have walked away invariably changed for the better."

    - Kalindi Shah

  • "Our project involved community members in every conceivable way. My relationships built with community members were my most proud and lasting accomplishments."

    –Sebastian Buffa

  • "I was looking for an opportunity to create lasting change--both in a community and in myself. GESI sets its participants up with the necessary tools and skills, and then gives them complete freedom to learn, fail, rework, and eventually succeed."

    - Rena Oppenheimer

  • "The program has given me a glimpse into what it is like to work internationally at the grassroots level. Having the hands on experience that the program has given me, I feel like I am one step ahead for other jobs in the development sector."

    - Ashley Fu

  • "The experience has given me a new perspective on everything from washing the dishes to how to address world hunger... I will be returning to the lessons I learned on this trip decades from now."

    - Alexis Suskin-Sperry

  • "The most unique aspect of this program is the opportunity to act on a theory that we had learned. GESI is a unique opportunity to experience how development theories, methodologies and practices actually play out in a community."

    - Lakshmi Ramachandran

  • "I will always treasure my home-stay experience. I became very close with my siblings and loved having a large family. I learned that wherever you are, a family is a family and life is lived day to day."

    - Ellen Abrams

  • "My home-stay was one of the best aspects of my summer. My sisters taught me so much about Ugandan culture as well as life in general. We have grown up on different sides of the world but we may as well as lived next door."

    - Chelsea Christman

  • "Professor Arntson's team building exercises and classes about group dynamics were invaluable. They gave our team the vocabulary and tools to mediate conflicts and make decisions while abroad and helped us understand each other's motivations."

    - Catherine Wu

  • "Our NGO let us work independently, but took co-ownership of our project, which was comforting as we were creating a proposal for them and we required input and feedback to know that our work had a purpose."

    - Elizabeth Montgomery

  • "Being at our NGO was the single best part of the trip. I loved the community, and I loved the people there. It is an amazing NGO that does amazing things. The challenges we faced taught us to overcome obstacles."

    - Alex Grubman

  • "The FSD site team was incredible. I've never worked with such capable, caring, fun people. They made me feel so at home and safe and also really supported us with our NGO."

    - Asha Toulmin

  • "I am very impressed by the commitment and intelligence of the fellow students in GESI. I definitely learned much from them."

    - XinKai Cheng

  • "The diversity of our group made us effective -- while others preferred to work on logistical, behind-the-scenes stuff; some were outspoken, others were more contemplative; some were better planners, some were better at actuating ideas on paper."

    - Abby Hannifan

  • "This program gave new meaning to hands on learning. The background at the institute on development was great, and a week later you were on site attempting to implement what you had learned, and in the process learning far more than you could imagine."

    - Rachel Suffrin

  • "The most unique thing was the amount of exposure we got to the community. I felt like I was a part of it and not just observing it."

    - Bryan Stenson

  • "This experience was absolutely applicable to my personal, professional, academic goals, especially when it comes to approaching development with a realistic perception of how it works on the ground."

    - Elizabeth Montgomery

  • "GESI has helped me mature as a team member and a prospective development worker."

    - C.A.


Dear Parents and Students,

Welcome to the GESI FAQ page! Below you’ll find answers to some of the questions you might have about the GESI program. Explore the general FAQs below to learn more about fees, academics, health, safety, and logistics.

Parents, you can find a section just for you at the bottom of the page. If any of your questions aren’t answered here, feel free to contact GESI directly. No question is too silly – odds are we have heard it before!

We are here to help.

The GESI team

GESI Program Related Questions

What is the overall structure of the GESI program?

Three components form a student’s GESI experience: a seven-day Pre-Departure Learning Summit, a seven-and-a-half-week internship with a community-based organization at one of our six sites, and a three-day Final Reflection Summit in which students reflect on their experiences, share what they have learned, and explore how to transform their summer experience into a lifestyle of global engagement.

