College spring break activities are legendary. Many students travel — often to warmer climates — and party, drink, and generally carry on. Many parents take these activities in stride, and many parents worry about their students during this time. However, in recent years, many students are talking about, and engaging in, an ”alternative spring break”. This is the phenomenon of spending the week of spring break participating in some type of organized volunteer effort.
The idea of spending spring break in a volunteer effort has been around for a while, but it gained popularity and publicity following hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Many college students spent their spring break traveling to hurricane torn areas of the country to help clean up and rebuild. One estimate is that by 2006, more than 30,000 students participated in some sort of alternative spring break experience.
The opportunities for an ASB (alternative spring break) are varied. Some colleges sponsor their own programs and there are also numerous private organizations that provide trips. Costs for participating can range from minimal costs to several hundred dollars to several thousands of dollars. Programs may be national or international.
Most ASB programs are essentially well thought out and require little participant planning other than signing up. They are most often week long work trips where students have an opportunity to develop skills and build their resumes by engaging in work that is often hard and unglamorous but rewarding. International opportunities can be culturally enriching alternatives to studying abroad and may involve homestays and opportunities to work alongside the natives of the country.
Students who participate in ASB programs may find themselves engaging in construction, social work, education, healthcare, or other activities. They build houses, clean schools, tutor students, plant crops, study oceans, or teach English. They may travel to almost any state in the United States or to countries all around the world. Most students have a wonderful time, make valuable new friends, and many students say their experiences have changed the way they see the world.
If your student talks to you about a possible alternative spring break, ask to learn more. Explore the costs — and the benefits — of the experience. It may be one of the best college experiences your student will have.