Making change together

International Service Learning

We cater to groups of students from across the globe by offering service learning programs that are tailor-made to your needs and look to incorporate classroom-based learning, theories and research into real-life services on the ground.

All the work undertaken on our group service learning programs directly benefits the local community or environment, and each of our programs’ long, mid and short-term objectives are aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

While we aim to facilitate sustainable, long-term change on each of our programs, we also aim to increase the personal growth and interpersonal skills of each individual involved, whilst providing full cultural immersion.

By joining one of our service learning programmes, students will get to contribute to solutions for some of the most pressing issues facing environmental sustainability, wildlife and marine conservation. There is also the option to take part in a program that focuses on community development topics such as education, women empowerment and sports. These projects are especially suited to students pursuing majors in these disciplines, and the programs can be tailored based on desired learning outcomes and skill development.


Critical science

Critical science

You'll contribute to vital conservation research targeted at protecting the earth's most valuable ecosystems.
Ethical engagement

Ethical engagement

Using the UN's SDGs as a framework, we've made a commitment to positive, constructive and sustainable impact.
Beautiful adventures

Beautiful adventures

You'll spend your days exploring some of the world's most breathtaking, exhilarating and remote wildernesses.


What is service learning?

Service-learning is defined as a form of experiential education undertaken in partnership with community members and organizations. It integrates “academic material, relevant service activities, and critical reflection in a reciprocal [co-created] partnership that engages students, faculty/staff, and community members to achieve academic, civic, and personal [growth] learning objectives as well as to advance public purposes” (Bringle & Clayton, 2012, p. 105). Students, faculty, and community members all serve as co-educators, co-learners, co-servers, and co-generators of knowledge and practice. An international service-learning program with GVI focuses resources and efforts on working with communities to help them make a difference in their own situations and working with students to help them make a difference in their own lives and those of others through guided critical reflection to generate learning before, during, and after participation in our programs.

Volunteering vs Interning vs Service Learning

Service learning is different from international volunteerism/community service or an internship. Community service is generally, undertaken for communities, positioning the volunteer as richer in resources or expertise than those who are, in turn, understood as needing their help. International internships generally occur in communities (off-campus) and focus on student development of professional skills and occur in communities. Service-learning, on the other hand, emphasizes working with, not just in a community.

How service learning contributes to our mission

As we approached our 20th anniversary, we were re-examining how we can best meet our mission: To build a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference. The drive to fulfil this mission has led us to continue focusing our resources and efforts on working with communities to help them make a difference in their own situations, alongside local partners such as Panthera (Costa Rica), PADI, WWF (Mexico), Project AWARE, and the National Parks of South Africa, Seychelles, Thailand, Mexico and Costa Rica, among others. However, we are also focused on working with students to help them make a difference in their own lives, and those of others, through guided critical reflection and evaluation to generate learning before, during, and after participation in our programs. GVI has always been a mission-led organization, aiming to create exponential change as our alumni, community partners, faculty, and staff use the knowledge and skills they gain as they work and learn together to make further positive change long after the end of a course.

Our service-learning curriculum introduces students to sustainable development, both in content and practice. Using the framework of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), this course provides an opportunity to examine the complexities of global challenges and opportunities and the interconnections among them. Each service-learning project is co-created with local community members to advance one or more of the UN SDGs in accordance with short- and long-term strategic planning undertaken collaboratively by the local community and GVI.

Our global service-learning programs incorporate primary learning goals, each of which is composed of specific student learning objectives that guide the design of daily and weekly activities. Service work is an integral part of our course design, and is accompanied by integrated reflection periods, field excursions, and a mutual learning model whereby students work/learn alongside community members. Our service-learning courses also focus on personal, civic, and professional development, with particular attention to employability and global citizenship, which are just a few of the benefits of service learning.

See here, for details on our service-learning curriculum.

Hear from students and educators

“After eight weeks of participating in a wide variety of activities as a service learning volunteer, I have learned the value of stepping outside my comfort zone and exploring areas besides animals and science. I used to think my science classes and animal-related extracurriculars at school were sufficient preparation for my future career. Now, I recognize the power of interdisciplinary studies in discerning the connections between seemingly unrelated topics, such as the use of microplastics and marine life conservation. A multidisciplinary approach like this is critical to problem-solving in any profession. As such, the refined critical thinking skills and global awareness I acquired this summer will serve me well in the future. I am grateful to GVI for providing the education, resources, and support I needed to learn and grow over the past eight weeks.”

– Emma, Duke University

To read more testimonials from educators and students from institutions such as Duke University, Endicott College, Stelly’s School and Ohio State University, visit our Groups testimonials page.

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Read reviews and recommendations from all over the world.