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Alt Break FAQs

Alternative Breaks are service-learning experiences designed to heighten participants’ awareness of critical social issues, enhance their individual growth, and prepare them for lifelong social action. Each student-initiated trip integrates service, reflection and education and focuses on topics as varied as poverty, indigenous rights, structural racism, human rights, fair trade, gender equality, and the environment.

After attending information sessions and/or meeting with the leaders and reading about the current programs on the website, you may apply online via EngageNet by first creating an interest profile. Once the interest profile is completed, you may apply for any of the CCES programs, including Alternative Break programs.

Currently enrolled American University students, both undergraduate and graduate part-time and full time degree seeking students (including Washington School of Law).

Yes, you can register for SIS 386: Topics in Global Social Justice. Also, you can work with your program leaders and/or professors for independent study credit. Students who are above the 17 credit maximum will be responsible for paying for the additional credit hour. Your academic advisor is the best resource to explore where this may fit into your program.

No. All Alternative Break Programs are scheduled to depart and return so that students do not miss class or exams. It is the policy of the program that students may not miss class for an Alternative Break Program. 

Cost depends on the distance and length of time of the direct engagement component of the program. Domestic programs may range from $350 - $1,250, Latin America $1400 - $2200, Asia and Africa $3000 - $4,000. Program prices include group airfare, food, lodging, and all activities. Not included are visa and immunization costs. Program leaders' costs are fully subsidized. 

For undergraduates pursuing academic credit in conjunction with an Alternative Break program, they will incur an additional cost for tuition if they are over the maximum 17 credits per semester. Graduate credits registering credits would pay the same per credit rate as any of their other courses. 

Limited Travel Grants are available through the Center for Community Engagement and Service. Travel grant applications are processed at the same time as particpant applications, and can be found on the EngageNet system. Travel grant applications are need-based and tied to the financial aid process. Grants currently range from $100 - $700 per participant. 

Additionally, all groups are encouraged to fundraise to offset the cost of the programs. If you choose to do the credit option for the program, you may be able to apply your financial aid award to pay for the trip. Check with Student Accounts and Financial Aid offices to discuss this possibility. 

Each program ranges between 10 - 15 participants. Every program is lead by 2 student co-leaders and one staff or faculty advisor that travels with the program.  

Yes. Any enrolled AU student may participate in our Alternative Break programs. 

International students are very welcome to join an Alternative Break program! Talk to International Student and Scholar Services about travel requirements such as visa regulations. The specific visa requirements will depend on the student's citizenship and the program destionation. The Alternative Break Program staff are available to discuss these concerns with any international student. 

Alternative Breaks are queer friendly and often work together with the LGBTQ office to plan queer social justice themes for programs, such as queer youth homelessness in San Francisco. Please read the articles from GLBT Peace Corps Alumni for discussions of issues to be aware of in international travel. Also please visit AU's LGBTQ Resources Page in the Center for Diversity and Inclusion. 

Student leaders work with the Center for Community Engagement and Service to create a safe, educational and service-oriented itinerary and curriculum for the direct engagement component of the program. All travel, domestic and international, comes with a level of risk that students should be aware of. Students should research their destination and take all safety precautions necessary. See safety and health for resources

Alternative Breaks programs require a full year commitment from their participants. Orientation activities take place in the semester prior to direct engagement (when the trip takes place) and involve weekly trainings on the social justice issue, service-learning, and cross-cultural communication.

The direct engagement component of Alternative Breaks take place over winter, spring, or summer breaks and last up to 3 weeks. Finally, participants spend the semester after direct engagement working on activism projects and reorientation activities.

No, only enrolled students may participate in an Alternative Break. Alumni are currently not eligible. Students must be returning to campus after the Alternative Break program in order to complete their advocacy and/or reoirentation projects with the Alternative Break Programs. 

If a student is in their last year of school, for example, they may participate in a Winter or Spring program, but not a summer program. 

The Alternative Break program makes every effort to ensure that students with disabilities can participate successfully in Alternative Break programs. Please be aware that we cannot guarantee that facilities or support services will be available at each location abroad in the same range and quality as on the AU campus. We encourage students with disabilities to meet with staff in the Academic Support and Access Center to discuss accommodation needs and identify appropriate sites overseas. 

Alternative Breaks were founded as an alternative to the typical spring break experience. We believe the use of alcohol takes away from our goal of being fully present and engaged in our program activities. Alcohol use may adversely affect group dynamics, participant safety, the local host community, the university, and the national alternative break student movement. 

As members of the alternative breaks organization, Break Away, we adhere to the specific quality components prescribed that build a strong and meaingful community engagement experience for our students and partners. Our policy of encouraging "Full Engagement" includes being Alcohol and Drug Free. Each leader and participant sign a contract agreeing to this component and pledges to abstain from alcohol and drugs for the duration of the Alternative Break program.