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About The Program

The Rutgers University Alternative Winter Break and Spring Break programs provide groups of Rutgers University undergraduate students with a semester-long experience centered on community service. Participants learn about a particular community issue within the United States during five weeks of pre-trip meetings and a volunteer break excursion.

On site, students provide necessary services and explore the culture and the history of the area. Students who participate in this program cultivate social responsibility, leadership, and life-long learning; thereby fostering a generation of leaders committed to positive social change. This program is sponsored by Leadership & Experiential Learning, Rutgers University Alternative Breaks, and Rutgers Student Affairs.

Rutgers University Alternative Breaks aims to provide Rutgers University students with an opportunity to:

  • Learn about and critically examine interlinking issues that affect the lives of the residents of the city/area they are completing service in and surrounding communities.
  • Work with the different community partners and organizations to complete service.
  • Listen to and understand community needs, recognize community strengths, and work with the community in reciprocal community relationships.
  • Continue a commitment to community service and social change while building new friendships and alliances.

Application Process

We have begun recruiting for our 2017-2018 Alternative Break trips! You can submit your applications through the following link: RUAB Applications (2017-2018).

  • Alternative Winter Break Trips: Applications due by 11:59PM on October 8, 2017
  • Alternative Spring & Summer Break Trips: Applications due by 11:59PM on November 13, 2017

RUAB will be holding Information Sessions throughout the Fall semester for those interested in learning more about what the Alternative Breaks experience entails. Below are the dates, times, and locations of the upcoming sessions so drop on by to meet our team!

  • Wednesday, September 6th | 8PM – 9PM | Room 109, CASC
  • Thursday, September 14th | 6PM – 7PM | Room 202BC, LSC
  • Monday, September 18th | 8PM – 9PM | Red Lion Cafe, CASC
  • Thursday, September 28th | 6PM – 7PM | Coffeehouse, LSC
  • Wednesday, October 4th | 8PM – 9PM | Douglass Lounge, DSC
  • Tuesday, October 10th | 9PM – 10PM | Gathering Lounge, LSC
  • Wednesday, October 25th | 6PM – 7PM | Douglass Lounge, DSC
  • Thursday, November 2nd | 8PM – 9PM | Coffeehouse, LSC
  • Monday, November 13th | 7PM – 8PM | The Cove, BSC

Trips Offered

Below is a list by season of the available trips (2017-2018) offered with the Rutgers University Alternative Breaks program.

Winter

Next Generation: Scarlet Knights Take on a Journey to Juvenile Justice

Next Generation: Scarlet Knights Take on a Journey to Juvenile Justice
January 2-8, 2018
Juvenile rehabilitation, justice reform

With Journey to Juvenile Justice, Rutgers students will have the opportunity to directly learn from others outside of their usual circles. Our trip will focus more on juvenile justice and rehabilitation and changing common stereotypes associated with this population. Most will view these adolescents as “bad kids” or “criminals in the process,” but with this service trip, we can brainstorm ways to break the cycle by getting one on one experience to rid society of the preconceived notions and stereotypes based around them. If they see that society does not judge them, it can affect an individual and change his/her mindset about who one is.

Native American Issues: The Right for Recognition and Respect

Native American Issues: The Right for Recognition and Respect
January 3-9, 2018
Native American civil rights, youth development

Learn about the rich culture of the Lakota people, a Native American Tribe, through first-hand experience by living within the heart of the reservation. Working with both children and elderly of the community, volunteers have a once in a lifetime chance to introduce themselves to a new and novel lifestyle. Rutgers is home to many different ethnicities; the first step towards building our community at home is by understanding traditions from far away.

Have A Little Faith

Have A Little Faith
January 3-9, 2018
Interfaith understanding, hunger and homelessness

On our alternative break, participants will have to opportunity to eat traditional meals with people of different faiths and directly experience various religions, including Buddhist, Muslim, Baha’i, Sikh, and Jewish services. Through these experiences, we hope to foster a sense of empathy for those who hold different beliefs than ourselves and combat harmful stereotypes. And because giving back to the community is truly the thread that ties all religions together, we will be doing service work to combat hunger and homelessness, working at urban farms, soup kitchens, food banks, and more. In a turbulent social era that is plagued by misinformation and fake news, terrorism and fear mongering, and cultural and social divisions, we believe the best way to create a more tolerant community is through education and love.

