Alternative Breaks


The Volunteer Center’s Alternative Breaks (AB) program cultivates a unique opportunity for students and staff/faculty advisors to engage in service learning and volunteerism in communities outside of the Los Angeles area. These service learning trips help participants make tangible connections between what they learn in the classroom and what they will encounter once they have jobs and experiences outside the university. In addition, these trips allow USC  to create valuable, long-lasting relationships in the communities in which we work.

The Volunteer Center has offered USC students the opportunity to explore numerous issues across the U.S. since 1992, when we began to take students to the Navajo Nation in Utah. Since then, we have built long-lasting partnerships with governmental, non-profit and community organizations throughout the country. The opportunity to travel while engaging in community service continues to be an important element of the unique USC experience. Every year, the locations of the trips changes based on student interest, community need, and our budget. You can see which service trips we have hosted in past years here and read about our most recent trips below.


USC has suspended study abroad and travel programs, and as a result the Volunteer Center will not host Alternative Break programs in Fall 2020 or Spring 2021. Please sign up for our newsletter or check this summer for updates about Alternative Breaks for the 2021-2022 academic year!

Suspending our programs until it is safer to travel domestically and internationally eliminates the potential challenges that would arise as a result of last-minute program cancellations, unexpected travel restrictions, housing constraints, exposure to other strains of the virus and more.




The  Alternative Break programs delve into some of the most pressing issues facing our generation today:

Learn about our trips based on their service focus: Learn about our trips based on their location:
Cultural Erosion in Native Populations
Disaster Relief Efforts
Environmental Conservation
Homeless and Poverty
Justice System Reform and At-Risk-Youth
Rural Development & Education
Youth & Education



Condado, San Juan, Puerto Rico. (Photo by Sgt. Jose Ahiram Diaz-Ramos/PRNG-PAO)

Trip Title: “AWB Puerto Rico: Recovering from the Storms”
To Apply Click Here: CLOSED
Deadline: September 26, 2019 @ 11:59 pm
Trip Dates: December 18 – December 29, 2019
Trip Size: a team of 10
We will not ask Professors to excuse any students from their classes, exams, or assignments. We recommend that you make sure that your Fall classes do not have any such commitments on Wednesday, December 18th in the evening.

September 20, 2017: a day that forever altered and scarred the beautiful island of Puerto Rico. On this day, Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, bombarding the territory with heavy rain, flash floods, landslides, and winds that blew up to 155 mph. It killed an estimated 3,000 people, with many of them being homeless and/or elderly. The hurricane had left thousands without food, water, and electricity. Today, along with Puerto Rico’s struggling political climate, many people are still negatively impacted by the effects of the hurricane.

Although it has been almost two years since Hurricane Maria, one of the most devastating natural disasters ever to hit Puerto Rico, the territory is still greatly affected and desperately in need of help. This winter break, we are partnering with All Hands Volunteers in Yabacoa, ground zero for Hurricane Maria, to rebuild, repair, and reseal the roofs and homes of those affected. Additionally, volunteers will be removing mold from schools and homes as well as learning basic demolition and construction skills. During last year’s trip, volunteers were also able to talk with local homeowners about their personal experiences, learning about the struggles and challenges of being a Puerto Rican in the United States.

Furthermore, volunteers will be given the opportunity to explore both Puerto Rico’s unique culture and the lives of its wonderful inhabitants. During last year’s trip, when volunteers weren’t working at the base, they participated in numerous activities including visiting El Yunque, spending a night at a Boys and Girls Club, rebuilding a community disaster relief center, discussing political and social issues with local Puerto Rican college students, and exploring the islands fantastic beaches. At the end of the trip, volunteers will even have the opportunity to explore San Juan and learn more about the island’s unique history.

People from all cultural backgrounds are encouraged to apply. Spanish fluency is a plus but not required. If you have any more questions about AWB Puerto Rico please email

Vamos a Puerto Rico: el lugar mas maravillioso del mundo con la gente mas unica y amorosa. ¡Esperamos hablar contigo pronto!

Estimated Cost: Approximately $1000*

*The approximate cost for Puerto Rico includes only a one-way flight since this trip is in the middle of winter break. Students will book their flights home for the holidays separately. Staff will assist students in coordinating their return flights.

