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Service Odyssey

Students participate in Service OdysseyService Odyssey is a student-led, immersive community service experience. Participants engage in a variety of service opportunities throughout the Davidson and the greater Charlotte area and learn about the range of social issues that impact these communities. In addition to participation in meaningful service, you will enjoy opportunities to critically reflect on your service work, explore local cultural attractions, and develop lasting relationships with your peers.

In order to remain fully immersed in the community you serve, you will live together with other Odyssey participants at a local church. All participants have safe and secure, but simple, living accommodations. 

The cost of Service Odyssey is $200 per student participant. The cost is $150 for international and STRIDE students participating in Session III. Financial aid is available to all students who qualify for aid at Davidson. Additionally, a travel stipend is available for Sessions I and II. 

Service Odyssey 2018 Dates

  • Session I: Sunday, July 8 - Saturday, July 14
  • Session II: Sunday, July 22 - Saturday, July 28
  • Session III: Wednesday, Aug. 8 - Wednesday, Aug. 15
  • Session III International / STRIDE: Wednesday Aug. 8 - Sunday, Aug. 12 (Available only to students participating in STRIDE or International Orientation)
  • Session III Humanities Program sapere aude: Sunday, Aug. 12 - Wednesday, August 15 (Available only to students participating in the Humanities Program sapere aude pre-orientation)


Service Odyssey participantsThe Service Odyssey is open to all incoming first-year students at Davidson College, including transfers. Register now for the 2018 program.

There is no cost to participate in Session III Humanities Program sapere aude Odyssey. Enrollment in the Humanities course holds your place in this session. A form will be emailed in late July to students enrolled in the course.

Sample Itinerary for the 7-Day program

(Note: The schedule and activities will change depending on the session. This is an itinerary from a previous Service Odyssey program.)

  • Day 1:  Check-in and lunch, group bonding, Davidson Challenge Course, and reflection
  • Day 2:  Morning of service preparing and serving lunch at a soup kitchen, afternoon of service sorting and distributing donations at a local food bank, picnic dinner with Davidson alumni, and group reflection
  • Day 3:  Morning of outdoor service with a local environmental agency, afternoon of service reading to local youth, ice cream party with current students and tour of campus, and group reflection
  • Day 4:  Morning of service providing animal rehabilitation services, afternoon spent working on a local farm, outing to an interactive history museum, and group reflection   
  • Day 5:  Morning of service assisting with beautification project at a women's empowerment organization, group hike at a local national park, dinner with local family, and group reflection
  • Day 6:  Morning of service with a home rehabilitation organization, dinner hosted by a Davidson faculty or staff member, and group reflection
  • Day 7: Debrief and farewell        

Frequently Asked Questions

What do past participants have to say about their Service Odyssey experience?
The following are a few quotes from 2016 Service Odyssey participants:

"Service Odyssey has been one of the best experiences I've had at Davidson! The week helped me get to know the Davidson community and open my eyes to the many different ways I could serve in the area. The program also allowed me to build great friendships with other incoming students - I would recommend Service Odyssey to anyone and everyone!"

"I am most thankful for the lasting friendships I made during my Service Odyssey experience. These friends were there for me during the first weeks of school, and are still there for me to this day."

"Being a part of Service Odyssey was one of the greatest summer experiences I've ever had. Through Service Odyssey I met some great new friends, but more importantly, I learned how impactful service is to Davidson College and its students...It was a summer I'll never forget, and I wouldn't have wanted to spent it any other way."

"I would recommend Service Odyssey to anyone who wants to meet a group of incredibly kind and caring individuals while helping better their new community. I never expected I would build such strong relationships with others through preparing and serving food at a local soup kitchen, playing kickball with youth, and installing a new roof on a home. But that's the power of bringing together a number of excited people with a desire to serve their community. That's the true essence of Service Odyssey."

Will I be asked to do anything with which I am not comfortable?
Part of the value of the Service Odyssey hinges on the presence of reasonable risks: The emotional risks of meeting new challenges and making new friends, and the physical risks involved in some service work. These risks cannot be completely eliminated, but they can be minimized by your active involvement in monitoring your safety and the safety of the group. Your service site managers and trip leaders will give you appropriate training and instruction in each activity. Your role, if you choose to participate, is to utilize the training correctly and to follow instructions carefully. We intend to have a fun, safe, meaningful week, and your help is necessary to make this possible.
Is financial aid available?
Financial aid is available to all students who have already qualified for aid from Davidson. Awards will be based on the level of need as assessed by the Office of Financial Aid and will be distributed by the Service Odyssey Program at the time of your confirmation. You will be notified of the total amount of your award in a confirmation email.
When should I plan to arrive and depart from campus?
Make plans to arrive to the Davidson/Charlotte area the evening prior to the start of your session, or the morning of your session. Check-in begins at 11 a.m. and formal activities begin at 1 p.m. Lunch will be provided for participants during check-in. Your program will end at noon on the last day of your session. If someone is picking you up from campus, arrange to meet him or her at noon. If you are using another mode of transportation (airplane/train/bus), please book departure after 1 p.m., if possible.
What should I do if I have questions about my travel plans?
Before you make your final reservations, please contact Taylor Brendle with any questions about your travel at or 704-894-2175.
If I arrive by plane, train, or bus, how will I get to campus?
We provide a free shuttle from the Charlotte Douglas Airport (CLT), train station, or bus station. Be sure to indicate your anticipated travel plans on the registration form. We schedule shuttles to pick up multiple students in one trip, so bring a book or game as you could spend an hour or more at the terminal. A week before your session starts, a staff member of the Service Odyssey Program will be in touch with you regarding your pick-up time. If you are arriving by plane, please wait by the information desk on the baggage claim level of the airport. If you are arriving by bus or train, wait for us in the main lobby of the station. If you find that your plane/bus /train is delayed, you will be given a contact number the week before your session, please call and share the details of your situation.
If I drive, where should I park?
If you will be leaving a vehicle on campus for the duration of Service Odyssey, please park it in the Baker Sports Complex parking lot. Please share the car make and model and license tag information with a Service Odyssey Program staff member.
What if my family needs to reach me?
Family members should call the Center for Civic Engagement at 704-894-2420 during the day and we will provide you with an evening number upon confirmation of your participation in the program.
If I participate in the third session, can I move in early?
Residence halls will not open until the Wednesday evening you return to campus. You are able to store items in the Campus Warehouse while on Service Odyssey, but you will not have access to your room during your session. Call the Residence Life Office at 704-894-2188 for answers to residence hall questions.
What if I need to cancel?
If you cancel three weeks prior to the start of your session you will receive a full refund. We will issue a 50 percent refund for cancellations made fewer than three weeks prior to the start of your session, and no refunds are given for cancellations made less than one week prior to the start of your session.