GLA strives to create an environment that encourages students to unplug and forge connections between fellow students and the local community. GLA has found that the more students use their cell phones on a program, the harder it is for them to be present and fully process their time on the program.

Students can bring their cell phones to programs, but should not expect to have access to their phone all day, every day during their program. In an effort to foster connections, students are only permitted to use cell phones, including data and talk plans, during specific, staff-designated “cell phone times”. 

Cell phone time will be visible on the daily schedule*(some programs are designed to be out of service for long portions of the program, as such this will vary by site) so that students know when cell phone times are coming and can receive their phone from a program staff accordingly.

While the specific time for phones will vary by program, as it is meant to function in alignment with the itinerary, students can expect to receive their phones after nightly group activities and to keep them overnight — this will allow for communication with home, time for students to charge their devices, and the ability for students to use their phones for music and alarm clocks. In the mornings, students will be asked to place their cell phone back into the designated container, which will be safeguarded by staff.

Because phones will be together, GLA recommends all student phones have a screen protector and phone cover. After cell phone time, any student who is found with a phone can expect to have their phone collected and receive a verbal warning, followed by a written warning and dismissal from the program, for repeated infractions. 

Parents should not expect to hear from students for the bulk of the day (local time). If parents need to get in contact with their student, they can contact the international staff or our 24/7 emergency hotline. Students on programs where time zones differ greatly from home may also receive additional cell phone time for family communications. 

Case-by-Case Exceptions

While on program, GLA HQ reserves the right to make exceptions to the cell phone policy in line with their professional judgment. This includes but is not limited to individual students to allow them to carry devices for situations such as medical necessities, emergencies, medically required apps (ex. glucose monitoring) etc. In instances where a decision is made that impacts the schedule of cell phone use for the entire group, parents will be notified. 


We understand the desire and importance of having photo memories from the experience. As such, the following points are meant to outline expectations so students can plan accordingly: 

  1. Staff will do their best to take candid and group photos of the group every day. These photos will be uploaded to a Google folder which will be shared with all participants at the end of the session. 
  2. Staff can permit students to take their phones to certain adventure or cultural activities or long bus rides as appropriate. (i.e. African Safari, Visit to Machu Picchu, Ziplining, etc.). 
  3. If students would like access to a camera 24/7, we strongly recommend bringing a regular camera, which can be with the student at all times. 

Electronics are brought on the program at your own risk. Therefore, GLA is not responsible for any damaged, lost or stolen electronic devices. 


Internet Access, Signal & Connectivity on GLA programs

Each country and program site comes with its unique advantages and challenges to internet access. In Home Bases where there is wifi, program directors will provide students access to the wifi so that they can connect with their family during staff-designated cell phone time only. If a student doesn’t have a phone to connect, they may ask staff to use their phone to call home if they desire. 

GLA cannot guarantee that all Home Bases will have consistent, high-speed internet. In some locations, the internet connection may be particularly sporadic and one can expect the connectivity timeline to vary greatly. (i.e. students may have 2 days back-to-back where they can connect while in a city to start the program, and that may be all for a 2-week program). Follow this link to review the wifi and cell phone connectivity by program site. 

The wifi that is made available, is for connecting with family and is not for streaming of any kind. Some program sites have capped total data available per session, and if students stream, the entire amount will be depleted in seconds by a few students. 

Drones, Laptops and Misc. Electronics on GLA Programs 

Students on GLA programs will not be permitted to bring laptops, iPads/tablets, drones and other expensive electronics as they are not conducive to the travel experience on GLA programs. On GLA Travel Internships, resources and materials will be made available offline in journals and workbooks however laptops and iPads will be permitted. 

Cameras & Wearable Devices 

GLA recommends that students bring a small, point-and-shoot camera for ease of travel, which can be used throughout the program to take pictures. The use of point-and-shoot cameras during service, adventure and cultural activities will be up to the discretion of the program staff and may not be appropriate for ethical or other reasons depending on the activity. Cell phones may be used as cameras during designated cell phone time as indicated by the program directors.

DSLRs and expensive photography equipment are allowed in place of a point-and-shoot camera; however, students will be responsible for the security of their equipment. Wearable devices will not be collected along with cell phones; however, as travelers it is best practice to keep a low profile, and therefore wearable devices are not recommended. GLA is not responsible for any damaged, lost or stolen electronic devices. 

GLA Blogs 

During the program, the student leader(s) of the day are expected to write a short blog with photos. We typically receive 2-3 blog posts per week from international program staff, though the frequency of program blog updates depends on location, access to the internet, excursions away from the Home Base, and other factors. All programs also send an update on the arrival of students in-country with a photo of the student group. The objective of making these blogs available to families is to give family members back home brief insights into their student’s experience on-program, and is not meant to be a catch-all for every activity that happens on-program.

Cyber Bullying 

GLA has adopted a strict ‘no tolerance’ policy for cyber bullying and/or using cell phones to cause distress among fellow students or local staff. 

Cell Phone Searches

A student’s cell phone may only be searched with consent from the student (and with parent’s approval in lieu of) when there is reasonable suspicion that the search will turn up evidence that the student has violated or is violating the GLA Code of Conduct and Cell Phone Policy. This reasonable suspicion must be based on specific and articulated facts as well as the professional judgment of GLA HQ. This decision will be made in line with visual or other evidence (e.g. the smell of alcohol, an alert of cyberbullying from parents, etc). If a GLA staff member seizes a phone that is alleged to have inappropriate texts, pictures, or videos on it, the search will be constrained to what is reasonable (e.g. the photo folder or texts on the phone). The search will never be excessively intrusive in light of the age of our students and the nature of the infractions. 

GLA Staff and Cell Phone Policy

As positive role models, we expect all our staff to exhibit the same behavior we wish to see from students on our programs. When in front of students, staff will limit their cell phone use to work-related purposes and ensure students know the difference between work use and personal use.

Staff are expected to have their phones on them at all times to ensure they are able to gain and give support as needed to run their program, to remain accessible to both GLA and families as needed. 

Cell Phone Policy and Fellowships (Arts & Letters Fellows in Photography or Videography Tracks)

All Fellowship students will be held to the same standards of this policy.

For Fellowship students, we strongly recommend they bring a point-and-shoot camera to supplement their Fellowship needs (in some cases, to capture a series of photos or video clips for their final Fellowship project), which will allow them to take their device to more locations/activities for photography than with a smartphone alone.

Under this policy, all students can expect to have access to their phones at a minimum of one time every day.