The seven-day Pre-Departure Learning Summit will feature intensive course work focused on international community development, team dynamics, international leadership, the local history, politics, and culture of students’ host countries, as well as a review of health, safety and logistics. In addition to lectures and discussions with Northwestern professors and guest speakers, students will have a chance to bond with members of the three to five person team with which they will spend the summer.

Teams will fly together to their summer destination where our partner organizations, Foundation for Sustainable Development (FSD), Social Entrepreneur Corps, and ThinkImpact, will provide a short in-country orientation, introduce students to their host families, and help them start work in the community. Throughout the summer, experienced FSD, Social Entrepreneur Corps, and ThinkImpact staff will provide on-the-ground support for health, safety, and other issues.

In teams of three to five, students will work with their host community and organization to design and implement a development project. While in-country, student learning takes three forms:

  • International Development Internship: Students gain valuable experience in all aspects of project planning and implementation: proposal writing, budgeting, monitoring and evaluation.
  • Cultural Immersion: Living and working with their host families and organizations gives students invaluable cultural insights and experiences.
  • Continued Formal Education: Northwestern faculty and student mentors provide project feedback. Additionally, our partner organizations plan enrichment activities.
Finally, students will return to Chicago for a final program debrief where they will have the chance to share their ideas, frustrations, and inspirations with their peers returning from other locations.
The program will run from June 16th to August 19th.

What is different about the GESI program?

The GESI model integrates innovative program components that are not offered in traditional study abroad experiences. GESI places students in a team setting with a community-based organization where they learn about poverty and development by creating and implementing a project in areas from youth education to microfinance and beyond.

In this model, students are given tremendous responsibility and the rewards are great. Students move from academics and awareness to action.

Who should apply to GESI?

Even if you’ve never read a book on international development, volunteered, or been abroad, GESI wants students passionate about global change. GESI recognizes the value of diverse student perspectives and is designed to meet students wherever they are at in their personal and professional development. Whether you are interested in a career in teaching or consulting, finance or non-profit, engineering or politics, GESI serves as an excellent opportunity to build your skills and hone your interests so that you can make a difference wherever your career path may lead.

How many non-Northwestern students participate in GESI each year?

We encourage students from any university to apply to GESI. In fact, approximately 40% GESI participants are non-Northwestern students. Please contact us if you would like to speak to alumni from your school or other universities.

How diverse are GESI participants?

The racial distribution for GESI 2012 participants:
American Indian/Alaska Native: 1.25%
Asian: 18%
Biracial/Multiracial: 6.5%
Black/African American (not of Hispanic origin): 8%
Hispanic: 12%
White: 53%
Other: 1.25%

During which undergraduate year should I apply to GESI?

Students participate in GESI at all levels of their undergraduate careers. In general the distribution of students averages: 22% freshmen, 45% sophomores, 25% juniors, and 8% seniors or recent grads.

Many GESI students choose to participate as underclassman since GESI often impacts students’ future academic and co-curricular interests. Other students choose to participate as upperclassman once they have more experience or time in their schedules. No matter when you decide to participate, we believe GESI will be a valuable and tranformative experience.

The In-Country Experience

How do students stay in contact with people back home?

GESI encourages students and parents to discuss how, and how often, they will communicate prior to the start of the program. GESI participants will receive a cell phone upon arriving in-country. These phones can be called from the United States–at families’ cost–or can be loaded with money to call the U.S., at the students’ cost. Alumni recommend predetermining a time to call home or to receive a call. Emails are also effective means of communication if students have Internet access. In-country emergency contact information will be shared with students before they go abroad; students can then share this contact information with their families.

What is a normal day in-country like?

