What is Alternative Breaks (AB)?
Alternative Breaks at UCLA is a program within the Community Service Commission which sends small groups of UCLA undergraduate students to outside communities within the United States to engage in meaningful service during their academic year breaks. Students perform short-term projects for community agencies and learn about issues facing those communities. Being immersed in diverse environments enables participants to experience, discuss, and understand social issues in a significant way. As a result, individuals grow as leaders while learning about social justice issues during their immersive service experience.
Alternative Breaks is a great opportunity for students who are passionate about social justice looking to spend their holiday break on a productive and interactive service learning experience.
What does a typical day in an AB trip look like?
Each site has a different timeline for the week. Participants will be working with the local community organizations to learn, advocate, and/or alleviate a plethora of social justice issues such as poverty, homelessness, LGBTQ+ advocacy, immigration, and conservation. Near the end of the day, participants reflect on their experience as a group and individually. Furthermore, participants will have the opportunity to explore their respective cities.
What will I gain from an Alternative Break trip?
Opportunity to reflect and think critically about pressing issues
Exposure to a new location and community
A new group of friends all interested in service and creating a better world
An incredible winter or spring break
How many people are selected to go on each trip?
Each trip consists of a range from 10-12 people: 2-3 site leaders and 7-10 participants.
When do the trips take place?
Trips are held during winter and spring break. Depending on which site you go on you may be leaving and returning earlier or later, usually just by a day. Sites will only begin AFTER finals week each time. Applicants need to be with their group at all times because we want to make sure they not only learn from each other on the trip but also create new experiences together. Approximate dates are as follows:
Winter Break Trips: Due to COVID-19, we will not be hosting any winter site this year
Spring Break Trips: Saturday, March 21st, 2021 - Saturday, March 28th, 2021
Applicants who fail to be available on the listed dates respective to their site choice will not be considered. Please make sure you are free throughout the ENTIRE timeframe.
How much does a trip cost?
Depending on the trip (especially with distance and economic climate), trips start as low as $70 and can go up to $300 depending on which site you participate on. The cost includes housing, transportation (flights/cars), food, volunteer fees, and honorariums. However, meals eaten at restaurants is not covered in the cost. To alleviate the expense, there will be scholarship opportunities available to AB participants that will reduce the total cost. AB and the respective sites will also hold fundraisers.
How safe will I be?
As with any travel, there are dangers but steps has been taken to minimize all risk because safety is the top priority for all Alternative Breaks trips. Each trip’s routes and sites are screened carefully to ensure the safety of all participants. During the trips, participants will be participating in AB-led activities from night to day so participants will never stray from the group.
What mode of transportation will be used?
All AB participants will travel with their groups to their respective trip location. For in state trips, participants will be using CSC vans as their mode of transportation. For out of states, participants traveling to their respective location via plane and may use public transportation or rental cars. Throughout the various AB trips, participants should prepare to walk, use various modes of public transportation, or be driven.
What are the living, eating, and sleeping arrangement like?
The trip expense will pay for everything besides personal expenses and meals eaten at restaurants. Participants will be sleeping on bunks, cots, or in sleeping bags throughout the trip. Most meals will be home-cooked by participants but there will be opportunities to try local restaurants. Strict dietary preferences will be accommodated for if specified.
What are AB policies on Alcohol and/or Drugs?
There is zero tolerance for use of alcohol and drugs during the Alternative Breaks experience. Alcohol and drugs affect group dynamics, participant safety, the local community, and the university. Any instance of a participant possessing or consuming drugs or alcohol during the trip will result in the participant being sent home and charged the full price of transportation with no chance of refund.
How do I join AB? Do I need to attend an info session to apply?
Please refer to our Join AB page for more information on how to join. Attendance for our information session is not mandatory. However, we highly encourage you attending one of them since you will get to know our sites better in order to have a better sense of how you would want to rank our sites on your application.
Can I apply...
1. ... if I am a fourth year?
2. ... if I am a graduate student?
- Unfortunately, due to funding and liability concerns, our trips are for undergraduates only.
3. ... if I have gone on an AB trip before?
Yes! Be prepared to explain why you feel an additional AB trip would be beneficial as well.
4. ... if I am studying abroad or completing academic coursework outside the UCLA campus?
For Winter Break applicants, you can apply if you are away in the Spring.
For Spring Break applicants, you can apply if you are away in the Fall.
We will conduct your interview over video call.
5. ... to more than one site?
On the application form, you can rank up to three sites you are interested in applying to.
What qualifications are you looking for within a participant?
The only requirement for Alternative Breaks is that participants make it to all AB events in order to prepare for their service trips. Alternative Breaks is a wonderful opportunity for those who are interested in a public service career, policy, grassroots organizations, or community service. That does not mean that you have to have an interest in those specific areas to apply for Alternative Breaks. At the core, Alternative Break coordinators are looking for bright individuals who are passionate about social justice and embrace the core of AB, including learning, community service, simplicity, and active citizenship.
How are applicants selected?
Participants are selected based on their application. Once your application is submitted, your application is given a number in place of your name in order to eliminate bias and base our selection solely on your content. Applications are reviewed based on the quality of responses and the commitment the applicant expresses towards the AB experience. No previous service experience or involvement level is required. After the reading of applications, the staff will decide if you are selected for an interview. We ensure that board members and site leaders do not interview potential participants they already know.
After interviews, the AB team deliberates and decides who would be most suitable for each trip. Participants are placed in trips depending on their preferences and our desire to create a well-rounded team from many different backgrounds, experience levels and perspectives. This means that while participants may not get their top choice trip, that is not due to any inadequacy on the part of the participant or their application.
