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Why your school should offer alternative break trips

Your school already offers study abroad and service learning- what can alternative breaks offer that these two programs can't? If you've been following the news, you know that shorter trips to more affordable destinations are the current trend, and more and more students are asking for opportunities to work in the community and make connections. Alternative break trips serve as an inspiration for all participants, challenging viewpoints, broadening perspectives and providing a chance to experience the world. The following are some reasons that participating students and professors have given Casa HOY to continue offering alternative breaks:

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Affordability. Everyone’s tight with money these days, and travel is a luxury most people have cut out of their budgets. Universities are closing down programs, teachers are struggling to fill the quota for their trips, and a semester in Europe isn’t a key to experience for your degree in philosophy or communications. If you travel nowadays, people ask you incredulously how you can afford it. That’s where alternative breaks come in. Many schools subsidize the cost of an alternative break trip, offering fundraising, scholarship and grant opportunities to some or all trip participants.

Out of classroom experience. Many university students have started using the term “break the bubble.” It’s easy to get caught up in the theory or lab experiments of your classes. But they say that experience is the best teacher. What better way to compliment your class on the civil rights movement than going to protest with farm workers who espouse the values of Martin Luther King Jr.? One of my most inspiring classes in college was Latinos in the US which had a 30 hour community service component. It’s one thing to read the books and do your research, but when you have to sit in an ESL classroom or translate at a free dental clinic or fill out paperwork at the Hispanic community center, everything comes together. Alternative break trips can be national or international; Casa HOY loves to travel.

Casa HOY organized and led.
School staff, students and professors have a million and one academic obligations, never mind their extracurricular involvement. Where can find they find the time to plan one more activity? All a staff member, professor or even student has to do is give Casa HOY a trip theme and a location and we’ll do the rest. From the housing to volunteer projects to cultural talks, Casa HOY plans every step of an alternative break. And on your trip there is a Casa HOY staff member 24/7. This gives professors and staff a chance to better connect with students instead of worrying about travel details like where the group is going to get its next meal or how to catch the next bus.

Globalized view of the world for students.
Many schools think that by adding the word “global” to a class they are doing enough to prepare their students for this new world. But the world is getting smaller way too fast for your “Global Studies 101” class to even cover the coast of a continent. An alternative break easily connects students to other cities, countries and nationalities on a local level. For example, on a recent Casa HOY trip to Immokalee, students met other students from around the country, farm workers from Guatemala, Mexico and Haiti and activists that would help them start their own movement on campus. Some favorite Casa HOY destinations are California, New York, Florida and Mexico, with trips to Cuba and Costa Rica in the works. Your “101” class is a great start- but why not preface it or finish it off with a week where your students can see just how globalized our world is?

Leadership opportunities for students. An alternative break trip is like adding another club. Students that lead alternative break groups are faced with recruiting other students, planning reflections, learning about group dynamics and ultimately leading their peers. It gives students a chance to learn about how things work at their university and to connect with staff and professors in other departments. On an alternative break a student must lead their peers through challenging situations where the group is out of its comfort zone. This is the kind of leader your school wants to produce.

Posted by UnMejorHOY 01.05.2013 07:48 Archived in Mexico Tagged mexico volunteering international cultural volunteer voluntourism cuernavaca participatory intercambio alternative_travel participatory_travel english_teaching

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