A student’s daily life depends on his/her host country and project. In most cases, students can expect to be working at their host organization’s office or in the field during the normal work day, spend time with their host family or friends in the evenings, and take the weekends off or spend it with their host family. That said, students are often eager to schedule their work hours and project-related events during times at which they can involve a significant number of community members, which may mean working more weekend and evening hours while resting during the day. Day-to-day schedules will vary, depending on the pace of life in a student’s host country as well as the nature of their particular project. If you are interested in speaking with a past GESI alum about his/her experience, please contact us.

What sort of projects will students work on?

Projects vary depending on the interest of the students, the ability and background of the host community, and the project time-frame. Past projects dealt with issues of: microfinance, youth education, environment, human rights, social entrepreneurship, women’s right, community mobilization, and public health. Click to read about past projects.

How are local organizations or community groups selected?

Northwestern works with the Foundation for Sustainable Development (FSD), Social Entrepreneur Corps, and ThinkImpact to select the local NGOs and community groups in each country. We select and place students at organizations and community groups that demonstrate:

  • Clear focus and mission easily aligned with student efforts. We look for sites in which level of GESI student interest is high.
  • Staff capacity to support a group of interns. The partner providing in-country supervision must have full-time, year-round staff working closely with local NGOs and/or community groups.
  • Ongoing programs where students can add value. We look for communities and organizations that have programs containing possibilities for students to add value.
  • Flexibility to work with the unique sets of talents GESI students offer. GESI looks for organizations that will communicate effectively with GESI teams.
  • Desire for a long-term, sustained relationship with the GESI program.
  • Country and location in the country complies with all university policies on state department travel warnings and risk assessment criteria (health, safety).

What can a team of students really accomplish in two months?

A lot! GESI emphasizes project sustainability and encourages students to develop projects that will continue to positively impact communities long after the students return home. Many create projects that build the capacity of the host community. For example, students at St. Francis Healthcare in Uganda developed a training program for growing mushrooms. They taught a community leader about the growing method, and she can now teach other community members about mushroom-growing.

Additionally, through FSD, Social Entrepreneur Corps, and ThinkImpact, GESI’s organization partners have a constant flow of interns who can continue the work GESI participants started.

When done well, short-term experiences also:

  • Change the students: These experiences open the eyes of students to a new reality, equip them to create change, and send them back to their home country with a passion for an under-served place and a better sense of how they can impact global change from whatever sector they enter.
  • Change the community: A well-executed student project not only makes a short-term difference in the local community, but it also acts as a catalyst for community development. Projects can initiate conversations that may not otherwise have happened, enhance the capacity of key community members to make an impact, and develop processes for change that long outlive the students’ presence.
  • Lead to larger initiatives: Often, students stay deeply connected to their host organization and come back to work with the community to expand projects. Many GESI alumni have returned to their host countries to develop their projects further, conduct research, or work at another local organization.


How are students evaluated?

In Introduction to International Community Development, students are evaluated based on class discussion (20%), written assignments (70%) and final group reports and presentations (10%).

In Theory and Practice of Community Consulting, students are evaluated based on class participation (10%) and written assignments (90%), including project proposals, internal work plans, external work plans, and seven weekly written project assessments and analysis.

All components of students’ grades will be evaluated on an A,A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, C-, D, F.

Grade reports are available on CAESAR soon after the end of the quarter. Grades are not given by phone, e-mail, or in person at the SCS office.

How much credit will students get?

Students receive credit for two Northwestern courses.

  1. Communications Studies 395: Theory and Practice of Community Consulting
  2. International Studies 393: Introduction to International Community Development.

Click here for course descriptions and syllabi, and here professor bios.

Will course credit transfer to my son/daughter’s school if he or she is not a Northwestern student?

GESI cannot guarantee that course credit will transfer to other colleges, but we will work closely with students and their home institutions. We encourage all students to meet with their academic advisers and registrar early to determine how/if the Northwestern credit will apply.

How many contact hours are in each course?

Each course includes 30 contact hours with Northwestern faculty (equivalent to six semester hours), which is the standard for Northwestern courses. Students receive credit for two Northwestern courses, Communications Studies 395: Theory and Practice of Community Consulting and International Studies 393: Introduction to International Community Development.

