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Alternative Break Program

Use your fall, winter or spring break to engage in meaningful community service with fellow students. As part of the community-building alternative break experience, you'll travel to a community that's in need of assistance.

Apply for 2017 Alternative Winter Break now!

Apply for Alternative Winter Break, Tues., Jan. 9-Sat., Jan. 13, 2018. The mandatory $150 trip fee includes your meals and transportation, and is due before departure. Applications close on Monday, Nov. 13 at midnight.

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Give your break to help a community in need.

Alternative Break Trips are a unique opportunity way to help others during the university’s fall, winter and spring breaks. During your trip, you'll travel in groups to new areas where you'll collaborate with local service providers to meet specific community needs.

The trips, which focus on specific themes to create awareness of social issues, are centered on Break Away’s® Eight Components of a Quality Alternative Break [pdf] which include:

  • strong direct service
  • orientation
  • education
  • training
  • reflection
  • reorientation
  • diversity
  • alcohol- and other drug-free

A ninth component, simple living was added to make trips more sustainable.

Common Questions About Alternative Break Trips

How are students selected?

Applications will be available each semester. As part of the application process, students will write several short essays about their interest in the alternative break to accompany general and demographic information. After submitting a complete application, students will receive a confirmation email. Students will be notified via email of their application status approximately two weeks after the application period closes.

What is a typical trip day like?

Each day usually lasts from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Trip leaders work hard to coordinate unique service opportunities that meet the need of the community, align with the service theme of the trip, and are meaningful for participants. After the day's service is complete, the group typically returns to the housing site to prepare dinner as a group and participate in reflection to help process the day. There will be some early mornings and late nights throughout the trip but groups return to USC with a strong bond and many amazing memories. Some time on the trip may be spent exploring cultural and sightseeing options of the destination, but the main focus is always service.

How much do trips cost?

We strive to keep the cost of our trips affordable. Currently, the trips cost between $30 to $80 per participant. Alternative Spring Break trips cost between $80 to $150 per participant. If participant fees are a concern, please contact Lacie Rhoden at rhodenll@mailbox.sc.edu.

I'm gluten-free/kosher/low-carb/vegetarian...

Cool! First, make sure you note that on your application so your leader can plan accordingly when shopping for food. The program will make every accommodation possible, but understand that we adhere to 'simple living' standards which means only $6 per day for food is budgeted for every individual participant. That often means we eat a lot of spaghetti, sandwiches, granola bars and other easy, inexpensive options. No one goes hungry, but we try to live simply so we can better serve those around us. Simple menus help us keep our trip costs low — they're one reason our alternative break trips are among the most affordable in the nation. If your food accommodations require more expensive items, you may be asked to supply some of those.

I'm 21. Can I buy alcoholic beverages at our final dinner?

No. All trips are alcohol- and drug-free. During service immersion experiences such as these, we seek to create an inclusive environment that all can participate in and enjoy. Whether you're 17 or 71, all participants must follow the alcohol- and drug-free nature of our trips.

How do we get to our trip location and to service sites?

All transportation will be provided by a University of South Carolina staff member who has been cleared through the university and has completed and passed van driver training. Your chariot will be one of the university's 15-passenger vans.

Where do we stay?

Although trips are not religiously affiliated, we stay at community centers, college campuses, and/or church halls. The lower-cost lodging options allows us to live simply and keep trip costs low for participants.

Should I bring money on my trip?

Yes. Your trip will not include any souvenirs so if you want them, you'll need to purchase them. Also, while the trip may supply some snacks, you may want a soda or something else when you stop for gas. Most trips will raise enough money to cover meals; however, some trips may not provide food on the drive to and from the site. Speak to your trip leader about how much extra money is appropriate and if all of your meals will be provided.


Have a question?

Please email Lacie Rhoden at rhodenll@mailbox.sc.edu or call 803-777-7130.