GLA in the world

What to Expect When You're Expecting (...To Travel!)

New to international travel? Here's what you should know as you prepare to take the leap!

A Party For Your Tastebuds

You may think you’ve had rice & beans before, only to have your mind blown the dish's spicier, souped-up Costa Rican cousin, gallo pinto. Fan of Pad Thai? Your love for the dish will double after tasting it fresh from a Chiang Rai market. Traditional ingredients and signatuare dishes reveal so much about a culture--eating your way through a new place is one of the best and most enjoyable avenues through which to learn more about what makes its people tick. 

However, even the most adventurous eaters may encounter a dish that doesn’t strike their fancy. For example, the salty, fishy Fijian delicacy may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Not a problem--you will have options at meals and oftentimes are free to pick and choose what goes on your plate. Do remember to be respectful--our kitchen staff spends hours creating local dishes especially for our students, and for them to overhear a loud “yuck!!” upon unveiling their masterpiece can be very hurtful and offensive.

Pro Tip: Pack some of your favorite snacks from home...just in case! Protein bars, fruit snacks, dried fruit, and trail mix are all high-energy, customs- and travel- friendly options.

Can you guess the identity of this Chinese treat?

A New You

With the right mindset, even a trip to the grocery store can send you home a changed person. Embarking upon an international program is often a catalyst for personal growth. This can manifest as a lifelong passion for teaching, an obsession with tapas, or perhaps just a new appreciation for Harem pants. Wherever you travel, you can expect to carry a piece of that place with you forever. 

Some of the most common feedback from GLA alumni is “I feel like a different person--my point of view has changed so much!” Our programs use a methodology called ‘service-learning’ which combines community service with different kinds of hands-on learning: learning about social and global issues and personal leadership. In other words, it frames the volunteer work within a larger context – against the backdrop of the local community, the country or the world.

Pro Tip: Before you depart for your adventure, take a moment to jot down your objectives: What do you want to get out of your travels? Do you want to become a more savvy traveler? A more confident leader? A better friend? A more knowledgeable global citizen? Whatever your goal, keep it in the back of your mind as you venture out. 

Out of your comfort zone is the best place to discover new passions!


Some people could explore the world for years and never look back; however, most of us (young and old) experience at least a twinge of homesickness when traveling. Typically this feeling passes in a few days as friendships form and the group gets into the swing of things. Those who are more tightly tethered to home via phone calls, texts, and social media seem to have a tougher time adjusting to their new surroundings, and often struggle longer or more severely than their less-connected peers.

The beautiful thing about spending time in a new community is that you will begin to form bonds with your peers and those you meet along the way. You may even find yourself feeling homesick for your community in Ghana/Costa Rica/Thailand upon your return home!

Pro Tip: Let your Mentors know if you’re feeling homesick! They are there to help, and will likely have some great coping techniques up their sleeves to help you make it over the hump. 

BFFs in Guatemala

The Unexpected

Accepting that in spite of meticulous preparations and research on your end, some things will inevitably be out of your control. Flights may be delayed. Luggage may be lost. Rain clouds may move in halfway through an idyllic beach outing. Until humans are able to control the weather, there will always be the chance that plans could change, whether it’s GLA’s programming activities, your travel itinerary, or small things like what types of food may be available.

The upside? More often than not, the most memorable part of a trip is what you don’t plan for! An impromptu community celebration, an unexpected friendship, chance sightings of wildlife like sloths or manta rays, a freak rainstorm that hits the spot on a muggy Costa Rican afternoon. Even a chance encounter with the Dalai Lama or Jane Goodall (yes, this actually happened on GLA India and GLA Tanzania) is possible! These are the moments that stick with us.

Pro Tip: First, take a deep breath. Take another. Remind yourself that travel is AN ADVENTURE! What may seem like a tragedy today could become your most treasured memory tomorrow!