I am not planning to get academic credit for GESI. Do I still need to complete all GESI coursework?

YES…and we hope you want to! By participating in coursework and activities, you learn skills and have hands-on-experiences that will make you effective in the field, benefiting your NGO, host community, and GESI team. In addition, GESI coursework is designed to prepare you for the job world, providing you with project management experience within a team setting and also helping you reflect on your role in development and the world more broadly. Whether or not you are a Northwestern student, you will have a permanent record and a transcript at Northwestern; when applying to fellowships, graduate school, and other post-grad opportunities, you may be asked to furnish a transcript from all institutions you have attended. Failure to complete assignments will result an F on your record.

Financial Questions

How much does it cost and why?

The program cost is $7,840, which covers:

    • Tuition for two course credits
    • Lodging and three meals per day in Chicago and in-country
    • Country programming, orientation, homestay, language instruction, and work transportation stipend
    • Access to emergency evacuation coverage through International SOS, the world’s leading international healthcare, medical assistance, and security services company
    • 27/7 on-the-ground support for health, safety, and other issues
    • Language instruction, in-country programming, and supervision from the Foundation for Sustainable Development, Social Entrepreneur Corps, or ThinkImpact
    • HTH health insurance coverage (Northwestern University requires all students who plan to study abroad to obtain this coverage for the entire period of time they are studying and traveling abroad, regardless of any other coverage they might have from their parents)

Additional Costs:

  • Travel to and from Chicago (students are responsible for these arrangements)
  • Airfare to host country (GESI will make the flight arrangements through a group travel agent)
  • For some countries, immunizations are recommended and visas are required at additional cost (for details, see Travel, Passports, & Visas and Health & Safety


How much do the group flights generally cost?

GESI arranges group flights for admitted students. Airlines provide us with a base fare that will not change; however, taxes and surcharges will be added in addition to the base fare the day your flight is confirmed and ticketed. Therefore, the actual cost of your flight will fluctuate depending on when you confirm your spot in the program. Typically, the later students apply, the more the airfare taxes and other charges will increase. Once 2014 flight information is available, we will post the exact flight numbers and schedules on the travel, passports & visas page.

For in-country coordination and logistical purposes, students are required to travel on the flights GESI arranges. Please note, in some cases you may be able to use frequent flier miles to pay for the flight; students should email us early to discuss this option.

What financial aid is available?

Students and parents should learn more from the school’s study abroad or financial aid office to make sure they understand any available support. Many home colleges and universities may transfer school and/or federal financial aid towards the GESI program.

At Northwestern, it is possible to count the summer as one of your 12 quarters of financial aid. Talk to Krista Buda
(k-buda@northwestern.edu) from the Undergraduate Financial Aid Office to find out if this is a good option for you.

In the past, some students have used their course credit to allow them to graduate early or be a part-time student during their final quarter/semester.

There will also be GESI scholarships available to Northwestern students. See Financial Aid & Scholarships for more information.

How do Northwestern students apply for GESI Scholarship money?

Just complete the regular application (including the scholarship essay on the online portion of the application) and Northwestern students will automatically be considered.

Do you have any other fundraising tips?

Many GESI students have successfully fundraised to cover all or part of the program fee. Please see the “Fundraising Ideas” section of our financial aid & scholarships page.

Others have fundraised through family and friends.

GESI costs more than an internship with FSD, SEC, or ThinkImpact directly–why should I do GESI and incur extra costs?

