September 13, 2023

Three people pose together at an outdoor community service location. The person on the left is wearing a black sweater and blue work gloves. The person in the middle is wearing a blue short-sleeved shirt, black glasses and blue work gloves. The person on the left is wearing a pink top and a light gray hijab.
Daniel Landaverde (left) volunteering with fellow Global UGRAD participants. 

In addition to an American college experience and enriching academic programs, the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program (Global UGRAD) provides unique opportunities for international students to get involved in U.S. communities off campus.

During this past program year, Global UGRAD participants reported nearly 7,000 community service hours, volunteering at after-school programs, animal shelters, food banks, and park clean-ups. These volunteer hours not only improved communities across the U.S., but empowered participants to serve their home communities throughout the world after completing their program.

Continue reading to learn more about Global UGRAD community service projects from this past year and what these volunteer experiences meant to the participants.

(Editor’s note: Quotes have been edited for length and clarity only.)

I participated in a community cleaning event, volunteered for a fish food collection drive, and helped Habitat for Humanity by cleaning and organizing materials for their thrift store. Volunteering taught me empathy, humility, and the importance of giving back, reinforcing my belief in the power of community engagement. It was a gratifying experience that fostered meaningful connections and a sense of responsibility to make a difference. — Daniel Landaverde, El Salvador

UNC-Wilmington provided an opportunity to work with under-resourced families to provide support for mothers and children transitioning out of homelessness. I learned to be more engaged with the community, to be empathetic to the homeless, and to be more understanding of their situation. I especially enjoyed the after-school program because it’s not a concept in my country yet, and I wish to look into starting it in Kenya. — Jael Ikinya, Kenya

Two individuals work together at a table doing arts and crafts involving play-doh. The person on the left is wearing a gray sweater and colorful glasses and earrings. The person on the right is wearing a short-sleeved teal shirt and black glasses.
Jael Ikinya (left) volunteering in her host community.

Volunteering is one of the most rewarding experiences a person can have, and last semester, I had the privilege of raising funds for the campus food pantry. It was heartwarming to see the community come together to support one another. I made so many new connections with people who shared my passion for making a difference, and I learned a ton about fundraising and community service. Most importantly, I felt a sense of belonging and purpose that made me proud to be a part of such a wonderful community, even if momentarily. — Abderrahman Ezzafati, Morocco

My volunteering peers and I helped with organizing English lessons, checking in women at the welcome desk, and packing and giving out diapers to them. I will remember this community service for a long time because I know the feeling of leaving your own country and trying to continue your life abroad. To my mind, it was one of the most impactful volunteering activities that I’ve ever done. —Yelyzaveta Baurda, Ukraine

A person wearing a pink hijab, pink sweater, and white face mask sits at a desk covered in arts and crafts supplies. The person is holding a red piece of paper for a child who is next to her, wearing colorful braids.
Lina Alsarayeh volunteering with children during her community service experience.

Over the course of four months at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, I fulfilled 34 hours of community service via four different activities. The most significant one to me was the Civil Rights Pilgrimage. The 10-day program involved traveling to different places and museums with historical connections to the Civil Rights Movement. One whole afternoon was spent at the Foot Soldier Park where we picked up trash, cleared overgrown plants and weeds, and re-potted plants to beautify the space. Our hard work was all worth it. — Alistair Yap, Singapore

When it comes to community service, it was more than I imagined. My serving has been an eye-opener for me. Wrapping up the hours of service, I had 26 hours of community service in the AIDS Dallas office and in their different residence halls. In the evening, I had reflection time with my team. It was my favorite because they were sharing the insights they got during the day. — Maftuna Uraimshikova, Uzbekistan

The Global UGRAD program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and administered by World Learning.