Traveling with GSE involves everything from visiting a native bird sanctuary to hiking along Ecuador’s beautiful coastline. Students enjoy authentic Ecuadorian cuisine and collaborate on local projects with their international peers.
GSE uses hands-on service-learning projects and cultural exchanges to provide students with life changing learning opportunities. Students develop ecological literacy and participate in grassroots international relations while building crucial 21st century skills such as communication and collaboration.
Each year during exchange programs, students plant 3,000 native trees in La Punta Gorda Preserve. Students also work along side their Ecuadorian peers at Fanny de Baird High School to further develop their school garden. The garden provides produce for the school community and offers an interactive education on local food systems and organic farming.
Plants aren’t the only things that grow! International travel facilitates profound transformation for students. Students leave the trip with a better understanding of different cultures and people, inspiring them to become change makers and leaders in their own community.
Day 1 — Travel to Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador
Day 2 — Bahia City Tour and First site visit
Day 3 — Orientation Workshop, History of Ecuador Workshop, & Project Initiation
Day 4 — Mangrove reforestation work day, Discussion on water scarcity
Day 5 — Head to ‘La Punta Gorda’ Preserve, Begin reforestation
Day 6 — Reforestation work, afternoon free to relax on the beach, play soccer, etc.
Day 7 — Reforestation and educational hike
Day 8 — Head back to hostel in Bahia, visit San Clement beach, enjoy local dinner
Day 9 — Travel to Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador
Day 10 — Travel back to USA
*Note: This is not a fully accurate itinerary for any particular trip. Sample is given to show the basic break down and potential program elements.
- Pack light! You can hand wash clothes or pay to have them cleaned.
- Buy or borrow a backpacking backpack. This is a large backpack that can hold all of your travel items and be carried on your back. Rolling suitcases or duffel bags will be difficult to manage.
- Bring a small backpack that you can take on day trips, to fill with carry-on items on the plane, and keep close to you on bus trips with your valuable items (camera, passport, ATM cards, etc.) Limit your luggage to 2 bags only.
- Jeans (1 pair)
- 1 nice shirt or outfit for celebrations and formal events
- Comfortable lightweight T-shirts (3-5)
- Shorts (1-3)
- Socks, bring some high socks for jungle comfort (2-5 pairs)
- Underwear (4-6)
- Lightweight rain jacket
- Hiking shoes
- Sweatshirt or long sleeved shirt
- Sun hat
- Sleep clothes (shorts, tank top, etc—it will be hot at night)
- Swimming gear
- Any medication you need (malaria medication, travel antibiotics etc.)
- Lightweight sleeping bag or “sleep sack”- two bed sheets sewn together like a sleeping bag. The weather will be warm enough that the sleep sack will be comfortable.
- Sleeping pad
- Durable water bottle
- Toiletries (tooth brush, floss, shaver, toothpaste, etc.)
- Aloe vera, because you may still burn at some point
- Bug/mosquito repellant
- Liquid, biodegradable soap; Dr. Bronner’s is great
- Work gloves
- Flashlight or headlamp
- Power bars – nice to have when traveling and working
- “No Jet Lag”- natural supplement for helping with jet lag- nice to have for flight
- A bandana (nice to have while working to wipe sweat off)
- “Emergen-C” or other vitamin supplement you can add to water, any other supplements you’d like to bring to keep your immune system strong
- Money belt (for money, passports, vaccination cards, etc.)
- Pocket knife (for cutting food)
- Deck of cards?
- Pictures of family, loved ones to show Nicaraguan students
- Frisbee, hacky sack
- Campfire stories
- A good book
- Journal (if you keep one you will love it, and be very glad you did)
- Spending money- ($100 in U.S. dollars for drinks, souvenirs etc.)
- Camera/iPod, bring at your own risk and remember that we do not need to be bringing these out with us at all times (camera’s and iPods signal that you are a tourist, and give the impression that you have lots of money)
Who should I communicate with if I have concerns while they are gone? In case of emergency, how do I get in touch with my son/daughter while they’re overseas?
What safeguards does GSE have to ensure that my son/daughter wont get sick and what will happen if he/she does?
Who do you typically hire as program leaders? How are your field staff qualified for this experience?
There are 3 International Program leaders on each trip, as well as the Executive Director or Director of Programs. All leaders undergo basic CPR and First Aid training as well as rigorous programmatic training to ground them in program itineraries, safety issues, and how to be a positive peer mentor.