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Global Studies Experience

Interested in living and travelling abroad? Looking for meaningful connections to the people and places you visit? The Global Studies Experience (GSE) could be for you.

The GSE is the experiential learning program of the Global Studies department. Open to all Laurier students, it is also a core component of the Social Entrepreneurship Option. The GSE offers you the opportunity to connect academic learning to experiential activities by participating in volunteer placements and social enterprises anywhere in the world. You will live and work in a different cultural context, alongside community partners, setting the stage for learning about yourself and others. The GSE will confront you with the challenges of global justice and social equity, broaden your horizons, and offer you an experience you are not likely to forget.

In recent years, students have participated in wildlife conservation, marine restoration, community development projects, human rights research, and peace promotion in all corners of the globe, from South Africa to Pakistan, France to Palestine, and Peru to Thailand. The experience of living and volunteering abroad will generate profound insights into what it means to live in a globalized world.

The GSE is not only about going far away from home to visit other parts of the world: it is also about making a difference back home, in your own communities, once you return from your summer placement. In other words, the GSE also offers you the opportunity to volunteer locally in a field that is important to you, and to compare local experience with international experience. Laurier’s Community Service Learning office partners with Global Studies to help you identify and select a local field placement in a sector that corresponds to your interests and aspirations.

Whether you are a Global Studies student, or doing the Social Entrepreneurship Option, the GSE allows you to participate in cross-cultural exchanges, share knowledge with others, and perhaps even give you a new sense of purpose. There are many opportunities to volunteer abroad, and many kinds of organizations want to get your attention. While finding a placement can be both daunting and confusing, the GSE coordinator is there to provide guidance in choosing an opportunity that works for you.

About the GSE

The first thing you should do if you are wondering if the GSE is for you is to make an appointment with the GSE coordinator by emailing

GSE information sessions take place during the fall semester (watch for announcements on email and social media). Come and meet the GSE coordinator and students who did the GSE.

Note: If you are planning to do the GSE, do not opt-out from the Student Health and Dental Plan. Your plan can help cover vaccination costs.

How Does the GSE Work?

The GSE has four components, which correspond to the following schedule:

1. Fall Term

  • If you are interested in the GSE, you meet with the GSE coordinator, explore placement opportunities, and apply for preliminary approval.
  • Select your placement. See tips on selecting your placement below.
  • Apply using the Application for Preliminary Approval Form. Note the application deadline for 2016/17 is Nov. 21, 2016.
  • The GSE committee ⎯ comprised of the GSE coordinator and another GS faculty member ⎯ reviews your application.

2. Winter Term

  • You take GS398: Global Studies in Practice (0.5 credits). GS398 has two primary aims: first, to help you think critically about the possibilities and limitations of fieldwork in the context of the GSE, and, second, to give you practical strategies for a constructive fieldwork experience.
  • You begin to explore possibilities for your local post-fieldwork placement for GS399.

3. Spring/Summer Term

  • Between May and August, you do your fieldwork placement for a minimum of four weeks.

4. Fall Term

  • You take GS399, the post-field-placement course, during which you undertake your local placement. Typically, you volunteer in a local organization for two hours per week for a period of 10 weeks. The local placement works within a social justice framework to help you make sense of, and build upon, your international experience.

Am I Eligible?

If you are a Laurier student, you can register in the GSE. You need to have:

  • 2.0 credits at the 200 level; and
  • An average of B- (7.0) in the courses of your major.

If you are a Social Entrepreneurship Option student, the GSE is mandatory.

How do I get Approved?

Meet the GSE coordinator by emailing You can set up an appointment any time.

Fill out and submit the Application for Preliminary Approval Form

  • Preliminary approval is for placements only.
  • Preliminary approval lets you register in GS398 (registration is done by the Global Studies office).
  • Note the application deadline for 2016/17 is Nov. 21, 2016.

Final approval of placements will take place after you have your placement confirmed in writing by the organization (usually during the winter term) and once you have completed the necessary forms:

  • Agreement to Participate
  • Acknowledgement of Risk and Responsibility

Tips on Finding a Placement

Get information on placement opportunities:

  • The GSE coordinator has information to share with you.
  • You can also look online. My World Abroad is a useful resource to consult.
  • Contacts with friends, family and fellow students can help you choose a placement.
  • See below for organizations previous GSE students volunteered with.
  • Identify and evaluate potential placements (see below) and bring it to your meeting with the GSE coordinator.
  • Make sure you research the costs of specific placement opportunities: airfare, visas, vaccinations, third-party placement agencies, insurance, local food and accommodation.

Evaluating Potential GSE Placement Opportunities

Consider the following in relation to your chosen placement opportunity:

A. What you are seeking in terms of a volunteer placement:

  • Individual home-stay or group living?
  • High degree of autonomy or facilitated program?
  • Travelling/working with others or individually?
  • An opportunity for language training/development?
  • A rural or an urban location?
  • A development, peace and conflict, or cultural experience?
  • A particular region and/or development context?
  • A networking or career building opportunity?

B. Answer these questions about potential placements:

  • What are the goals of the program?
  • Are the goals and expectations clearly laid out?
  • What kind of connections has the program made with local communities?
  • What are the expectations in terms of your commitment?
  • Does the program provide accountability to you as a participant and to the communities you will be involved with?
  • What is the cost of the program?
  • What are the visa requirements and other hidden expenses/issues?
  • Do you have access to previous participants to learn about their experiences?
  • What are the training expectations before you embark on the program?
  • How does the program fit with your personal values and ethics?
  • If you have questions about the program, is there a means of addressing them?

Links to Previous Placement Organizations

The list below includes (but is not limited to) organizations through which Laurier students have completed GSE placements in the past, as a point of departure for students considering the GSE in the future. Note that inclusion of a particular organization here does not mean that the Global Studies department endorses the organization or its programmes; organizations are listed solely as a source of ideas for students seeking potential overseas volunteer opportunities, and students are expected to exercise due diligence in the selection of their placements.

Contact Us:

Patricia Berdan, Administrative Assistant

T: 519.884.0710 x3968
Office Location: DAWB 5-120

Alex Latta, Chair

T: 519.884.0710 x3115
Office Location: DAWB 5-120A

To book an advising appointment or contact the GS Advisor, Dr. Sara Matthews, please email

Need to contact the GSE Coordinator, Dr. John Ejobowah? Please email