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Photo of clothing hanging on a clothes line outside an apartment complex. Photo by Maria Orlova.
What is Transnational
Service Learning?

Transnational service learning refers to experiential learning opportunities that students participate in by working and living in another country or a "host" country. The structure and priorities of a service learning program or course will depend on the institution that offers these experiences. These types of programs generally involve students from the Global North engaging in service work for people across borders. Below we unpack some important details in our service learning research. 

Centring hosts in

service learning 

Transnational Service Learning (TSL) opportunities are often centred around Northern students, their learning, and their employability. Our research moves beyond and against this framing. We recognize that these priorities are steeped in colonial ideas that produce inequitable power structures between TSL students, practitioners, and hosts. We argue that hosts are essential participants in service learning.

Who are hosts?

Hosts refer to the individuals, families, communities, and staff who reside in the country where service-learning is conducted (often in the Global South). They live, work, care for, and teach students. We argue that hosts need to be centred in service learning experiences. Their desires, expectations, and perspectives must be taken into account in the program development, pedagogical considerations, and the overall practice of TSL and community-based learning.

How can we

centre hosts?

Centring hosts in meaningful and participatory ways is essential to creating more equitable relations in TSL. This work requires us to re-imagine service learning through anti-colonial frameworks and perspectives. It means that our programs and practices will be responsible to the communities where TSL takes place. In our research, we have worked towards centring hosts by identifying their motivations, desires and expectations that should inform programming and be prioritized in TSL. 

TSL resources for

students and developers

The TSL resources for students and program developers are based on our research with hosts around the world. We see students and developers using these tools to reflect on how they might respond to the desires and demands of hosts, center them in their work and remain accountable to them. The resources feature a series of interactive reflection questions and activities to help both students and program developers get started with this critical work.

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