Livestock Love: Providing Care for Abandoned Livestock

Livestock Love: Providing Care for Abandoned Livestock
January 3-9, 2018
Animal Welfare, sustainable farming

Our alternative break will focus on issues of animal welfare and sustainability. We will be working on a livestock sanctuary farm that provides a home for abandoned livestock. Our main jobs will be to care for and socialize the animals, build shelters and coops, and help maintain the sanctuary’s sustainable farm

Knights in the City: A Lesson in Unity and Crisis Control

Knights in the City: A Lesson in Unity and Crisis Control
January 7-13, 2018
HIV/AIDS care, LGBTQIA community support

We will be going to a large city area to collaborate with a community partner to provide aid to undeserved communities that have united through their socioeconomic struggles. Through our work, we hope that participants are able to understand that different communities share common goals and thus deserve the proper dignity and respect.

Learn to Beat the Odds

Learn to Beat the Odds
January 7-13, 2018
Youth development, education reform

We will be exploring youth development and education at an inner city educational foundation that works to cultivate the potential for success in at-risk youth. We will be working hands on with the foundation by assisting with various academic, athletic, and professional programs that are structured to inspire and encourage these young minds to achieve a bigger and brighter future.

Breaking Beyond Borders: Exploring Migrant Justice and Immigration

Breaking Beyond Borders: Exploring Migrant Justice and Immigration
January 7-13, 2018
Immigration reform, service learning

Explore the difficulties of migration and immigration policies through experiential learning. Engage in interactive experiences that will further our understanding of the migration process and life after. In collaborative efforts with organizations, work to create a new perspective for migrant justice and inspire social transformation.

Neighbors Helping Neighbors: Being with the Community to Ensure Education and Resources for All

Neighbors Helping Neighbors: Being with the Community to Ensure Education and Resources for All
January 7-13, 2018
Youth development, poverty

Immerse yourself in a new community and learn about its economic, social, and political environment. Interact with the community in after-school programs with students, hunger relief projects, and other initiatives to build resources and economic sustainability.

Freedom, Service, & Civil Rights

Freedom, Service, & Civil Rights
January 7-13, 2018
Racism, civil rights

With all the diversity that’s around the Rutgers campus, we have an issue with division and lack of inclusivity because of the absence of knowledge on how some language, actions, and laws, of the present, originates from oppression. When students come on this trip, they will be immersed in a hands-on learning and serving experience, in a setting famous for its role in the Civil Rights Movement. Through the service, students will explore issues of racial and economic inequality on a structural and institutional level. What they will bring back from this trip is knowledge of the past racial effects on certain communities and tools on ways to bridge the gap because of those issues to form a more inclusive community on campus.

Honors Health Caring: Fostering Health and Hope in the French Quarter (Honors College only)

Honors Health Caring: Fostering Health and Hope in the French Quarter (Honors College only)
January 7-13, 2018
HIV/AIDs, healthcare

Join us on a trip focusing on healthcare, on the programs currently in place helping those who are HIV+ or suffering from AIDS. During our week long stay, we will be working with an organization that provides volunteer services not covered by Medicaid, Medicare or any other insurance, meaning that the work we do is not only incredibly significant but also in high demand. Through a combination of direct and indirect service, participants will be able to challenge their own preconceptions regarding HIV/AIDS and learn crucial facts about serving this community which they can bring back to New Brunswick to create further change. The importance of our service combined with the prevalence of this issue makes this trip valuable in many ways, and we hope to see some of your faces joining us on it!

Growing Green: Urban Farming in a Food Desert (Honors College only)

Growing Green: Urban Farming in a Food Desert (Honors College only)
January 7-13, 2018
Food insecurity, agriculture and farming

The FDA defines a food desert as “an urban area in which it is difficult to buy affordable or good-quality fresh food.” This service trip will focus on how living in a food desert is connected with health, poverty, and food insecurity issues. We will also learn about urban agriculture as one solution to the food desert dilemma while serving the community at local farms, greenhouse gardens, soup kitchens, and more.

