International Exchange in California

Each January, scholarships funded by our generous supporters enable student representatives from our partner communities to come to California to participate in our local exchange. Students stay with host families and engage in a full month of activities focused on collaborative projects with GSE students in Northern California.  The exchange reunites friends, brings new momentum to local projects, and often is the first time that visiting students have been to another country.


Student ambassadors visit each of GSE’s project sites and get involved with local students in the planning, maintenance, and expansion of projects.  Many of GSE’s projects have been catalyzed during our local exchanges including the building of 2 food forests, expansion of numerous school garden projects and the reforestation of native trees and shrubs across the greater Bay Area.


Reciprocal exchange is a key element of GSE’s mission.  Sharing local culture and providing students the opportunity for international travel, opens student’s hearts and minds.  Student ambassadors are selected to represent their communities based on excellent leadership and participation in their GSE programs.

Our visiting students give presentations about GSE projects in their home community to students at local elementary, high schools, and universities. These presentations and discussions give students the opportunity to tell about their country, their culture, their youth leadership experiences, and themselves.  GSE works to break stereotypes and remove cultural barriers through building friendships, working together and representing our local cultures.


In between school visits and work on local projects, students visit the Sonoma Coast and the Redwoods. We take a trip to the Bay Area to see the amazing murals in the Mission, walk the golden gate and explore the city. Trips spark conversations about ethnic, social and economic dynamics of the area and of the larger U.S. In 2015, students will stay in Sonoma, Marin, Contra Costa and Santa Cruz counties.

My experience [during GSE exchange programs] is that we learn to work in groups as one family all together for one reason, to help the planet.


Silvia Luque

Sample Itinerary


Day 1 — Visiting students arrive and meet host families

Day 2 — Students tour Sebastopol and participate in Village Park Garden workday

Day 3 — Field day at Laguna de Santa Rosa restoration sites

Day 4 — Shadowing at Northwest Prep, Cross-cultural discussion

Day 5 — Working visit to Windsor High and Wise Core garden

Day 6 — Weekend spent with host families

Day 7 — Weekend spent with host families

Day 8 — Hike at Armstrong Redwoods, and visit to Sonoma Coast

Day 9 — Presentations at local primary schools to share about home communities and local GSE projects, Village Park Garden workday in the afternoon

Day 10 — Presentations at primary schools, afternoon visit to Analy’s Eco-Action Garden

Day 11 — Travel to Marin to work at Drake High School Garden, potluck with Drake Families

Day 12 — San Francisco Visit- Golden Gate Bridge Walk, tour of Mission District Murals and dinner at Indian food restaurant

Day 13 — Weekend with families

Day 14 — Weekend with families

Day 15 — Field day at Sonoma County Land Trust sites

Day 16 — Shadowing at Sonoma Academy, and work on school garden with exploratory class

Day 17 — Students stay with Sonoma Academy families and shadow host students

Day 18 — Free morning, good bye dinner in the evening