Frequently Asked Questions

Community Building in Rwanda

Who can apply?


Any Western and non-Western student can apply. No pre-requisites or previous international travel experience is required.  A 2.5 minimum GPA is required.


How can I apply?

Please apply at Western's Education Abroad website to complete the application to study abroad.  After you have been accepted into the program, you will be advised on how to complete the required paperwork and pay a non-refundable $1000 deposit to finalize your application.


How many credits and what type of credits?


The course is a 400 level, 12 credit course in International Studies. These are upper division elective credits (if you are not an International Studies minor), and apply to most majors. Please check with your department advisor. International experiences on your resume are also desirable to many employers.


How much does it cost?


The cost of the trip is $5,369. The cost includes tuition, lodging, meals, ground transportation, and travel insurance while in Rwanda for 6 weeks. This makes it one of the cheapest study abroad programs at Western. Once accepted into the program, we will work with our WWU travel agency to secure the best flight options.


Does financial aid apply to a summer study abroad program?


Yes, but it is on a case-by-case basis and you will need to contact the Financial Aid office for advice.


Are there scholarships for the program?


Yes, the scholarship amount varies every year and is based on financial need once you are accepted into the program. I always encourage everyone to apply for the Rwanda program no matter your financial circumstances. There are many ways to make this trip possible. 



Is Rwanda safe?

While it’s hard to talk about Rwanda without thinking about the terrible genocide that claimed 800,000 lives 22 years ago, but it doesn’t define the country today. Rwanda is one of Africa’s great success stories. 

There is no 100% safety and security anywhere in the world, but Rwanda is one of the safest and most secure countries in the world. Rwanda is home to some of the friendliest people on the African Continent, and as an American I feel quite safe in Rwanda, safer than I would in some places in the USA. There is a police presence everywhere, ranging from traffic police to tourism police, all there to make sure that Rwandans and visitors are safe.

And on a personal note, I have traveled to East Africa 20 times in the past 12 years and have never had a single safety or health emergency with students or faculty.  

What about tropical diseases?


Immunizations are required and/or recommended for travel to Rwanda. Go to the CDC Rwanda Travel website for more information. Every student is required to take malaria medications as prescribed. In the 7 years that I have been leading study abroad programs to Rwanda and Kenya, we have never had a case of malaria or any other serious illness.



Do I need an entry visa?


Yes, you will need an extended stay tourist visa that you will purchase at the airport in Kigali when you land. The cost is $60 and not covered by the program.



Where do we stay?


We stay in Gashora, Rwanda a small village about 2 hours outside of Kigali, the capital. Our accommodations are at La Palisse Hotel, a 24-hour secured compound, on beautiful Lake Rumira. The staff is like family!



What do we do?

Since this is a service-learning trip, let me start with what we don’t do, which is to pretend we know what the community needs. I like to say that there is nothing we can do in Rwanda that a Rwandan can’t do better!  We have conversations with our partners when we arrive and are guided by their ideas, for how we will learn and work together in ways that make sense for the community and in the short time we have. Our focus is always on building relationships more than the “doing.” Our partnerships in Gashora include a refugee camp, the regional Health Center, a local Mosque, a women’s basket weaving cooperative, youth groups, and area schools.

As this is a class, we spend a part of every day in a classroom setting (outside under a thatched roof cabana!) learning Kinyarwanda, fulfilling reading and writing assignments, and spending a lot of time in seminar-like discussions to share our knowledge and to reflect together on our cultural experiences.


What about language?


In a rural Rwandan village, there will always be a language barrier. It’s amazing how fast we get over the insecurity of not being able to speak the language because Rwandans are so welcoming. As part of this course, we will study Kinyarwanda. Rwandans have only one language and are moving from French as the second language to English. It’s an exciting time to share languages, and knowing a few greetings and some vocabulary goes a long way!



Can I go early or do I have to travel with the group?

All students travel and arrive in Rwanda together. Please do not book individual tickets. If a student would like to continue traveling after the trip is complete, he/she/they will sign a waiver of release from the program.



Who can I contact if I have more questions? 

Please contact Tim Costello at or at 360.650.2503. 

I look forward to hearing from you.