University Programs - Global Service Trips (GSTs)

Global Service Trips enable participants to gain both a theoretical understanding and practical experience in community-driven development. Local communities collaborate with service learning participants to develop projects that are meaningful for all. Practical service is linked to lectures, workshops, and cultural experiences to provide participants with a broad-based understanding of international community development.

IMG_6196.gifTypically, the GST program combines one semester, trimes, or quarter of in-class preparation through faculty- or student-lead coursework. The GST in-country program is defined by one to two short-term service projects along with supplementary lectures, site visits, workshops, and cultural activities to round out the learning experience. GSTs are customized around the interests of university groups and training and project work is adapted to the group’s objectives.

Service projects provide short-term, high-impact efforts complimenting on-going development projects. Participants put theory into practice, gain exposure to development principles and approaches, and improve their understanding of project lifecycles. Reflection and evaluation allows students to critically analyze information learned in the classroom versus in real life situations.

Program Snapshot

  • 1 – 5 weeks in the field
  • 40 hour/week schedule
  • 10 – 18 students per group
  • 2 students per host family
  • Departure dates are typically during winter break, spring break, and summer break
  • Community-driven project work is collaboratively preplanned by student group and FSD
  • Group is led by an experienced student leader and/or university representative who adheres to specific responsibilities for representing the group
  • Project funding is based on the number of students and the length of time in the field
  • Pricing is customized based on location and program structure

GST students who are effective in the field generally meet the following criteria:

  • Past university coursework in fields related to FSD
  • Past work, volunteer or field experience, which demonstrates initiative and leadership
  • Reasonable level of knowledge and interest in the chosen destination
  • Basic understanding of what “grassroots” implies related to international development (vs. large NGO’s like UNICEF, etc)
  • Experience with cultural and economic diversity
  • Genuine respect, patience, and curiosity toward cultures in the developing world

Program Review

GSTs offer students the opportunity to observe, learn, and provide direct service to nongovernmental, grassroots, and community-based organizations. FSD works with over 200 community-based organizations, which provide a range of subjects for GSTs in microenterprise/microfinance, health, environment, youth and education, human rights, women’s empowerment, and community development. FSD provides students with the ability to devise what subjects and issues the group will examine and serve, while gaining insight into the development issues that affect the local region.

GST groups will collaboratively design project work with the FSD Site Team to ensure effective use of time and resources. The project work of previous groups has ranged from providing technical training to NGOs in the form of computer and financial record-keeping workshops to rebuilding an orphanage. These projects give students hands-on experience with development work while immersing them into local communities.

Beyond implementing project work, FSD has structured a framework by which student groups may experientially learn about development and culture in a format that best fits their interests and knowledge base. This framework can include an of the following:

Training – Speakers, panels, and workshops are provided by specialists in the fields related to the groups’ interests. These specialists come from local NGOs and universities and offer the best resource for understanding local development issues and the ways they are being addressed.

Support – The group will be supported by a locally born Program Director and at least one Program Coordinator from the United States. Together, they will develop a solid working relationship with the group, integrating them into the communities and organizations, while ensuring that they have the tools to be successful. They will assist each step of the experience and provide feedback, as needed. Any problems that arise will be addressed by the FSD Site Team to ensure that time abroad is well spent.

Cultural Immersion – The foundation of a successful GST lies in cultural sensitivity and awareness. To help students understand the new culture they are embarking upon, they will stay with host families. Beyond accommodation, FSD hosts local guest speakers to present on cultural, social, and political topics. FSD also moderates group discussions on local cultural norms and values and how they differ from the United States. These discussions subsequently lead toward how cultural values can support and/or limit sustainable development. Lastly, groups may visit local cultural events.

Materials – GSTs are typically supplemented with selected readings, current event studies, and development literature that inform students of critical information. FSD can help prepare the group for its volunteer work abroad with the materials necessary to understand the overall development landscape.

GSTs typically take place during winter break, spring break, or the summer. Prices vary depending on the level of support and structure required by the group.

Please contact Devin Graves at or (415) 283-4873 ext. 204 if you wish to discuss how your school could work with FSD.

Click here to download our GST Brochure