Past Info Sessions for Puerto Rico:
Thursday 9/5         @7:00pm-9:00pm Click to RSVP  in SKS 410 (unless trip leader states otherwise)  
Wednesday 9/11    @5:00pm Click to RSVP  in SKS 410 (unless trip leader states otherwise)  
Friday 9/13           @12:00pm Click to RSVP  in SKS 410 (unless trip leader states otherwise)  



Trip Title: “Alternative Winter Break: Exploring Obstacles to Education in India”
To Apply Click Here: CLOSED
Deadline: October 7, 2019 @ 11:59 pm [EXTENDED DEADLINE]
Trip Dates: December 18, 2019 (5:30 pm departure) – January 8, 2020 (11:30am arrival at LAX)

Interested in exploring a country and its community by immersing yourself in the culture? If so, AWB India may be for you!

According to a 2011 census, roughly one in six Indian city residents live in an area of high poverty or in a dwelling with unsanitary conditions — roughly 64 million people. For people living in poverty, access to formal education is limited.

On this three week trip to the northern state of Rajasthan, USC students have the opportunity to explore educational barrier within the Sikar community. Students will try to learn and understand the barriers to economic and educational development in India by assisting a small community in creating sustainable solutions. Students will primarily instruct within either an established primary school in Sikar or an informal school within the Banjara Basti with the goal of inspiring a passion for learning.

By leveraging the strengths of each participant, we will create a basic, sustainable curriculum that can be used by future instructors and volunteers at AVI. Following AVI’s mission, we strive to help the community help itself so they can continue to grow and empower themselves long after our group’s three-week stay. Past projects include teaching children basic English and math, creating an inspirational mural for the classroom, installing water filters in the school and the local community, raising awareness about basic hygiene practices, and collecting clothing and educational donations to give to local children.

On weekends, participants will spend time traveling to Pushkar by camel, shopping in Jaipur and Sikar, and visiting the Taj Mahal (you cannot go to India without seeing it!). In addition to working with children and weekend travel, participants will be immersed directly in Indian culture. AWB India participants will have the opportunity to participate in Hindi classes, traditional Indian cooking and dressing workshops, henna painting, and yoga & meditation classes. Participants will also live with a local family on their village farm in order to learn more about the economic and cultural practices of the region.

If you have any more questions about AWB India please email Read about AWB India in a participant’s blog!

Estimated Cost: $2,750 USD* per participant



Trip Title: “Constructing Education: Infrastructural Development of Rural Schools”
To Apply Click Here: Apply here
Deadline: October 11, 2019 @ 11:59 pm [extended deadline] 
Trip Dates: March 13 or 14, 2019 – March 21, 2019 (Flight may depart from LAX on Friday at night)
We will not ask Professors to excuse any students from their classes, exams, or assignments. We recommend that you make sure that your Spring classes do not have any such commitments on Friday, March 13th in the evening. 

Guatemala is an exotic and visually inspiring country with huge volcanoes reaching up to 12,000 feet over crystalline lakes and picturesque towns. Once part of the Mayan Empire, Guatemala is a culturally rich and diverse country that is home to over 20 indigenous languages and a population that is comprised of somewhere around 50% Indigenous people who still maintain their style of dress, traditions, language, and culture.


However, in spite of its rich environmental resources, Guatemala remains one of the poorest countries in the world in terms of GDP. Many Guatemalans travel far and wide to work for large landowning corporations and make only enough money to put food on the table. Over 50% of Guatemalan children suffer from malnutrition and Guatemala’s educational system is currently ranked second among the worst Central American and Caribbean countries. Many children drop out after their first year of school, and there is another mass exodus during the middle school years. Many children lack adequate resources and encouragement on their studies, and families can choose to pull their children out of school to work.

Participants of ASB Guatemala will travel to Retalhuleu, a city in southwestern Guatemala, and partner with a local construction company to upgrade or build necessary structures for the schools in the community. Students will get to spend time with the children in the mornings working on various activities with them and in the afternoon students will transition to assisting with the construction project. If you have more questions about ASB Guatemala send an email to

Approximate Cost: $1,500 USD* per participant

Itinerary: ASB Guatemala_Itinerary Draft  from last year!



Source: Lebanon Valley College

Trip Theme: “Homelessness”
To Apply Click Here: Apply here
Deadline: October 11, 2019 @ 11:59 pm [extended deadline] 
Trip Dates: Approximately March 14, 2019 – March 21, 2019


When we think of Chicago we picture amazing architecture that lights the skyline at night, shopping galore on Magnificent Mile, the beauty of Lake Michigan nestled next to the city, “The Bean,” pretty big sports teams, and of course deep-dish pizza.