Foundation for Sustainable Development, Social Entrepreneur Corps, and ThinkImpact have great programs for individual students. GESI’s partnerships with FSD, SEC, and TI are designed to go beyond the in-country individual experience to provide you with expert guidance pre and post departure, additional support in-country, grounding in theory and practice of international development, opportunities to compare development in different regions, and experience working in a team setting. GESI leverages the best of our partners–in country support, community connections, health, safety, logistics–and the best of Northwestern University–experiential teaching, access to experts in the field, structured reflection to frame your experience, alumni networks, and greater support to meet your academic goals. In addition to the two Northwestern credits that GESI students receive, the program is designed to help students build skills that are difficult to acquire as an undergraduate but greatly valued by employers–skills such as project management, team-work experience, leadership, budgeting, and impact evaluation.

After deciding what you are looking to get out of the summer and what is financially feasible, you ultimately have to do what is best for you.

How much spending money should I bring?

Although the amount of spending money students expend during the program varies based upon individual students’ spending habits, countries, and exchange rates, the average amount that students reported spending in 2011 was between $250-$500. Most students used this money for: souvenirs, gifts, eating out, entertainment, and tourist excursions.


What travel arrangements are students responsible for?

Students are responsible for booking their own transportation to and from Chicago. At the conclusion of the seven-day Pre-Departure Learning Summit, students will take a group flight, arranged by GESI, to and from their host country.

Am I allowed to stay with family or friends in Chicago/Evanston for the Pre-Departure Learning Summit and Final Reflection Summit, or do I have to stay with the group?

Since the two summits in Chicago offer valuable opportunities for group bonding, we encourage students to stay with the group. However, with advanced notice, we allow students to stay with family or friends during either or both of these summits. Please note that students who do not stay with the group are still responsible for paying the full program fee, and they are still required to be present and punctual for all classes and activities.

Health, Safety, and Security

What safety and security measures exist?

GESI has implemented comprehensive safety measures approved by Northwestern University and in collaboration with our partners designed to address any health or safety issues that may arise. For more information, see FSD’s Emergency Communications and Planning (Bolivia, India, Nicaragua, and Uganda students), SEC’s FAQ page (Dominican Republic/Haiti site), and ThinkImpact’s FAQs (South Africa students).

Where will students be staying? How do I know that it is safe?

While in-country, students will live in homestays with local community members. Amenities at homestays vary by country and household; however, all families are expected to provide a bed, safe drinking water and food, and generally sanitary living conditions for students. Electricity and running water may not be available at all sites. When possible, each GESI students will be placed in his or her own individual homestay unless a student indicates a special reason for wishing to be placed with another student or unless circumstances at the site do not enable students to be placed individually. As an exception, women at the South Africa site will be placed in pairs.

Our on-the-ground partners have strong relationships with many families in the host communities, and most of the families where students will be living have hosted interns in the past. All families are thoroughly vetted via the GESI, FSD, Social Entrepreneur Corps, and ThinkImpact network in-country to ensure that they will provide safe accommodations.

Our partners also meet and train each family to ensure that they understand their role as a host family. In general, families are incredibly welcoming and accommodating to students’ needs. However, it is also up to students to make wise decisions about their own safety and to follow established security procedures. Although all sites are selected with certain safety and security criteria, living and working in a developing country requires vigilance. Strategies for keeping safe abroad will be discussed during the pre-departure training, as well as with the FSD, Social Entrepreneur Corps, or ThinkImpact site team upon arriving in-country.

Students are expected to behave as part of their homestay family and should treat all members of the family with respect. While the homestay families will do their part to be welcoming and accommodating to students’ needs, students should make every effort to integrate into the family by treating the family with courtesy, abiding by household rules, exhibiting flexibility, and investing in relationships with family members. Building relationships with homestay families is among the lasting rewards of the GESI program.

Please visit the accommodations page for further information.

When will I learn about my homestay family?

Although we realize that learning about one’s homestay family can be among the most exciting (and anxiety-producing) aspects of students’ preparations to go abroad, we often cannot make homestay information available until a few days before students’ departures. Since the GESI roster undergoes occasional changes at the last-minute, we finalize homestay arrangements with our in-country partners in the weeks just prior to student arrivals in-country. In the meantime, rest assured that you will have a carefully-selected family ready and waiting for your arrival.