Spring

RU Serving at the Peak!

RU Serving at the Peak!
March 11-17, 2018
Environmental conservation

R U passionate about environmental conservation? Join us for a week of meaningful work. We will be focusing on the importance of waterways and maintaining a healthy ecological environment.

A Scarlet Pursuit of Happiness: Giving Back to a Community

A Scarlet Pursuit of Happiness: Giving Back to a Community
March 11-17, 2018
Community development, poverty, homelessness

We will be working with a religious organization that houses local residents who suffer from poverty or homelessness. There, we will be partaking in numerous activities involving cooking, cleaning, light construction work, and most importantly interacting with the residents there.

Liberty and Justice for All? Working to Support the Formerly Incarcerated

Liberty and Justice for All? Working to Support the Formerly Incarcerated
March 11-17, 2018
Prison reform, women’s rights

The United States is home to 5% of the world’s population but 25% of the world’s prison population. Through an immersive community service experience, our trip aims to tackle issues surrounding the criminal justice system. With the help of our community partner, we hope to educate participants on the difficulties faced by individuals who have gone through the prison system.

Tackling Hunger & Homelessness in Our Nation's Capital (First-Year Students Only)

Tackling Hunger & Homelessness in Our Nation’s Capital (First-Year Students Only)
March 11-17, 2018
Hunger and homelessness, power and privilege

The cause and effect relationship of poverty and food insecurity with hunger and homelessness is unavoidable. This 45-person, first-year student exclusive trip focuses on empowering students with the leadership skills and social understanding to create positive changes around this pervasive issue. Through intentional activities centered on power and privilege, and service ventures, we imbue participants with the tools necessary to leave a lasting impact within the D.C. and Rutgers communities.

Coping with Battle Wounds: Farming with Veterans

Coping with Battle Wounds: Farming with Veterans (Greek Life-affiliated students only)
March 11-17, 2018
Veterans’ support, rehabilitation and recovery

As individuals return from active duty and service, both domestically and abroad, they encounter a host of mental health issues in their adjustment back to civilian life. We will be working with a veteran-owned farm that provides rehabilitation to veterans struggling with drug addiction and in recovery. Our host provides animal therapy, counseling, and hands-on work to serve as therapeutic means to their residents. We hope to bring back a greater understanding of treating mental health and addiction issues as these brave individuals look to cope with their new realities.

Serving at Home: Making a Difference in R Communities

Serving at Home: Making a Difference in R Communities (Honors College-students only)
March 11-17, 2018
Food insecurity, community development, homelessness

How familiar are you with the issues that face our neighbors in New Brunswick and Piscataway? As a Rutgers student, would you consider yourself guests or residents of these communities? Learn more about the challenges that face us on an every day basis and expand your understanding and knowledge of the areas that Rutgers calls home.

Summer

Breaking Down Walls: The Trouble Stops Here

Breaking Down Walls: The Trouble Stops Here
May 16-22, 2018
Homelessness, interfaith conflict resolution

Our trip will be focusing on conflict resolution and exploring how heated religious schism’s have been repaired through an international lens. We will work with youth centers and religious institutions to serve a community with a long history of gang violence amongst their teens. Lastly we will be exposed to how this country has pioneered better treatment of those currently homeless.

Frequently Asked Questions

The following is a list of commonly asked questions regarding Rutgers University Alternative Break trips. We’ve done our best to list the most common questions, but if you have a question we haven’t answered below, please feel free to email us at lead@echo.rutgers.edu.

What is the commitment to be a part of Alternative Breaks?

Q: What is the commitment to be a part of Alternative Breaks?

The commitment for Alternative Breaks consists of four weeks of pre-trip meetings, the trip (all trips are approximately 7 days), one post-trip meeting and one post-trip service project. It is expected that all students will actively participate in fundraising events for the trips as well as their own fundraising. In addition, all students are expected to attend all evening activities while on the trip sponsored by the host site and to remain completely drug and alcohol free the entire time while on the trip.

What are pre-trip meetings?

What are pre-trip meetings?

Pre-trip meetings are very important in the Alternative Break process. These meetings give students the opportunity to get to know each other and bond prior to the trip. Students learn about the history and culture of the area in pre-trip meetings as well as about the social issue they will be dealing with while volunteering.