But amid the beauty of this Midwest city lies a serious homelessness crisis, and much like many US cities Chicago and its partners are far from an ideal solution. With an estimated 80,000 people experiencing homelessness in Chicago at some point during the past year a problem is clear. In a time where almost 8 in 10 workers live paycheck to paycheck, organizations fighting to prevent and end homelessness are greatly needed and in great need of support from volunteers, and this is where we come in.

Throughout our week in Chicago, we will work with local organizations to assist those in need, hear their stories while sharing our own, and gain an understanding of the complexity of homelessness and its causes. When not serving we will engage in the rich culture and history of Chicago by visiting historical sites, consuming delicious cuisine, exploring some of the many amazing art museums, and bonding with one another as we discover the city together.

Interested in spending your Spring Break learning about the complexity of the homelessness crisis in Chicago and how it compares and contrasts to that of LA? If so, we would love to have you join us for Alternative Spring Break Chicago! If you have more questions please attend an info session or contact

Approximate Cost: $950 USD






Trip Title: “Conservation Nation – Exploring Sustainable Environmental Practices in Washington ”
To Apply Click Here: Apply here
Deadline: October 11, 2019 @ 11:59 pm [extended deadline] 
Trip Dates: Approximately March 14, 2019 – March 22, 2019

“A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.” -Franklin D. Roosevelt

ASB Orcas Island focuses on exploring sustainable practices to create a better understanding of how to best preserve our environment. We will be traveling to Orcas Island in Washington, a few hours north of Seattle and close to the Canadian border. Orcas is the largest of the San Juan Islands with over five thousand acres of land and is known for its distinctive natural beauty.

Our service trip provides the opportunity to work with park rangers on environmental projects within Moran State Park. Past projects have included trail and campsite restoration and construction along the scenic Mt. Constitution trail and lakeside campgrounds. ASB Orcas Island is also an exciting opportunity for students who love the outdoors, as we will explore and experience the beautiful trails, lakes, waterfalls, and activities that the island has to offer. Furthermore, by engaging with the local community, we will develop a deeper understanding of how the island’s inhabitants work to preserve the natural beauty of their surroundings. Participants have said that working and living on the island “put the world in perspective,” as it allowed them to immerse themselves in a completely different lifestyle and atmosphere.

Along with volunteering on Orcas Island, the trip will spend one day in Seattle exploring the city. This will allow students to both have a hands-on and holistic experience with sustainable practices in the state park and also consider their applications to urban life. If you have more questions about the trip, feel free to reach out to us at

Find out what the ASB Orcas experience is like! Check out this blog or this blog from past ASB Orcas Island participants!  Read about ASB Orcas Island in the local newspaper

Approximate Cost: $800 USD* per participant


Trip Title: “What it Means to be an Immigrant: Process, Politics & Policy”
To Apply Click Here: Apply here
Deadline: October 11, 2019 @ 11:59 pm [extended deadline] 
Trip Dates: Approximately March 15, 2019 – March 22, 2019

Immigration is arguably the most prominent issue in America today. Many continue to weigh the economic, security and humanitarian concerns while others have endorsed anti-immigrant viewpoints with their insightful rhetoric. To help inform discussions around immigration, this trip challenges the underlying assumptions of the immigrant community through service work.

Participants will analyze the history of immigration policy and politics by looking deeper into global conflicts that drive individuals to the States. They will engage with leaders from government agencies, law enforcement, and activist organizations in an attempt to understand the many aspects and struggles of the immigrant experience.

The nation will soon be on the threshold of major new reforms that would address longstanding problems of both legal and illegal immigration – will you be a part of it?

If you have more questions about ASB Texas please email

*This trip was proposed this year and will run for the first time Spring 2020.

Estimated Cost: Approximately $900 USD* per participant



*Alternative Break costs may change slightly in the future. These preliminary estimates are presented for the purposes of helping students decide which trips fit within their budget. Fundraising and partial grant opportunities are available, for more details visit “Fundraising for AB Trips.”

Follow us on Facebook or subscribe to our Newsletter for updates. For general questions about the Alternative Spring Break Program, email us at For more information about specific trips, email them directly or RSVP for a trip info session!

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