What is travel like in-country? Is it safe?

Once in-country, transportation options vary. Students will be clustered in homestays that are near the students’ hosts to ensure that students live near each other. Students will either take a short walk to twork or use public transportation. The FSD/SEC/ThinkImpact site team, as well as students’ host families, will assist them in navigating the area during the first few days of work.

Do students need special health insurance?

Northwestern University requires all students to obtain HTH health insurance coverage for the entire period of time they are studying and traveling abroad, regardless of any other coverage they might have from their parents. For reference, the insurance coverage for the entirety of the GESI 2011 program cost $66.64. Northwestern provides Emergency Medical Services (including emergency evacuations) to all students through ISOS International.

What happens in case of an illness or emergency?

Our on-the-ground partners have identified private healthcare providers (doctors, clinics, hospitals) within each community that meet strict standards. These providers have been chosen for their knowledge of foreigner health issues and safe provision of care with past interns. Should any health issues arise, students should immediately notify their FSD/SEC/ThinkImpact site team, who will ensure that they receive the proper medical attention. In-country emergency contact information will be shared with students before they go abroad; students can then share this contact information with their families.

How do parents contact their children in case of an emergency at home? How quickly can families get in contact with GESI participants?

Depending on the site, GESI participants will either receive a cell phone upon arriving in-country or have the option to purchase a low-cost phone or sim card which can be used in their U.S. cell phone. These phones can be called from the U.S. or can be loaded with money to call the U.S., at the students’ cost. Alumni recommend predetermining a time to call home or to receive a call. Emails are also effective means of communication if students have Internet access. Internet availability varies from site to site. Pre-departure packets will highlight the amount of internet access you can except abroad. If for some reason families cannot get in touch with a GESI participant, they can call GESI staff at Northwestern University at 847-467-0844.

What is GESI’s drug and alcohol policy?

GESI, FSD, Social Entrepreneur Corps, and ThinkImpact discourage drug and alcohol use while in Chicago or in-country. When living and working with communities, students should strive to respect local cultural and social norms. Some GESI students may be placed in communities that frown upon drinking in any quantity. South Africa students are not to use alcohol at any time within their host communities.

GESI participants should be aware that alcohol oftentimes exacerbates poverty issues within a community. Expatriates, study abroad participants, and tourists should avoid creating an inflated local demand for alcohol in their host communities, realizing that this can be harmful to local families and individuals. We expect GESI participants to be cognizant of these issues when deciding if/when to consume alcohol.

Northwestern’s official policy on alcohol consumption during study abroad programs is as follows: “Alcohol may be consumed, within reasonable limits, by students who are of legal age in the host country. Students who choose to consume alcohol do so with the knowledge that they remain responsible for their actions at all times and are expected to drink responsibly. It is prohibited to illegally distribute alcohol to students who are not of legal drinking age. Further, excessive and irresponsible drinking leading to intoxication and behavior that interferes with the program or the rights of others is subject to immediate disciplinary action, and may result in dismissal from the program. The Study Abroad Health Insurance does not cover any injuries that occur while under the influence of alcohol, intoxicants or any drug not prescribed by a physician.

Students are prohibited from selling, using, or possessing any drugs that are considered by host country law to be illicit or illegal. Any drug infraction will be considered a grave violation of policy and will result in immediate disciplinary action, including possible dismissal from the program. In addition, students are cautioned that the possession of drugs is often dealt with harshly by host country law enforcement.”

Where can I find detailed pre-departure information?

Please note that up-to-date pre-departure information will be provided in a packet distributed to students upon acceptance to the program. This will contain in-depth pre-departure information including packing lists, country-specific policies, and messages from the respective site teams.

GESI Summer 2012 pre-departure packets are available for download here.

What should students do to obtain a visa?

