Save up to $1,500 when you enroll in a 2020 program by Oct. 20! Click Here to Unlock the Discount
How do you know if a Critical Issues program is right for you?
All Articles

How do you know if a Critical Issues program is right for you?

Today’s world is faced with challenges that are exceedingly complex and difficult to solve. Human rights abuse, systemic inequality, environmental degradation — our global challenges cross borders, languages, and cultures, and the path forward isn’t always clear. We believe the best place to start is to build an understanding of global issues as they are lived on the ground.

Our Critical Issues programs involve deep cultural immersion experiences that bring together a group of like-minded peers, spark dialogue, and encourage participants to take action.

How do you know if a Critical Issues program is right for you?

If you’re interested in social justice, international relations, non-profit work, or just learning how to make a difference, these programs are for you. They are designed for students that are socially conscious, have a thirst for knowledge, and aspire to be a changemaker.


1. Deliberate Focus

Students explore specific global issues as they exist in communities around the world. Human rights, global climate change, and the intricacies of international growth are just a few examples of focus issues within these programs.

2. Pre-Travel Engagement

Prior to their arrival in the program’s base country, students build an understanding of the issue their program focuses on and its historical and social context. Students will be expected to read articles, watch films, listen to podcasts, and participate in various learning opportunities like site visits and/or interviews with local experts.

3. Program Content and Discussion

While all Rustic Pathways programs include deliberate reflection, Critical Issues programs take discussions to a deeper level. Students progress through a curriculum comprised of activities, discussions, and debriefs designed to expand their understanding and exploration of key topics. Critical Issues groups spend more time meeting with experts, speaking with community leaders, and challenging one another to think critically.

4. Program Staff

All Rustic Pathways programs are staffed with exceptional Program Leaders carefully selected and matched to their programs. Program Leaders on Critical Issues programs have intimate local knowledge and an academic or professional background in the focus area.



The Andes Women’s Education Initiative
Access to education, gender equality, and women’s empowerment
On this program, explore access to education and women’s issues through a variety of immersive experiences. Travel through the Andean highlands and engage with educational NGOs, women’s weaving cooperatives, women’s rights advocates, and government agencies. Journey with your group from remote indigenous communities to larger towns and gain an understanding of educational resources in both rural and urban environments.

Peace, Wonder, and Understanding Islam
Social leadership through cultural and religious differences
Islam is often misunderstood in media and politics, leading to polarization and fear surrounding this belief system. Join us in Morocco to explore the roots of stereotypes in an effort to promote peace and build empathy by engaging with Muslims in Morocco. Engage in high level conversations, ready to stand against hate and carry your newly recognized change making skills into your community.

African Wildlife Conservation
Conservation and community development
This program examines the ongoing challenges to wildlife conservation in Tanzania in partnership with the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI). By placing the plight of the African chimpanzee in the context of global economic pressures, you will gain an understanding of the local struggles including poaching, animal trafficking, and habitat destruction. Learn about JGI’s approach of empowering communities by creating sustainable livelihoods to make conservation a priority while continuing economic growth.

Tanzania Clean Water Project
Public health and conservation
Droughts, a lack of education, and a changing climate have only increased the burden on communities with limited access to clean water. Explore different approaches to tackling water, sanitation, and hygiene issues. Serve alongside local masons, engineers, and village residents on various water projects. Model good hand washing, one of the most effective hygiene interventions, with the local primary students who educate their peers in after-school clubs.

Life in the Bateyes
Citizenship and human rights for migrant communities
Explore the marginalization of migrant communities surrounding sugarcane plantations, called bateyes, in the Dominican Republic. During this program, you’ll work alongside families on community improvement and homebuilding projects. Gain firsthand knowledge of the social, race, immigration, and economic issues between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Outside of service work, meet with lawyers, community organizers, and representatives at Asociación Scalabriniana al Servicio a la Movilidad Humana, an organization that advocates for documentation and human rights awareness for the bateyes communities.

Public Health in the Caribbean
Public health as a human right
Witness the state of healthcare in the Dominican Republic from the institutional to the local level. Interact with medical professionals during clinic and hospital visits and participate in service projects in the bateyes where communities struggle daily with public health. Through discussions and presentations from experts, you’ll come away with an increased knowledge of public health and what a career in the field may look like.

Innovation in Action: Dominican Republic
Economics, marginalized communities, and sustainability
Participate in workshops that incorporate design thinking, an empathetic process used to find tangible solutions to problems on a local and global level. Interact with business owners to learn about their everyday challenges. Return home with a personal appreciation of Dominican society, the knowledge to drive toward action, and newly developed design-thinking skills to create change.

The Refugee Education Project
Refugee resettlement, access to education, citizenship
Gain insight into the challenges facing refugee children as they transition into life in the United States through our partnership with the Refugee Youth Project in Baltimore, Maryland. This program will foster a deeper understanding of the citizenship process, and provide an inside look at the efforts of the Baltimore Resettlement Center to assist refugee families.

Impact of Climate Change on Marine Environments
Global climate change and aquatic ecosystem conservation
Critically examine the effects of climate change on the vulnerable marine environment in Fiji, the first country in the world to sign the 2016 Paris U.N. climate deal. Analyze the effects of extreme weather, rising waters, warmer water temperatures, impacted animal populations, and deforestation through hands-on environmental monitoring projects in the field and conversations with expert community partners.

Critical Issues Summit
Political change, sustainability, and globalization
Explore one of five global critical issues before participating in a conference featuring issue experts, workshops, and community building. Join teens from more than 20 countries across the globe and delegates from local communities most impacted by the critical issues students will explore. Move towards making real change with a $10,000 design challenge to support innovative solutions to one of the critical issues.


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2016 and has been updated to reflect new programs.

About the Author

Emily Greiff

Website Coordinator

Originally from a small town in Massachusetts, Emily realized her dreams of living in the mountains when she moved to Jackson Hole, Wyoming in the fall of 2014. Prior to that, Emily lived and worked in NYC after graduating from Colgate University with a dual degree in Spanish and Environmental Studies. This is Emily’s first experience working with Rustic Pathways but has done a number of service and travel programs in the past including trips to the Dominican Republic, Spain, and Romania. Emily is passionate about playing in the mountains, yoga, cooking, and art.