• "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.

Travel, Passports & Visas


Students are responsible for booking their own transportation to and from Chicago. Upon arrival in Chicago, GESI students will be provided with accommodations for the duration of their pre-departure coursework. Students will then take a group flight, arranged by GESI, to and from their host-country.

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. A list of flight numbers and schedules can be found below, and base fares will be posted later this fall. For in-country coordination and logistical purposes, students are required to travel on the flights GESI arranges.

Upon arrival abroad, they will be greeted at the airport by the site teams from Foundation for Sustainable Development (Bolivia, India, Nicaragua & Uganda), Social Entrepreneur Corps (Dominican Republic) or ThinkImpact (South Africa). Once in-country, transportation options vary. Students will be clustered in homestays that are near their work-site and each other. Students will either take a short walk to work or use public transportation. The site teams and students’ host families will assist them in navigating the area during the first few days of work.

Group Flights

Please note that the GESI staff books all travel for students; students should NOT book travel themselves. The costs posted below are estimates only; the exact costs are not guaranteed until tickets are booked.

Bolivia Group Flight

Final cost: $1493.60
International flight cost: $1355
Local flight cost within Bolivia: $138.60

6/23/14 American Airlines AA1401 Chicago to Miami
Departs 4:55pm – Arrives 9:00pm
6/23/14 American Airlines AA922 Miami to La Paz, Bolivia
Departs 10:40pm – Arrives 5:15am on 6/24
*Local flight from La Paz to Cochabamba to be announced (cannot be booked without receipt of all student passports)

*Local flight from Cochabamba to Santa Cruz to be announced (cannot be booked without receipt of all student passports)
8/16/14 American Airlines AA922 Santa Cruz, Bolivia to Miami
Departs 9:10am – Arrives 4:10pm
8/16/14 American Airlines 1618 Miami to Chicago
Departs 6:30pm – Arrives 8:45pm
Dominican Republic Group Flight

Final cost: $843.60
6/23/14 American Airlines AA2470 Chicago to Miami
Departs 7:00am – Arrives 11:00am
6/23/14 American Airlines AA1481 Miami to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Departs 12:50pm – Arrives 3:05pm

8/16/14 American Airlines AA987 Santo Domingo to Miami
Departs 12:25pm – Arrives 2:50pm
8/16/14 American Airlines AA1044 Miami to Chicago
Departs 4:45pm – Arrives 7:05pm
India Group Flight

Final cost: $2168.54
 6/23/14 Air India AI 126 Chicago to Delhi, India
Departs 1:30pm – Arrives 6/24 at 2:25pm
*Overnight in Delhi. Hotel, meals, transportation included.
6/25/14 Air India AI 471 Delhi to Udaipur, India
Departs 4:00pm – Arrives 5:10pm

8/16/14 Air India AI 472 Udaipur to Delhi
Departs 4:05pm – Arrives 5:25pm
8/17/14 Air India AI 127 Delhi to Chicago
Departs 2:00am – Arrives 7:25am
Nicaragua Group Flight

Final cost: $655
6/23/14 American Airlines AA2470 Chicago to Miami
Departs 7:00am – Arrives 11:00am
6/23/14 American Airlines AA928 Miami to Managua, Nicaragua
Departs 12:10pm – Arrives 12:45pm

8/16/14 American Airlines AA1252 Managua to Miami
Departs 11:30pm – Arrives 4:10 pm
8/16/14 American Airlines AA1044 Miami to Chicago
Departs 6:30pm – Arrives 8:45pm
South Africa Group Flight

Final cost: $2366.30
6/23/14 United Airlines UA0866 Chicago to Washington, DC
Departs 10:56am – Arrives 1:43pm
6/23/14 South African Airways SA208 Washington, DC to Johannesburg, South Africa (intermediate stop for refueling in Dakar, Senegal)
Departs 5:40pm – Arrives 5:10pm on 6/24
6/24/14 South African Airways SA365 Johannesburg to Capetown
Departs 6:45pm – Arrives 8:55pm

8/15/14 South African Airways SA334 Capetown to Johannesburg
Departs 1:15pm – Arrives 3:15pm
8/15/14 South African Airways SA207 Johannesburg to Washington, DC (intermediate stop for refueling in Dakar, Senegal)
Departs 6:30pm – Arrives 6:25am on 8/16
8/16/14 United Airlines UA799 Washington, DC to Chicago
Departs 7:55am – Arrives 9:01am
Uganda Group Flight

Final cost: $2210.50
6/22/14 Qatar Airways QR 722 Chicago to Doha, Qatar
Departs 8:45pm – Arrives 6/23 at 6:00pm
*Overnight in Doha. Hotel, meals, transportation included.
6/24/14 Qatar Airways QR 1387 Doha to Entebbe, Uganda
Departs 7:40am – Arrives 1:05pm

8/15/14 Qatar Airways QR 1388 Entebbe to Doha
Departs 5:50pm – Arrives 11:15pm
*Overnight in Doha. Hotel, meals, transportation included.
8/16/14 Qatar Airways QR 721 Doha to Chicago
Departs 8:00am – Arrives 2:00pm


If you do not have a passport, you must apply for one immediately. If you have a passport, make sure it will be valid for at least six months beyond your anticipated return to the United States; if it is due to expire before then, you must renew it.

For information on how and where to apply, documentation you will need to present, application forms, and passport fees:

Passport Photos:

  • General information on passport photos
  • Northwestern students can obtain passport photos at any of the following locations: WildCARD Office (basement of Norris): $10 for 2 photos; CVS (1711 Sherman Avenue); AAA (1724 Sherman Avenue).
  • You should get several extra photos to be used for visa applications, as necessary.



A visa is an official document issued by the government of the host country that grants entry. It is your responsibility to verify the visa requirements of your host country, and if necessary, obtain your visa. 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. You should start this process early, as it can take anywhere from two weeks to three months to issue. Generally, you must give up your passport to obtain your visa, so international travel during the months before your departure date is often impossible.

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 and U.S. State Department websites (links posted below) to review the most current visa requirements for his/her host country. If you are not a U.S. citizen, you will need to contact the embassy or consulate of your host country to obtain the visa requirements for your host country.

Bolivia: Past students have obtained a visa upon entry at the cost of $135. For more information and to see most current requirements, visit: Bolivia visa requirements from U.S. Department of State; Embassy of Bolivia.

Dominican Republic: Most students will require only a tourist card for entry into the Dominican Republic, which can be purchased in advance of your travel for $10. We highly recommend that if you do not need an additional visa, that you obtain a tourist card here. Additionally, 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: Uganda visa requirements from U.S. Department of State; Embassy of Uganda.

Nicaragua: Past students have obtained a visa upon entry. For more information and to see most current requirements, visit: Nicaragua visa requirements from U.S. Department of State; Embassy of Nicaragua.

South Africa: To see the most current requirements, visit: South Africa visa requirements from U.S. Department of State; Embassy of South Africa.

India: Visas must be obtained before departure. Visa application requirements may differ at each Indian consulate within the U.S. GESI will be in touch in April/May to provide you with the materials you will need in order to obtain a visa. Please make sure your passport is ready to go, because applying for a visa to India can be a lengthy and convoluted process. For more information, refer to the U.S. Indian Visa Application Processing website (BLS International), or an Indian Consulate or Embassy for the most updated information. Also review India visa requirements from U.S. Department of State; Embassy of India.