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Alternative breaks help students travel


Alternative Breaks was first established in 2009 as a staff-facilitated program, but over the past five years it has adapted into a student-facilitated organization that offers a transformative experience for both the students and the community they engage in. Through this experience, students become more active in their community, acquire leadership skills, become a more well-rounded individual, as well as gain a new sense of independence.

Photo courtesy of: Alternative Break – CU Denver

Studying abroad is a staple of the college experience, but CU Denver offers a more fulfilling and wholesome program. Students can get the experience of going abroad as well as experience life and people in a community different from their own and collaborate with local people to directly confront social issues. What separates Alternative Breaks from studying abroad is that students who lead the program, known as Trip Leaders, recruit participants to go on a foreign or domestic trips where they have the opportunity to build sustainable relationships between each other and the community they serve.

In addition, they are exposed to complex social and cultural issues through that direct service. Some trips previously included Chicago, where students where students examined the water crisis that was rampant in the community. This year, AB is taking trips to the Grand Canyon and Nepal where they will explore issues related to sustainability and community development.

Reflection is a big aspect of Alternative Breaks because it helps students cope with the social issues they confront on their trip and allows them to look back over a week of hard work knowing that their efforts have made a difference. CU Denver’s AB program also advocates for a substance-free environment. A substance-controlled environment is what makes this program an “alternative” break. It is meant to differ from what students might think going on break is all about—partying and drinking—by offering a more restoring environment.

Photo courtesy of: Alternative Break – CU Denver

Domestic trips cost about $250 and Foreign trips are about $1,600. Everything is inclusive and the AB program is flexible about making these trips affordable for students. The trips are about a week to two weeks long, and there is training required prior to leaving to prepare students mentally, physically, and emotionally regarding the social issues that will be discussed and tackled throughout the trip. Although students are taking a trip for about a week or two, AB is a year-long experience because students still have expectations when they come back from the trip that are meant to contribute to the transformation process that allows students to grow as individuals.

CU Denver’s Alternative Breaks program is a great substitute for studying abroad because it offers a meaningful and challenging experience for students. Students who are able to take these trips become aware of the community around them and the experience is one that is genuine and one to remember.

Click Here for more information about CU Denver’s Alternative Break program.

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