Study Guide Overview

Welcome to the UUCSJ Study Guide for Cross-Cultural Engagement. This Study Guide is the learning framework we use in all of our experiential journeys, and it is intended to help you better understand yourself and the people that you will visit during your immersion experience.

Along with this online resource there is generally a book, and sometimes videos and articles, assigned for each of our trip destinations. These are resources we consider essential to understanding the history and culture of the people you will visit, and the justice work of our partners there. This Study Guide will help you integrate what you learn from them as you prepare to travel. The more time you devote to preparation for your program, the more you will gain from the immersion itself!

Along with all that you’ll learn about the people and place you’ll visit, it is crucial for you to think about your own place in relation to the justice struggles you’ll encounter there.

Our central questions are:

  • How can you make sense of your experience as you go?
  • What does it mean to engage in solidarity with the struggles you witness?
  • How will the intersection of your many social identities impact your experience and the experience of the partners you will visit?
  • How can you be a more effective activist for justice when you come back home?

Our Study Guide is designed to help you answer these questions. It helps illuminate the particular lenses we all wear, based on race, class, ability, gender, culture, place and the many other social identities that impact and define our experiences. That understanding opens us up to learning from people whose location in relation to all these things might be very different from our own. It makes us better allies and activists.

How It Works

When you apply to a UU College of Social Justice program, you’ll begin reading one or two books specific to the place you’ll visit and the justice work you’ll do.

This Study Guide is divided into eight units. You will complete the first six units before you depart on your trip. The last two units are designed for completion after you return from your trip. The short readings, videos, writing exercises, and reflections in the Study Guide will deepen your understanding of economic, racial, and gender injustice before you travel. You’ll learn about how these issues play out in the specific place your program will visit, and the ways our partner organizations work for more equality.

During your trip, you’ll find these themes revisited in the real-life context of Nicaragua, Haiti, India, Mexico, or in the United States. Daily practices of group reflection and worship will help you incorporate what you’re learning.

When you return home, the framework of our Study Guide will help you process your experience and investigate ways you can translate all that you’ve learned into justice work in your own community.

As part of your preparation for the journey we invite you to take up a simple spiritual practice to help quiet your mind and prepare you for new learning.

What To Expect

Most people who join our programs are busy people who will fit a service-learning journey into full schedules. So we have structured our Study Guide in units, and each unit should take about two hours to complete.

Behind these units are the core reading materials for each destination, which will require some additional reading time.

Why the Study Guide is Important

The College of Social Justice is committed to working with partners in the US and abroad in a way that acknowledges their expertise and empowers them in their justice work. The United States has an unfortunate history of cultural colonialism and imperialism, often assuming that “the American way” is the best way. In order to counteract this legacy, it is very important that you prepare yourself for your trip both with information about our partners and with self-knowledge. This will allow you to bring a holy curiosity and willingness to be transformed by the experience.

This is not a simple process, and it takes time.  The time you spend preparing with this Study Guide is as important as the time you spend in your immersion trip.  Please give it the time and space it requires to help you prepare.

Magnify The Impact

We want the impact of our UUCSJ programs to spread beyond those who are able to travel with us. You help make this happen when you create a learning circle of people who will make the journey along with you, though they stay at home.

This can be any size group, from a few members of your family to a large study group in your church. These people agree to do the reading and study along with you. If they’re part of your faith community, they can remember you in worship services while you’re traveling. When you return, they will be your conversation partners as you figure out new channels for your justice work together.


Each of our programs engages with large areas of inequality and injustice that do not have quick or easy solutions. They invite us out of our comfort zones and provoke new levels of uncertainty, as well as new insight and commitment.

You might find yourself with more questions than answers — and that’s okay!

Our hope is that the UUCSJ Study Guide will give you the framework to reflect more deeply about these questions: before, during, and after your program. We want you to gain new insight about some of the root causes of injustice, and to be sustained in your own longing to respond as a global citizen and as a person of faith.

Get Started

1. Begin reading the books that are listed under Resources for your particular trip:


US/Mexico Border


El Salvador


West Virginia

2. Invite some friends to be in your Learning Circle; they will study the books and other materials with you.

3. Adopt a simple spiritual practice of meditation or prayer to help center yourself.

4. When you come home, keep using the UUCSJ materials and experience to find new ways to work for justice.


Please note that there are external links to videos, articles, and other resources that you will need internet access for.

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