It is the student’s full responsibility to secure the appropriate visa and ensure the full legality of his/her stay in the host country during the program. To do so requires consultation of resources above and beyond the information provided by GESI. GESI is available to answer questions and provide guidance for resolving visa issues, but the embassy for each country will have the most accurate, up-to-date information. Please guide your student in this process so that he/she leaves adequate time for the visa application process – these things always take longer than expected.

Please note that the guidelines below are based on GESI’s past years of experience with each country, and visa requirements frequently change. It is each student’s responsibility to visit embassy websites to review the most current visa requirements for his/her host country. International students are required to review the visa requirements and obtain necessary visas based on their country of citizenship.

Bolivia: Past students have obtained a visa upon entry at the cost of $135. For more information and to see most current requirements, visit: http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1069.html

Dominican Republic: Visitors may purchase a tourist card upon arrival for $10. To see the most current requirements, visit: Dominican Republic visa requirements from U.S. Department of State; Dominican Republic Embassy.

Uganda: Past students have obtained a visa upon entry at the cost of $50. For more information and to see most current requirements, visit: http://www.ugandaembassy.org

Nicaragua: Past students have obtained a visa upon entry. For more information and to see most current requirements, visit: http://www.cancilleria.gob.ni/

South Africa: To see the most current requirements, visit: http://www.saembassy.org/

India: You need to obtain a business visa before departing for India. Please note that India Visa Center- Travisa Outsourcing is now handling visa applications within the U.S. as a private contractor to the Indian Embassy. Please visit the India Visa Center online for detailed instructions on obtaining a business visa: https://indiavisa.travisaoutsourcing.com/select-application.html

According to Travisa Outsourcing, your visa application will take approximately 5 business days to process once it is received by mail. Please refer to their website and the appropriate consulates to ensure a timely and successful visa application process. In our experience, it takes much longer–up to 30 days. Start early!

Please note: The recommendations provided here are subject to change at any time. Please check with Travisa Outsourcing, or an Indian Consulate or Embassy for the most updated information.

You must apply for a business visa. This is not a suggestion, it is a requirement. You must submit an application, verification of address, two (2) passport-sized photos, an application fee, and a sponsor letter provided by FSD, which GESI will secure for you. Visit the Travisa Outsourcing website for additional information.

Do students need any vaccinations or medications?

As a GESI participant, it is your full responsibility to identify and take all necessary health precautions prior to, during, and following the program. Please start your health preparations early, as some vaccinations must be taken as far as 8 weeks or more before departure. Providing detailed medical advice is beyond the expertise of GESI so it is very important to consult the resources below as well as medical professionals such as your doctor or local travel health clinic.


Northwestern Travel Health Services (http://www.nuhs.northwestern.edu/evanston/travel.aspx)

Northwestern Memorial Hospital Travel Medicine:
Travel Medicine
676 N. Saint Clair St., Suite 900
Chicago, IL 60611

Travel Medicine Source (www.travelmedicinesource.com)
129 Waukegan Rd
Morton Grove, IL 60053
(847) 663-1566

Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): (http://www.cdc.gov/)

Recorded information about health risks and precautions for international travelers: 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747)

Malaria Hotline: 404-332-4555

A Note to Parents

Why should my student study abroad?

Study abroad is increasingly recognized as a necessary component of the undergraduate experience developing students academically, professionally, and personally. Studies even show that students who study abroad may be more likely to graduate on time. Some of the many benefits of study abroad include:

  • Students experiment with their interests: Short-term field-based study abroad programs like GESI allow students to apply specific interests they may not be able to explore at their home university.
  • Students hone their language skills: Every GESI student will interact with non-English-speaking communities, giving them a unique opportunity to practice languages they have previously studied, or acquire a new language. In some countries, students will be surprised to speak English a new way, with idioms and intonation and style appropriate to diverse contexts.
  • Students gain transferable skills: Living and working in another culture is full of new situations and unexpected challenges. By navigating the streets of India, Ugandan business culture, or Bolivian family structures, students gain personal and professional skills that can be used throughout their lives.
  • Students make lasting connections: In addition to GESI staff members, Northwestern professors, and fellow GESI participants, students form enriching relationships with home-stay families, FSD/SEC/ThinkImpact site team members, NGO staff, and the communities in which they work. GESI is a true immersion experience, expanding students’ networks literally oceans away.

