It's Spring Break, Baby!: Alternative Spring Breaks


College co-eds slave over their work in the early months of the new year for one reason. They know that the reward for powering through the cold, dark, seemingly long months of January and February is a Spring Break. And what a reward it is.

The stereotypical “Spring Break” elicits images of a tropical local, itsy bitsy bikinis, and margaritas bigger than your head. There are blue oceans, swim up bars, and masses of happy people playing beach volleyball. Students favor get-a-ways in Cancun, Miami, Acapulco, Daytona Beach, and Cozumel. While the majority of university undergrads would sooner spend every weekend in the library than give up their week of debauchery, there is a growing trend of alternative spring breaks.

“Alternative” spring breaks are generally spent volunteering in remote and less than glamorous parts of the world. A prospective student should come equipped with a sense of adventure and an open mind. Teamwork is also vital because students will be working long hours doing strenuous labor. That might not seal the deal for everyone, but program alums promise meaningful work, unforgettable memories, and an unparalled sense of accomplishment.


There are volunteer trips available in all regions of the world so a student is likely to find opportunities anywhere they want to travel.

A student can still spend spring break in Jamaica, but instead of sipping umbrella drinks, they will be rebuilding houses in the district of Manchester. Construction experience is not required and it will be a huge learning experience for anyone who has never laid mortar block, repaired roofs, or plastered drywall. This Jamaican excursion is run through the “Project Abroad” agency runs about $1500 for the week, not including airfare. Local families in southwest Jamaica serve as host families for the travelers.

Veterinary students and animal lovers alike may enjoy volunteering at a Turtle Conservation Camp on the pacific coast of Mexico. For a week in March, students carefully collect turtle eggs so they can be incubated at the conservatory prior to re-release into the sea. Like the Jamaican tour, the Mexican week is run by “Project Abroad” and costs $1500, but the volunteer experience could really set a veterinary school applicant apart from the pack.

Students who are not content to stay in the Western Hemisphere should check out an alternative spring break in Morocco. Volunteers reside with host families in the walled part of Rabat, the capital city, and will spend their week volunteering at the orphanage, doing community work, visiting historical sites, and immersing themselves in the Arabic language. Morocco is a socially and linguistically diverse nation and volunteer experiences there could be especially relevant to those studying International Relations or Foreign Languages.

Education or child development majors could benefit exponentially from volunteering in Costa Rica. During a week spent in the coastal town of Liberia, students work at local care centers with children and helping the staff improve the facilities. Creativity is number one for these volunteers because activities include: dancing, singing, and playing sports. Students are graciously hosted by city residents and are also treated to a relaxing day at the beach!


The application for alternative spring breaks differs company to company but they are all fairly rigorous. University sponsored trips require students to be in good standing with their university and are expected to abide by university standards, regulations, and policies prior, during, and post – trip. Oftentimes, students are required to sign Zero Tolerance Drug and Alcohol contracts and are asked to attend events, such as team meetings. Interviews and surveys are sometimes conducted as part of the application process. Lastly, volunteers are responsible for funding their own trips and airfare.


The only thing a student can expect is the unexpected. Prospective volunteers can benefit from hearing stories and experiences of program alumni but they should keep in mind that no two experiences are alike.


The average alternative spring break trip costs $1500, not including the application fee or airfare. There are many deals available online for airfare, including student discounts. The price may seem steep to many college students but the memory of helping people across the globe is a priceless one.

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