Am I guaranteed a spot on in an AB experience?
Unfortunately, applicants are NOT guaranteed a spot on a trip. Due to logistical and financial limitations, we are unable to accept every applicant for an AB experience.
Do you have a waitlist? If so, how does it work?
Applicants not initially selected for an AB trip may get placed on a waitlist for a specific site. If a selected participant will no longer be attending their AB trip, a waitlisted applicant will be contacted.
Can I go on more than one trip a year?
We want to allow as many different students as possible to participate in an AB experience. Hence, students are limited to one AB experience per school year.
Can I switch trips/Are there any open spaces?
Due to the number of applications we received, we currently fill all spaces on all Alternative Break trips. There are many students who apply who, unfortunately, we are not even able to place on any experience. If you would like to be switched to a different team to attend with someone you know, we assure you that the AB community is a welcoming one - you will meet so many new people and you and your friend will be able to share your different experiences with each other!
If you would like to switch trips due to the location, we ensure you that all AB experiences will provide equally rich experiences and the focus of the AB program is not solely the geographic location but rather the community you will interact with and the social issue you will explore. Therefore, when spots become available, we first offer the open spots to students who have not yet been placed on any experience. If you choose to drop the experience you have been selected for, it is not likely that you will be able to participate in another AB experience.
Why did I not get selected?/Why did I not get my top trip choice?
We wish that we had enough spaces to allow all interested students the opportunity to participate in any Alternative Break experience; however, due to transportation, housing, and community partner capacity, each trip is limited in the number of students we can take. Applications are reviewed based on a number of factors. Reviewers are looking for well thought out and completed applications. Participants are assigned to trips based on reviewers’ application ranking and the participants’ listed preferences. We work extremely hard to place participants as adequately as possible based on the information they provide on their applications. We have had participants who did not get their top trip choice but nonetheless enjoyed their experience tremendously!
What is the time commitment?
Details on the time commitment can be found on the Alternative Breaks application. All accepted participants must attend all AB meetings, the details of which are released via email and text. Additionally, there are site-specific meetings (in the fall quarter for winter sites and in the winter quarter for spring sites) that you are required to attend to learn more about the issues focused on the trip and to meet fellow participants. The timing of site-specific meetings will be arranged by your site leaders depending on you and your fellow participants' schedules.
The Alternative Break experience is more than a one week trip. You committed to the extended AB experience when you initialed your application and signed the Participant Agreement. Pre and post-trip activities are what make the AB experience so significant and are necessary for you to be prepared for your trip. Participants are required to attend all pre/post trip activities and may be asked to drop from the team roster if they are not fully engaged. If you have work or a class that you cannot work around for scheduled AB events/meetings, be sure you follow up with your site leaders about any key information.
Are payments broken up? Are payment plans available?
Payments will be due in increments so there is no need to pay all at once. Payments are broken up into two amounts: the deposit and the rest of the cost of the trip. If you have trouble covering the cost of the trip, you can contact your site leaders. Payments can be made via Venmo or cash.
I am a self-supporting student / have to work one or more jobs to help pay for college. I am concerned about the expense of an AB trip. Is there anything I can do?
We provide scholarships to reduce the monetary cost of going on these trips. Scholarships will not cover the cost of the entire trip but can substantially reduce the amount you would have to pay. In your application, you will be able to indicate if you would like a scholarship to subsidize the cost of your trip, and explain the importance of the scholarship to you. Individual sites and AB as a whole will also hold fundraisers to further lower the costs for each participant. If you have further concerns about this, feel free to speak to any of our board members or site leaders - we do not want to let money deter you from participating in AB.
I'm interested in AB, service and travel, but I'm apprehensive about spending a week with a group of (relative) strangers. Is AB still for me?
If your worries are about having to spend your break with a new group of people, we encourage you to take the plunge and apply! AB is a welcoming community, with staff and participants coming from many different backgrounds. Whether you're a freshman, a senior, a transfer, a commuter or from any other background, there is a place for you. Why is this so?
We have all-AB meetings pre and post trip so that participants get to know one another and participate in bonding activities.
Diversity and inclusion are key parts of our organization and the recruitment process. We believe AB provides a more enriching experience to participants because of the variety of perspectives offered.
Site leaders and board undergo group facilitation training, ensuring they are responsive to various needs.
Even if you're an introvert or a quieter personality, AB understands the importance of having time and space to recharge each day. We do not pressure others into sharing at every reflection opportunity or being continuously energetic. What's more important is open-mindedness and a commitment to AB's key facets of education, reflection and service.
And by the end of the trip, the people you might have initially thought were strangers will be your friends :)
I'm a non-traditional student. Is AB still for me?
Yes, absolutely! We believe non-traditional students - including but not limited to commuter, veteran and parenting students - have much to offer AB. You can contribute a perspective that has been substantially broadened or enhanced by your life experiences, and in turn expand the worldviews of others. AB will also be a fantastic addition to your undergraduate experience - past participants from non-traditional backgrounds have greatly enjoyed themselves. Please contact us if you would like to be put in touch with a non-traditional student who can share their experience.
What effects do these trips have?
In addition to making new friends, participants in past trips have come back and joined new organizations on campus that focus on what they are passionate about. They have also brought back new ideas to UCLA. Some have joined nonprofit organizations in LA, or discovered new career paths and interests as a result of the topics explored in their AB trips. Others like ourselves, return for even a second and third year as returning volunteers, site leaders, or committee members.