Adapted from http://www.sit.edu/studyabroad/1050.htm

What is service learning? Why is it so important?

Service learning is defined as a “course-based, credit-bearing educational experience in which students (a) participate in an organized service activity that meets identified community needs and (b) reflect on the service activity in such a way as to gain further understanding of course content, a broader appreciation of the discipline, and an enhanced sense of civic responsibility” (Bringle & Hatcher, 1995)


Studies have shown that service learning has a positive effect on:

  • Student personal development such as sense of personal efficacy, personal identity, spiritual growth, and moral development
  • Student interpersonal development such as leadership, the ability to work well with others, and communication skills
  • Reducing stereotypes and facilitating cultural & racial understanding
  • Sense of social responsibility and citizenship skills
  • Commitment to service

Students or faculty report that service-learning:

  • Impacts students’ academic learning
  • Improves students’ ability to apply what they have learned to “the real world”

Additionally, service learning:

  • Impacts academic outcomes such as as demonstrated complexity of understanding, problem analysis, critical thinking, and cognitive development
  • Contributes to career development
  • Leads to stronger student-faculty relationships


What is “global engagement”? What is “immersion”?

“Global engagement” is the act of actively participating in a cross-cultural experience. It implies crossing physical, social, and ideological borders not merely to observe, but to meet community members, wrestle with the complexities of another society, and ultimately forge international partnerships.

“Cultural immersion” involves experiencing every aspect of another culture with the goal of becoming integrated into the cultural fabric. In GESI, this means students live in homestays, work with partner organizations, and adapt to the host lifestyle.

Why does the program cost as much as it does?

GESI leverages the best of our on-the-ground partners–in country support, community connections, health, safety, logistics–and the best of Northwestern University–experiential teaching, access to experts in the field, structured reflection to frame your experience, alumni networks, and greater support to meet your academic goals. The program is designed to help students build skills that are difficult to acquire as an undergraduate but greatly valued by employers–skills such as project management, team-work experience, leadership, budgeting, and impact evaluation.

As a Northwestern University-affiliated program, GESI charges tuition for two course credits. To put this into perspective, the cost for two classes during the school year is approximately $6,640. The majority of the $8,200 therefore goes to course tuition, which allows us to provide participants with access to scholars, expert development practitioners, language instructors, professionals in a range of fields, and NU faculty.

The remaining amount goes toward fees associated with the on-the-ground experience, including homestays and in-country educational programming. This cost is essential to provide:

  • Lodging and three meals per day in Chicago and in-country
  • Country programming, orientation, homestay, language instruction, and work transportation stipend
  • Access to emergency evacuation coverage through International SOS, the world’s leading international healthcare, medical assistance, and security services company
  • 27/7 on-the-ground support for health, safety, and other issues
  • Language instruction, in-country field trips, seminars/workshops, and supervision from Foundation for Sustainable Development, Social Entrepreneur Corps, or ThinkImpact

How can I help my student adjust to life back in the US?

Many parents struggle to cope with their son or daughter after they return from a transformative study abroad experience such as GESI. World Learning publishes a helpful Parent Re-Entry Handbook, available at http://www.sit.edu/SSA_Other_documents/parent_reentry_handbook.pdf.

The Center for Global Engagement website also includes a multitude of fellowship, career, and internship opportunities that can assist your son or daughter in taking the next step after their experience abroad.

Additionally, GESI staff (gesi@northwestern.edu) are always available to help!