Alternative Service Breaks
by Roma Patel
Photography couretsy of Alternative Service Breaks
Oh, the typical college spring break: it conjures images of crowded beach parties and sunburned backs. Many students see this experience as a rite of passage, while others find it overwhelming and unappealing.
For the last 30 years, BU has offered Alternative Service Breaks (ASB), providing students with a community service oriented substitute.
These trips are organized through BU’s Community Service Center (CSC). In the past, students have traveled to over 40 sites throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. With nearly 30 trips offered each year, students have a variety of options to choose from. Each trip relates to a particular focus area, such as environmental protection, children, affordable housing, hunger, education, public health awareness and abilities. Participation in community service within these sectors allows students to become aware of issues they may not have been exposed to before.
Service trips similar to ASB have become increasingly popular on college campuses across the country, as they allow students to develop as individuals, contribute to communities around the world and travel. In just a short amount of time, students are able to develop a strong understanding of a particular place.
“I went to Roanoke, Virginia for environmental work [last year],” said Will Chang (CAS ’20). “We helped Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway and the National Park Service maintain trails, campsites and roads along the Blue Ridge Mountains. I have never spent any extended time in the South before, and thankfully the trip didn't make me feel like I was in a bubble. I got to experience Southern hospitality and to help out in a genuine way.”
By working within a specific focus area, students learn about the pressing issues that community members face and how they, as students, can help. In addition to active service, the trips include several lectures and a number of discussions with individuals from the area. The program is set up so students work with a local organization on new and existing projects that help to make a significant change in a community.
“ASB [are] unique because you do sightseeing activities, like you would on a normal trip, and you gain a deeper level of understanding of the community you are visiting because you are meeting and working with people who do important work for the community,” said Brianna Graff (SAR ’18), ASB Social Justice and Education Chair.
While volunteering at the organization their program partners with, students engage in typical traveling activities, like visiting notable landmarks and trying traditional foods.
“I’ve participated in ASB every year, and I can honestly say that a BU student’s experience wouldn’t be the same without Alternative Service Break; it made me reflect on my identity,” said Brianna Graff (SAR ’18).