​​Alt Breaks Logo (UPDATED) copy.jpeg

What is an Alternative Break?
What is the motto for Alternative Breaks?
Who can participate in an Alternative Break?
How many students participate on each trip?
What are the requirements to be a participant?
How long do the trips last?
How much will it cost?
How do I pay for the cost of the trip?
Why don’t I know where I am going when I sign up?
What all is included in the trip?
What will the housing be like?
What will the meals be like?
How will students get to their destination?
How will I be traveling throughout an Alternative Break?
Are any immunizations typically needed beforehand?
What skills are needed?
What are the educational values learned from the AB program?
How can I become a site leader?
How can I become a board member?
I am 21; can I drink during my Alternative Break?
What happens if I do drink or do drugs on my Alternative Break?
What should I pack?
What if something goes wrong?
 

 

What is an Alternative Break?

Alternative Breaks send out groups of 12 students (10 participants and 2 trained Site Leaders) domestically and internationally over winter, spring and summer break, as well as for weekends during the school year. Students sign up online based on a social issue they feel passionate about. After an interview with their Site Leaders, participants begin to have weekly meetings and find out where they are going within the United States and exactly what type of service they are going to be doing.

What is the Motto for Alternative Breaks?

Alter Your World

We believe Alternative Breaks can not only alter the world in which we live, our own personal world, but also the world in which others live – the world as a whole.

Who can participate in an Alternative Break?

Any student currently enrolled at CMU On-Campus Programs can participate. Yes, this includes graduate students.

How many students participate on each trip?

Each trip has two trained site leaders and ten participants.

What are the requirements to be a participant?

After sign ups occur you will meet once a week with your group. You are responsible to attend meetings and to assist with group fundraisers. Attendance is also mandatory for orientation, kick-off and re-orientation, which are each approximately one hour in duration.

How long do the trips last?

Trips occur over winter, spring and summer breaks, as well as on weekends. For domestic trips that occur during winter, spring or summer break, you can expect them to last for approximately one week. Weekend breaks are shorter in duration, lasting from Friday to Sunday during the school year months. With international trips we sometimes offer opportunities to stay in-country beyond the week, but that can vary from one international trip to the next.

How much will it cost?

We guarantee that our domestic trips will not cost over $300 for the week and international trip's cost will be advertised during the Information Sessions, all costs including housing, food, transportation, and service. Groups are responsible for fundraising, and some trips have cost volunteers nothing. We also offer grants up to $100.

How do I pay for the cost of the trip?

The final amount of the trip will be billed to your CMU student account. A deposit for when you first sign up for a break will be billed to your student account as well, and is in the amount of $50 for domestic trips, $200 for international, and a $40 one-time payment cost for weekends. The deposit will show up prior to final billing. Payments can be viewed and paid online or through the CMU Student Service Court, just as you would pay for a class. Alternative Breaks does not have its own billing cycle, so the amount will show up after the next billing cycle on your student charges.

Why don’t I know where I am going when I sign up?

To guarantee that people are signing up for the issue that they are serving instead of a city to visit, we do not disclose location until participants are established. It is very important to us that you are interested in the issue that you are working with.

What all is included in the trip?
The Alternative Breaks board works hard up until final billing of sites, and continues on way after billing has been finalized. You will not have to worry about housing, meals or transportation on your own. These things will be figured out collectively for your group ahead of time.

What will the housing be like? 

Housing is part of the Alternative Breaks experience. Most groups stay in churches or community centers while they are volunteering. Chances are volunteers will be staying on the floor and will need to bring ​their own sleeping bags and bedding.

What will the meals be like?

All meals are rolled into the final cost of the trip. Each group will be given a modest food budget while they are on their trip. The group will be responsible for planning and cooking their meals. We make an effort to provide housing that includes a kitchen. Sometimes, however, it is not possible. In that case you will need to get creative and bring appliances to cook. The group will have one "Meal Out" where they can experience a local restaurant with a budgeted amount covered by the budget. 

How will students get to their destination?

Whether flying, driving or taking public transportation, the Alternative Breaks program at CMU takes all costs into consideration and does not expect for them to come out of the student’s pocket after paying the final cost for the break. If you are comfortable driving and approved by CMU’s Risk Management Office, you may be asked to drive one of the rental vehicles only after filling out a driving form and driving quiz.

How will I be traveling throughout an Alternative Break?
Most groups will drive two rental vans to the location of their site. All trips begin and end in Mt. Pleasant. To drive you must be approved by the university.

Are any immunizations typically needed beforehand?

For most domestic sites you generally will not need immunizations. You may need to get a TB test done for certain sites. You will be informed of this at your interview. You may be asked to fill out background check forms for domestic sites. Shots will be required for international breaks, and we will warn you ahead of time if there is a need. Different countries require different sets of immunizations, and a list will be presented to you upon signing up for an International Alternative Break. We recommend that students utilize the CMU Travel Office for immunizations.

What skills are needed?

What skills are needed will be dependent upon what break you sign up for. If you sign up for Disaster Relief, you can expect more significant physical labor tasks. If you sign up for a break that deals more with people, such as Education or Youth, you can expect there to be more personal interactions and less physical labor. Realistically, though, we do not require volunteers to bring certain skills to the table. One of our 8 Quality Components that we base our training around is that of diversity, and we believe each site will have a range of students, each with different skill sets and something valuable to offer the program.

What are the educational values learned from the AB program?

One of the 8 Quality Components we teach is education. Through the component of education, the program establishes and achieves “educational objectives to give participants a sense of context and understanding of both the region in which they will be working and of the problems they will be addressing during the break.”

How can I become a site leader?

After you have had the experience of being a participant you are encouraged to become a site leader. Applications come out starting after Winter Break. Your previous Site Leaders should e-mail these to you. 

How can I become a board member?

There are no pre-requisites to becoming a board member, except to have been on at least one prior Alternative Break. Applications will be available at the same time Site Leader applications become available, which will be after Winter Break, and your past Site Leaders should email these to you. If you do not receive them please email your past Site Leaders or a board member, or stop by the Volunteer Center anytime Monday-Friday from 9a.m. – 5p.m.

I am 21; can I drink during my Alternative Break?

No. Alternative Breaks is a drug and alcohol free program to ensure cohesiveness in your group and to portray good images in the communities we are working with, as well as to remain a positive role model for your own community and CMU. Additionally, as in the case of many of our sites, the people we work with may have been impacted by drug and alcohol abuse and could potentially feel uncomfortable by our use.

What happens if I do drink or do drugs on my Alternative Break?

If you are found under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or have either of these on you, you will be sent home at your own expense. You will have to meet with the office of Student Life to talk about your student standing once back.

What should I pack?

Pack only the things you need for your trip. Many times there is not much room in the vans or in the places you are staying to bring multiple suitcases. Try to pack as light as you can! Your Site Leaders should also provide a packing list once you get closer to your break.

What if something goes wrong?

It will be okay. The group Site Leaders are trained to handle a variety of situations. Although we can’t assure they will know what to do in every possible scenario, we can assure you that they know who to call and the next steps to take in the case of an emergency. We also have an Alternative Breaks advisor that is a CMU administrator who provides advice and direction as needed. She is on-call during all breaks we send out, and can facilitate steps to take in unforeseen circumstances. You can feel free to contact her at:

Shawna Ross
ross1sk@cmich.edu
989.774.7685