Who participates in the trips?

Who participates in the trips?

Rutgers undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty, and staff participate in trips. Each trip has 10 student participants, 2 student site leaders and 1 professional staff member who serves as a Staff Partner for the trip.

We also run several specialty trips including our first-year leadership alternative break that brings 45 participants, 8 site leaders, and 2 staff partners to Washington, DC during Spring Break. To inquire about our first-year specific trip, email lead@echo.rutgers.edu.

Do I have to have prior volunteer experience in order to attend a trip?

Do I have to have prior volunteer experience in order to attend a trip?

Although prior volunteer experience is great, it is not necessary.

How much are the trips?

How much are the trips?

Costs vary depending on the trip. However, trips where the group is flying usually cost approximately $550-600.00. Trips where the group is driving usually cost approximately $375-400.00.  International trips cost approximately $850-950.00.  Students attending trips are fully expected to participate in all Alternative Break fundraising events and to fundraise individually as well.

Are the sites new every year or do you repeat programs?

Are the sites new every year or do you repeat programs?

Trips are based on a variety of different criteria. New trips are added each year and we try to offer a diverse set of trips that tackle various social and environmental issues.

Will I miss class by participating on a trip?

Will I miss class by participating on a trip?

Alternative Break trips are not scheduled while regular classes are meeting. However, they may conflict with some winter session classes.

What is a group travel experience?

What is a group travel experience?

Group travel experience means that decisions will be made in the best interest of the group as whole. In other words, individuals might not get to see all the sights and/or eat at all the places where they would like to. Group travel requires people to cooperate and compromise with others, however the experience is very rewarding for all involved.

Can I bring my laptop on my Alternative Breaks trip?

Can I bring my laptop on my Alternative Breaks trip?

The Alternative Breaks program advises all participants not to bring any valuables with them on their trips, for multiple reasons. One, is that there is a risk that valuables will get lost and/or stolen. And second, laptops serve as a distraction and hinder group dynamics.

How many Alternative Break trips can I participate in a year?

Q: How many Alternative Break trips can I participate in a year?

Due to the popularity of the program, students may only participate in one Alternative Break trip per year.

Am I guaranteed a spot on at least one trip?

Q: Am I guaranteed a spot on at least one trip?

The AB program receives more applications than spots we have available on trips, therefore we cannot guarantee placement on a trip. Students are offered at least one trip, although it may not be a top choice. The more trips that you are willing to participate in, the higher your chances of getting placed on a trip.

I am studying abroad. Can I still apply?

Q: I am studying abroad. Can I still apply?

Due to application and interview deadlines, students who are participating in study abroad are unable at this time to apply for an AB trip.

How can I become a Site Leader?

Q: How can I become a Site Leader?

Students who have attended at least one AB trip are eligible to apply to be trip leaders by filling out an AB Site Leader Application. Following the application students are required to schedule an interview with the AB team. After all interviews are conducted a selection committee meets to place leaders. Student leaders are usually chosen for their peer leadership abilities and qualities, and not necessarily for their knowledge about a certain location or issue. The AB team attempts to match pairs of leaders with complementing leadership qualities (i.e. an introvert with an extrovert, or a details person with a big picture person).

How does payment work and what happens if I have to cancel last-minute?

Q: How does payment work and what happens if I have to cancel last-minute?

Once accepted into the program, the student must bring their $100.00 non-refundable deposit that is credited towards the total trip fee to SABO. The deadline to withdraw from an AB trip is 50 days prior to your trip departure date. If you do not provide written notice to the leadership department of your withdrawal before this deadline you will be charged any costs incurred to RUAB (including transportation, room and board, site fees, etc.) Any exceptions to these rules are made on a case by case basis.  Students will be provided with final payment deadlines upon acceptance into the program.

Are the Alternative Break trips safe?

Q: Are the Alternative Break trips safe?

Yes. Every year the safety of each trip is considered. Nevertheless, there are always risks in domestic and international travel.

Who may I contact if I have more specific questions?

Q: Who may I contact if I have more specific questions?

For any additional information please contact us at lead@echo.rutgers.edu.