Service Learning

The EF Approach to Service: This is Cultural Immersion (Part 2/3)

EF Service Learning trips aim to help EF travelers and developing communities grow. Through collaboration on service projects, cultural exchange, and reflection, students help communities address critical needs and learn in the process. EF offers Service Learning programs in the Americas, Africa, and Asia where we partner with local organizations to address community-driven projects. In this three-part series, we’ll illustrate our approach through the pillars of EF Service Learning: meaningful service (part 1), cultural immersion, and leadership development (part 3). Read on for more about what cultural immersion means to us.

In the interior of the Dominican Republic, in the community of Angostura, students stay in an eco-lodge created and owned by the community. They spend the first day walking through the community, visiting homes, seeing peoples’ gardens, and getting to know the local colmado (store and community meet-up spot). They enter the home of Maria, who cooks with a wood stove in a kitchen with one small window. Over the next week, students will help install a clean cook stove—one that allows Maria to use less wood and ventilates smoke out a chimney, so she no longer has to breathe in smoke all day as she cooks for her family of eight. This improvement not only protects Maria’s health; by using less wood, it saves her time and energy while being better for the environment.

EF travelers gain an intimate view into life in rural communities across various developing countries. They work to have a small, but meaningful, impact on a few lives. They meet community members, get a glimpse into their daily lives, and begin to understand the context of their service. Community members also get to share their culture, learn about visitors’ culture, and communicate—whether in broken English, Spanish, or some sort of nonverbal sign language. But don’t worry, the local Field Director is always there to facilitate exchange if called for.

Cultural immersion might also mean an opportunity for students to get hands-on experience with a local tradition or custom. In Peru, EF travelers took a break from work building a greenhouse to try their hands at constructing a huatia, an earthen oven traditionally used to bake potatoes there. The community members they were working alongside showed students their technique, then challenged them to a competition to see which small group could complete their huatia first.

More about Service Learning at EF
EF’s Service Learning trips are a celebration of powerful outcomes you can see, plus all the ones that you can’t. Dig into community-driven projects that matter in places that will change your students, including the Americas, Africa, and Asia. Visit to learn more about what we do, where we go, and how the students who travel with us make a meaningful, sustainable difference.

Trevor Shorb

Trevor is the Service Learning Program Manager at EF Educational Tours. He has lived, worked, and studied in El Salvador, Dominican Republic, and Spain. Despite his extensive experience in Latin America, he can’t dance salsa but still tries.

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