A photograph of a lotus with a diagrammed origami bloom drawn in

GIEU: Global Intercultural Experience for Undergraduates

Engage in a short-term summer cross-cultural service learning experience with an interdisciplinary team of U-M students and a faculty member at field sites in the U.S. or abroad. Accepted applicants are registered for a pre-departure course, meet with their classmates and instructor throughout the winter, conduct their fieldwork for 3–4 weeks during the summer, and debrief the following September.

Through GIEU, students and faculty learn from local communities as well as from each other in locations that support cross-cultural education, host communities benefit from the support U-M students and faculty provide, and GIEU participants bring their knowledge back to campus in meaningful ways.

GIEU applications are due November 5.

2015 GIEU Sites

Click here to go to the M-Compass page and learn more.

  • Detroit, USA - Timothy Corvidae
  • –Deferred until 2016–
  • Cusco and Chinchero, Peru - Tatiana Calixto
    Our ultimate goal in this course will be to create awareness of the need to safeguard and respect indigenous knowledge and cultural expressions of the “Weaving Way of Life in Cusco, Peru."
  • Lushoto, Tanzania - Nyambura Mpesha
    This project will engage GIEU students with issues concerning disability and how it is viewed in the Shambaa culture.
  • Delhi and Amritsar, India - Jasprit Singh
    See previous year's description
  • Oaxaca, Mexico - Anita Gonzalez
    This program is designed to engage students with musicians, artisans, cultural organizations, and folk performers to learn about how cultural histories are expressed and promoted through the arts in Mexico.

2014 GIEU Sites



ESL in the Pantanal: A Partnership Project in the Pantanal Region of Brazil

Site leader: Melinda Matice

Tentative dates: June 14 - July 12, 2014

In 2010, a GIEU group traveled to the Pantanal, Brazil in order to build a school, community center and field bio-station there called the Pantanal Center for Education and Research (PCER). Ongoing projects at PCER since 2010 have created a ripple effect with other schools, fazendas and surrounding communities.

There have been numerous requests to have more English as a Second Language (ESL) courses there. In this region, there is a great need for ESL instruction for elementary and middle school students, as well as for adults who are seeking to improve their job and income possibilities by learning English specific to the role of eco-tour guides (a gainful career in this region). English classes taught to children will highlight areas such as contemporary problems in conservation, natural preservation, sustainable technologies, and geology; young Brazilian students will thus learn in a workshop format about these focus areas through learning English.

Students of all disciplines are encouraged to participate, including but not limited to students with Portuguese language background.


Challenges to Conservation: Awareness, Ecology and the Rainforests of Ecuador

Site leaders: Denise Guillot and Denise Kozikowski

Tentative dates: July 12 - August 7, 2014

Yasuni Biosphere Reserve, located in the Amazon basin of eastern Ecuador, protects some of the most undisturbed rainforest habitats in the world, but faces significant challenges to sustaining the protected status of these regions. This project will provide students with the opportunity to experience and appreciate complex ecosystems that are rarely observed, and to discuss the numerous factors that must be considered when developing conservation policy.

The group will interact with some of the key supporters of conservation in Ecuador, and will spend 21 days working at Tiputini Biodiversity Station, a research and teaching facility in the heart of the jungle. Students will directly support the mission of the station by aiding in station maintenance, assisting in data collection, and will observe the incredible diversity in this complex ecosystem. In order to cultivate a holistic, non-judgemental, and objective perspective of this complicated situation, a substantial part of this experience will involve mindfulness meditation training to shape students’ inquiry, insight, and self-awareness.

A few words about living conditions in the rainforest and mindfulness: the rainforest is filled with many unexpected and wonderful surprises, but it can also involve some unpleasant physical conditions.

  • Temperatures are not extreme in the forest but, by Michigan standards, it will be hot and the humidity levels hover near 100% most days.
  • The station runs electricity a few hours every day, but most of the time, there will be no electricity i.e. not fans and no air conditioning in your rooms.
  • We will spend a substantial amount of time hiking. Although the hikes will be relatively short (3-4 miles), because of the humidity you will sweat like never before.
  • We will be contributing to the work of the station which will involve some manual labor (did I mention sweating?).
  • It is also impossible to completely escape the insects. Mosquito bites and bee stings are very common.
  • Many of the planned activities will begin around sunrise but, trust us, getting up early usually improves your chance of seeing some amazing animals. We anticipate that the expression, "it's a jungle out there" will take on new meaning for you.
  • Please be aware that students will be sharing rooms.
  • We will be offering training in mindfulness meditation (sitting, walking, lying down, eating, listening, and seeing). So that we can use this as a tool for inquiry during our trip, will offer practice sessions pre-departure. During our GIEU trip, we will practice every day!
  • A yellow fever vaccination is MANDATORY and we encourage all students to meet with the UHS Travel Clinic, or your personal physician, to discuss the need for additional vaccinations based on individual medical history.

Students of all disciplines are encouraged to participate.


Sustainable Nourishment: Harmandar Sahib Langar

Site leader: Jasprit Singh

Tentative dates: June 5 - July 5, 2014

Harmandar Sahib or The Golden Temple is in the city of Amritsar, India (a six hour train journey from Delhi). Each day forty thousand individuals enjoy a free, delicious and nutritious vegetarian meal in which they voluntarily switch from being served to serving; in this experience distinctions of class, caste, gender and age melt away. Sitting together on a jute runner on the floor people share a common meal whose roots extend more than four hundred years.

