Alternative Breaks

About the Program
How Bowdoin AB Works
Propose a Trip
Alternative Breaks 2017-18
Past Trips
Program Contact Information

About Alternative Breaks

ASB Georgia 2017

Alternative Break trips - both Winter and Spring - provide a unique opportunity for students to participate in an intensive public service experience while increasing their understanding of significant social and environmental problems. Engaged in direct service relating to these problems, students live and work in communities with which they otherwise may have little contact. Being completely immersed in this environment over an extended period of time allows students to internalize their experience, which can serve as a springboard for a lifelong commitment to social change.

Most trips do have a fee, but need-based financial aid is available to cover up to 80% of trip costs.

How Bowdoin AB Works

Alternative Break trips are organized and led by students who want to provide an intensive learning through service experience. AB leaders are responsible for all aspects of the alternative spring break trip, including recruiting participants, trip logistics, coordinating with the host site, and leading the actual trip.

Leader Selection
AB proposals and leader applications are reviewed each spring for the following year by a committee of students, faculty, and McKeen Center staff. Those leaders whose trips are selected receive support and training from the McKeen Center to plan and implement their AB trips.

Leaders' Seminar
During the fall semester, ASB leaders participate in the Leaders' Seminar, a 10-week course facilitated by the staff of the McKeen Center. This seminar prepares leaders in how to organize and lead their trips and to help student participants examine the political, social, cultural, and economic aspects of their service and the communities in which they will be living. Through this seminar, leaders develop their own seminar which they lead for their trip participants in the spring.

Participants' Seminar
Prior to the trips, participants attend weekly pre-service meetings to prepare them for their service experience. These meetings include background and cultural information about the site, educational visits from Bowdoin professors, reading assignments, film viewing, fundraising, and team-building activities.

During and After the Trip
During the trip, students participate in meaningful service activities, daily reflective sessions, and evening group activities. After returning to campus, students work together to educate the larger Bowdoin community about their issue area and experience.

Propose an AB Trip for 2018-19

An AB trip could be a great vehicle to educate Bowdoin around whatever social issues you care about most. To participate, ASB leaders must be on campus both semesters, but AWB leaders may be off campus in the spring semester. Here are the basics you need to know:

Where and when are the trips? AB trips can be local, national, or international, and they take place during both Winter and Spring Break.

What are the possibilities? All AB trips are proposed, and led, by students. You can propose to build on a past AB trip, or identify a different social issue that you care about and plan something from scratch.

Next steps this semester:

1. Browse our short how-to guide. When you’re ready, schedule a meeting with Andrew Lardie to discuss your ideas.

2. The trip leader application is in two parts. Both the individual leader app form and the trip proposal form are now live on the web.  Applications are due by Wednesday, April 25 at 5:00 PM

Alternative Breaks 2017-18


Health Beyond Hollywood in Los Angeles, CA
Participants gained a greater understanding of the intersections of health and community in the Los Angeles area. Working with grassroots health agencies, they observed how cultural competence, marginality, and income inequality contribute to a wide range of health disparities within the Latinx community. Leaders: Kevin Hernandez '18 and Cindy Rivera '18

Opportunity through Education: Providing Safe Passage in Guatemala City, Guatemala
Participants worked with Safe passage, an organization established around the Guatemala City garbage dump that allows access to education for city’s poorest children. Participants learned about the social, political, and economic issues that surround access to childhood education in the encompassing area. Leaders: Jorge Gomez '18 and Dia Su '18

Fields of Opportunity: Food Systems and Rural Communities in Coralville, IA
Students examined rural food systems and community efforts to promote access to food, healthcare and education. Engaging with local farms, community action groups, and nonprofits, participants gained a greater understanding of life in middle America and the solutions being pursued to address challenges facing people in rural communities. Leaders: Julianna Burke '18 and Nickie Mitch '18

Getting Education Right In 'The City That Reads’, Baltimore, MD
Participants observed the ways in which education is intertwined with Baltimore’s particular complications and contradictions. By meeting with a variety of stakeholders and delving into the promises and pitfalls of education as a tool for social justice in an urban environment, participants developed insight into local and national education politics. Leaders: Holly Hornbeck '18 and Stephanie Intal '18

ASB Maine 2017

Passamaquoddy Community & Education in Pleasant Point, ME
For the Passamaquoddy tribe, education and cultural preservation are powerful forms of resistance to the continued forces of colonization. Participants learned from educators at Beatrice Rafferty School and the Sipayik Youth & Rec. Center as well as leaders of tribal government, connecting their work to the broader indigenous sovereignty movement. Leaders: Hanna Baldecchi '18 and Diana Furukawa '18


Immigrant & Refugee Education in Portland, ME
Participants worked with schools and nonprofits to understand the needs and services available to support the transitions of new Mainers, young and old. Activities included engaging first generation American students at a Portland middle school, working with a college aspirations program tailored towards English Language Learners, and visiting other related organizations such as Portland Adult Education. Leaders: Nina Alvarado-Silverman '19 and Sara Caplan '20

Homelessness In Our Back Yard in Portland, ME
Participants examined the complexities of life for those facing homelessness, and connect with agencies that work to address it. The trip considered impacts on the individual as well as families; the effects of policy on who becomes homeless and how people are helped; and examined women’s homelessness and safety in particular. Leaders: Praise Hall '20 and Jhadha King '20

Healing the Wounds of War in Hanoi, Vietnam
Participants witnessed the enduring ramifications of the Vietnam War, particularly its continuing public health impacts and reconciliation efforts. Participants lived and serve at a rehabilitation center that serves children and veterans affected by Agent Orange, a toxic herbicide that the U.S. deployed during the war. Leaders: Quyen Ha '18 and Bao Ma '18

Past Trips

AWB DC 2017
Before this trip I thought of issues of poverty as if they could be drawn on graphs and shoved into political speeches, but now I think of them as a tangle of simple problems that all kinds of people face every day.
- Jessie Turner ’13, Guatemala

The Alternative Break program has a successful and exciting history. The first trip sponsored through the McKeen Center (formerly the Community Service Resource Center) traveled to Peru in 2002. Since then, the program has grown exponentially. In 2010, the Alternative Winter Break projects were added. In 2018, 89 Bowdoin students traveled to 8 destinations. Through all this time, these trips have been designed and led exclusively by students. See below link for descriptions of all the past trips.

Complete list of past Alternative Break projects

Program Contact Information

For more information about the ASB program contact Andrew Lardie, Associate Director at the McKeen Center.