Degree Name

MA in Intercultural Service, Leadership, and Management

First Advisor

John Ungerleider


This paper discusses the growing popularity of international volunteer programs as a means of promoting “global citizenship” among today’s youth. With the use of field notes from volunteers and insight from other scholars, the author explores the following question: given the growing popularity of international volunteer programs, particularly the “gap year” which has long been popular in Europe and is now catching hold in the United States, what can we do as educators to build a critical consciousness among youth who are engaged in these international volunteer experiences so that they might better understand the history of north-south oppression and critically reflect upon their own role in this evolving interchange?

The author outlines the growing debate around international volunteering, and then presents her own experience leading a gap year program in Urubamba, Peru for Princeton University students in 2009/2010 as a case study that offers insight into strategies for a program design that will ultimately lead to enhanced critical consciousness and empowerment for both students and local community members. She proposes that all international volunteer programs, in order to promote critical consciousness in their participants, include two major components: (1.) a participatory process of community-based project development that is empowering for both community members and volunteers, for which she presents a model that is adapted from Paolo Freire’s model of Empowerment Education, and (2.) Structured group reflection in which volunteers think critically about their presence in and impact on the local community in which they are working, and frame that reflection within the context of that local history. For this second component the author suggests two pedagogical tools for framing such reflection. This analysis is offered with the hope of inspiring other educators to share lessons learned so that IVO programs might be modeled to best promote social justice and global citizenship.


Civic and Community Engagement | Curriculum and Social Inquiry | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | International and Area Studies | Other Languages, Societies, and Cultures


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