This GIEU program will examine the Langar of Harmandar Sahib as a model of holistic and coherent action. In particular, issues of food sustainability will be examined by looking at food from farm to mouth. In general, we will examine the following questions: what is the motivation behind this shared community effort? What disciplines allow it to function? What can be learnt that can be applied to other organizations and institutions that wish to be sustainable? How can the vocabulary and practices that may be culturally rooted in the land (the Punjab in India), the religion (the Sikh faith), and the culture (of India, where the concept of karma and its understanding flows through each person, even if the interpretations of karma may vary) be transformed for other lands and people and cultures? The program will look at food from a scientific and cultural point of view and students will have an opportunity to serve in the community kitchen and learn the skills of cooking at such a massive scale.

Students will observe, learn and then participate in the world's biggest free community meal project where about 50,000 people share a meal everyday. This has been happening with just a few breaks (wars, natural calamities) for over 400 years. The meal is vegetarian and is complete. Students will be encouraged to serve, chop vegetables, onions, garlic, ginger, clean up, etc. with the local and visiting volunteers. Since about a third of the people can speak English students can learn about a unique and diverse culture where the community meal is considered a needed tool to break barriers of caste, class and gender. We will also visit several farms and a dairy. One of the farms to be visited is Jasprit Singh's ancestral farm which is a good working model of a small and diverse farm.

When we reach India it will be summer and daily high temperatures will be around 100-105 F. Lows will be around 80 F. We will have air-conditioning in the sleeping/resting area but the Golden Temple is open. There are shady and covered areas and there is a large pool (about 100 meters by 100 meters) in the complex that makes the place comfortable. Towards the third week of the stay there may be monsoon rains which will cool the city by 10-15 F. Indian monsoons are remarkable in their beauty and intensity and many of the world's greatest photographers go to photograph the monsoons in India. The rain is warm (around 70 F) and and there are spectacular thunder and light shows.

If you are used to having things "just so" (hair just right, clothes dry and ironed, shoes clean, ...) and are uncomfortable with lack of order, you will have a hard time in this project. If you like diverse, interesting and unpredictable experiences and have the ability to "go with the flow" you will have a once in a lifetime experience.

Video describing the project

Students of all disciplines are encouraged to participate. 


Community Sanitation and Public Health in Kenya

Site leaders: Charles Ransom and Loyd Mbabu

Tentative dates: June 8 - July 5, 2014

This program will be conducted in partnership with the Total War Against AIDS Youth Foundation, or TWAAYF, a youth-led community organization “dedicated to alleviating poverty, under-education and idleness among children and youths in Likoni, Kenya.” The students will live in homestays with local families, and engage in various community projects that include teaching school children hygiene and sanitation skills, helping to build a water tank to bring clean water to the Madarka Community School, and an environmental cleanup exercise. Students will receive an introduction to the Kiswahili language.

No background in Kiswahili is required; students of all disciplines are encouraged to participate.



Disability in Tanzania

Site leader: Nyambura Mpesha

Tentative dates: May 8 - June 4, 2014

This project will engage GIEU students with issues concerning disability and how it is viewed in the Shambaa culture. Students will have daily Swahili lessons and attend occasional lectures taught in English by local professors on Tanzanian culture, politics, history and folklore. During the three-day orientation, the group will meet and exchange ideas with Tanzanian students at Sebastian Kolowa Memorial University (SEKOMU), which focuses on special education. Students will then move into their homestays with families in the community (two students per family) from where they will travel to work.

While living in the community, students will offer assistance, organize games and teach in three interrelated institutions – Irente School for the Blind, Irente Children’s Home and Irente Rainbow School. Note that group will be in a rural area of a developing country and exposed to extreme poverty.

Students of all disciplines are encouraged to participate


Multi-Cultural Community Performance in Liverpool

Site leader: Anita González

Tentative dates: June 1 - 29, 2014

The course is designed to introduce students to engaged theatre practice. Students will study the history and culture of the African peoples in Liverpool and their influence on the performance culture of the city.

Students will also meet with and interview local residents who can support their devised theatre project; based on this material, the group will develop and perform small-scale performance works through active exchange and interaction with local artists and community members. The program will involve workshop classes in playmaking and devising skills that Liverpool residents are also invited to attend; community artists may lead some of the workshops. No previous theater experience is required: students of all disciplines are encouraged to participate in the program.

2013 GIEU Sites

South Africa


What Students Say

I am currently doing clinical neurological research at Columbia University in New York and I know for a fact that my experiences as a student fellow in GIEU helped me secure the position. They were fascinated by my trip and impressed I was able to have such a valuable leadership experience at such a young age.
—Timothy Quinn, GIEU Gabon 2012

Since my 2010 Zambia trip, I became compelled to continue to challenge myself and give to something bigger than myself. I plan to continue researching and doing local and global health work during medical school. Although I'm not involved with the program anymore, I'm at peace knowing that GIEU is continuing the good work by allowing participants to further their education as students and fulfill their social responsibility as citizens of the world.
—Christy Duan, GIEU Zambia 2010

While in Hawai'i with GIEU, I learned more than I ever could have imagined. I helped restore the state's natural habitat and worked toward environmental and food sustainability. Through this project, not only did I learn about Hawai'ian traditions, customs, language, and history, but I also learned about current disparities in health, education, and the criminal justice system. Through GIEU's reflective practice of journaling and dialoging with my faculty member, student fellow, and peers, I was able to connect this work with what I am passionate about: education reform/policy and child welfare reform/policy.
—Jen Cowhy, GIEU Hawai'i 2009