The Institute has been leading study abroad and travel programs for over 18 years. Our programs offer transformative educational opportunities to learn about village cultures, indigenous knowledge, and grassroots development. They strive to create lasting cross-cultural relationships built on mutual respect and reciprocity.

Grounded in principles of responsible travel, our programs maintain the welfare of the communities and the integrity of the environments we visit. Read more about our Principles of Responsible Travel.

We have experienced trip leaders and local partners to help provide a rich cultural experience. Our trips are low to the ground and, at times, involve very basic living conditions. We work in culturally and environmentally sensitive areas. This requires special people. Join us if you:

  • Share our commitment to village empowerment.
  • Are open-minded and work well in a group dynamic.
  • Interested in learning about village cultures and indigenous knowledge.
  • Can deal with adversity with a sense of humor.


Our groups are small to create a more intimate experience and not overwhelm our host communities. It will vary by program, but a typical group is 12 participants and 2 or 3 faculty/staff.

For study abroad programs, most students will enroll directly with Western Washington University (WWU). After completing the program, WWU will issue credits, and if you are a non-WWU student, send to your parent university. Some students in the past have been able to obtain full academic credit for the quarter/semester through their parent institution. Many students are also able to apply credits towards their majors by designing an independent study with their academic department. We can help you with both of these processes.

In general, you should read as much and as deeply as you can, and we will send you a suggested reading list when you enroll in the program. Little that you read, however, will prepare you adequately. Empty your mind and open your eyes and heart.

Exercise can help prepare your body for the rigors of travel and we highly recommend starting a regular exercise routine months prior to departure.

For student programs, you will be required to attend a week-long orientation session in Bellingham, WA (times TBA). Orientation will include lectures and discussions on history, culture, contemporary politics, and the thematic area of the course, as well as team building and the unique challenge of group travel.

Travel light: you don’t need half of what you think you do. Upon acceptance into a program, we will send you a suggested packing list. An example packing list is below. Another useful website to review is www.onebag.com.


[ ] 1 pair long cotton or cotton/nylon-mix pants
[ ] 1 pair shorts
[ ] 1 pair swim shorts/bathing suit
[ ] 2 tee shirts (no tank tops)
[ ] 1 long sleeve lightweight cotton shirt
[ ] 3 pair cotton or nylon socks and one wool.
[ ] 1 pair lightweight hiking shoes (prefer hi-top, breathable, with firm tread)
[ ] 1 pair Teva type sandals or thongs
[ ] 3 pair loose fitting underwear
[ ] 1 wide brim hat
[ ] 1 lightweight rain jacket or poncho
[ ] 1 modest dress or skirt
[ ] Sweater/fleece
[ ] Long Underwear

Personal Care Products

[ ] 1 quart water bottle and water purification tablets or iodine
[ ] Sunscreen
[ ] Toothbrush, in protective ventilated case
[ ] Toothpaste
[ ] Shampoo
[ ] Soap
[ ] Lip protection
[ ] Insect Repellent (deet for body, permethryn for clothing & tents)
[ ] First Aid Kit including Band-Aids, hydrocortisone, antibiotic creams, ibuprofen, etc)
[ ] Prescription medications with written prescription

Personal Gear

[ ] Passport (color Xerox copy)
[ ] 1 medium size backpack (adaptive or with separate day pack)
[ ] Money belt or pouch worn under clothing
[ ] Sheet sleeping sack
[ ] Lightweight sleeping pad
[ ] 1 lightweight towel
[ ] 1 pair sunglasses
[ ] Whistle
[ ] Pocket Knife
[ ] Camera
[ ] Film
[ ] Binoculars (optional)
[ ] Journal
[ ] Pen and Pencil
[ ] Lightweight flashlights with batteries
[ ] Watch
[ ] International Student ID

The health and safety of all members on the trip is our number one priority. While all travel carries some inherent risk, we are very experienced traveling in this part of the world and work hard to mitigate these as much as is possible. The most common health ailments are generally traveler’s diarrhea and dehydration. Other potential health risks come from mosquito bites and exposure to new germs. The number one safety risk with travel is motor vehicle accidents. Many of these are with pedestrians, so staying alert when crossing streets and remembering that people do not have the right of way in other countries, are of the utmost importance.

Prior to trip departure, we will discuss strategies to stay healthy and safe during the program. These include issues of food and water safety, reducing exposure to germs, preventing bug bites, safe transportation and maintaining personal security. We also highly recommend all participants receive the appropriate immunizations for travel and will send out our recommendations once your enroll.

Because health risks do differ by country, we require that you talk with your physician about personal health issues and have he or she sign our travel health clearance form. Upon enrollment in the trip, we will send you the health form to review with your doctor.

We have a sliding scale for program refunds depending on the date of cancellation. This schedule is not meant to be punitive, but rather reflects the pre-paid expenses we have made for the trip, as well as commitments to our local partners. If you think there is a possibility that you will have to withdraw from the trip, we recommend purchasing trip cancellation insurance. There are many companies that provide this service and you can receive comparison quotes here: http://www.insuremytrip.com.

Cancellation Date   Refund Amount
Cancel up to 61 days prior to program start date   100% (excluding trip deposit)
Cancel 30-60 days prior to program start date   50% of total program cost
Cancel less than 30 days prior to program start date   15% of total program cost