Global Engagement Studies Institute adds fall study abroad options

Annie Bruce, Reporter

The Global Engagement Studies Institute is expanding its global service-learning program to include a Fall Quarter option in India, the Dominican Republic or Uganda.

The new GESI program, which was offered only in the summer, will give students the opportunity to spend 10 weeks taking classes and interning at a grassroots organization or nongovernmental organization.  

Patrick Eccles, assistant director of the Center for Global Engagement at the Roberta Buffett Center, said GESI has been looking to expand the program for years.

“We’re really just trying to increase access for students to have a global learning opportunity,” he said. “We really saw the opportunity — in terms of fall being the most popular time for Northwestern students to study abroad — to expand.”

Eccles said offering the program in the fall will provide added financial aid benefits to students.

“Summer is one of the more challenging times for students to access aid to study abroad,” Eccles said. “With the option to do the program in the fall, students now have access to their full aid packages.”

Eccles said 60 to 70 students typically participate in the summer program, which is eight weeks long and offers students six different site options and two academic credits. The fall program is structured similarly to the summer trips, although it has fewer available sites and offers up to four academic credits.

“It’s kind of an all-in-one experience,” Eccles said. “You get an internship. You take classes. You have an opportunity to immerse yourself in another country.”

Part of the immersion process includes partnerships with different organizations and communities. Eccles said the growth of the program also stemmed from enthusiasm from these partnerships.

“We have ongoing relationships with such strong community partners,” Eccles said. “With them, we obviously pay a lot of attention to the student experience, but we place a lot of importance on integrating student learning with community outcomes and impact.”

GESI was started by a group of students in 2005 who wanted a more intensive abroad experience. 

“It’s really just expanded from there,” Eccles said. “We still have that same student initiative that’s always behind it in terms of what students do with the experience.”

Medill junior Joey Lautrup traveled to Uganda with the program last summer.

“I think it just taught me a lot that people are fundamentally the same wherever you go,” he said. “Once you got to talk to people and got to really know about them and understand them and where they’re coming from — that was just worth so much to me.”

Lautrup said he believes the additional time students will get to spend in the country will add to their experiences.

“With more time, I think the project that you do could be expanded further and they could maybe have more impact,” he said. “Just the longer you’re there, the more you’re going to learn about the people and the country.”

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