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Alternative Break Programs

Alternative Break at American University

PARTICIPANT APPLICATION PORTAL  

The Alternative Break Program is a student-focused initiative that organizes international and domestic immersive learning opportunities with a social justice perspective three times per year (winter, spring, and summer break). Alternative Break Programs 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 trip focuses on a particular social issue and immersion, action, and training in that issue begins long before the trip itself. Students educate themselves and each other, then do hands-on work with relevant organizations. 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.

Alternative Break Programs are not just trips to interesting places to connect with communities, but are long term immersive training programs that develop student leadership and activism. Each program includes 8 weeks of pre-departure training, discussion, and preparation. These experiences challenge students to think critically and compassionately—and to understand that there’s no such thing as “not my problem.” Upon return, participants are empowered to make more informed decisions and to take meaningful action that supports a greater good. All programs and students upon return work with their group to implement a service, advocacy, or activism project to share their learnings with our broader community. Through alternative breaks, we hope to foster the personal growth of contributing members of society. 

Want to hear more? Fill out the Alt Break Interest Form below to be added to the Alternative Break e-mail list for periodic program updates and events!

ALT BREAK INTEREST FORM   

Alternative Breaks & Covid-19 

As a result of the pandemic, we will not be conducting programs during the winter break following Fall 2020. During these times of uncertainty, the AU Alternative Break Program will re-emphasize that our work and mission is to engage students on critical social justice issues through our immersive student-led experiences. This mission continues at American University, despite pandemic-related uncertainties regarding travel in the months to come. Because of those uncertainties each program highlighted below is developing both a local and remote version of these experiences. This learning and engagement will continue online as we prepare for the upcoming Spring and Summer. Our student leaders have been working since Spring 2020 preparing the programs highlighted below, and we are excited to begin this year and welcome student participants. The Alternative Break Program will continue to work with our colleagues across the university and follow all American University guidance and planning resources.

Application Deadlines

Spring 21 Application Deadline Extended!

Apply by November 20, 2020

Questions? Email ALTBREAK@american.edu for more info

PARTICIPANT APPLICATION PORTAL

EVENTS

Check out our offerings for upcoming Info Sessions, topical teach-in sessions, and other ways to connect!

Alternative Break Events

Spring 2020-2021 Programs

Sovereignty as a Verb

NAVAJO NATION

Examine legal institutions and conservation in the Navajo Nation. Explore the importance of sovereignty and self-determination among Indigenous communities across the United States. 

Navajo Nation Info

Peacebuilding After Conflict

BOSNIA

Explore the systemic factors and reconciliation efforts regarding the Bosnian Conflict and Genocide 1992-1996. Become life-long peacebuilders and active community members in their respective communities upon our return.

BOSNIA Info

Structural Food Inequality

MEMPHIS

Explore how food insecurity effects marginalized communities. Examine how and ability to access nutritious food in the United States is directly linked to privilege, wealth, and systemic racism.

MEMPHIS Info

Genocide Recognition

ARMENIA

Learn about genocide recognition and the roles that grassroots movements, international institutions, and states all play in the fight for justice against genocide.

ARMENIA Info

School-to-Prison Pipeline: A Public Health Crisis

CHICAGO

Examine and understand how the social determinants of health and adverse childhood experiences (ACES) play a role in determining a child’s educational outcome, and how we can best support schools through advocacy and policy.

CHICAGO Info

Separate and Unequal: Health Inequities

DETROIT

Examine the various barriers that limit individuals and their community’s ability to be healthy. We will focus on health inequity and the path to health equity in Detroit, Michigan.

DETROIT Info

Dialogue, LGBTQ Identity, and Collective Memory

SPAIN

This program will engage students in dialogue at the intersection of LGBTQ identity and collective memory in a post-conflict context. Students will return to Washington D.C as advocates of dialogue which fosters LGBTQ community and rights.

SPAIN Info

Access to Education, Gender, & Race

HONDURAS

Explore how Honduran communities work to empower their youth through education and programs promoting ecological and social awareness. Return to enrich DC communities to improve social inclusivity and empower youth.

Honduras Info

Summer 2020-2021 Programs

Justice, Transformative Change, & Social Movements

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA

Consider your role in social movements by engaging with change-makers in South Africa

South Africa Info

Community Adaptation of Climate Change

PARISMINA, COSTA RICA

Experience conservation efforts and how coastal communities are adapting to climate change in the 21st century. 

Costa Rica Info