Alternative Breaks


Dare to be Alternative

...and spend your Wintersession or Spring Break making a difference. Join us on one of our Alternative Breaks to learn about social issues like food justice, environmental stewardship, healthcare through service, urban development and affordable housing. Through hands-on volunteer work and group reflection, we hope to continue the Wellesley tradition of service.

Our vision

A community of active citizens: people who value society as a priority when making life decisions. As part of the Alternative Break experience, participants will become more educated and experienced in all sides of a social issue. Upon return, they will be empowered to make more informed decisions and take meaningful action that supports a greater good. They will become contributing members of society and will weigh in on issues that impact their community.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are Alternative Breaks?
Alternative Breaks are service-oriented, substance-free breaks in which we volunteer with a variety of community partners in order to explore the social, cultural and political issues in that community.  Participants work in teams during the weeks leading up to the break and work in those same teams on the break; after returning home, participants meet a few times more to reflect on their experiences.

How do I become a student coordinator or site leader?
After checking out the trip descriptions and becoming familiar with the Alternative Break program, fill out the application on MyCWS. Make sure you understand fully the responsibilities, expectations and time commitments for student coordinators and site leaders. Site leader and student coordinator applications are due in the spring. Deadlines will be posted under important dates and information. Please note that students cannot hold a student coordinator position as well as a site leader position. 

How do I determine if I should be a student coordinator or a site leader?
Student coordinators work closely with the Service Program Director and site leaders; if you have previous experience in a leadership position, experience with community engagement or outreach, or have participated in an Alternative Break before, we encourage you to apply as a student coordinator. If you are familiar with service or community work and possess demonstrated leadership, we encourage you to consider applying for a Site Leader position. If this is your first experience with service or community engagement, we recommend you apply for a participant position. 

Can I serve as a student coordinator as well as a site leader?
No, students are not able to hold both positions at the same time. If you wish to apply for both positions, please complete both applications on MyCWS. You will need to interview for each position separately.

Am I able to request to participate in a certain Alternative Break?
On the site leader application, you will have an opportunity to request a social issue, though we can’t guarantee which to which trip you’ll be accepted. Student coordinators will work with all Alternative Breaks trips.

Who will be leading the trips?
Each team will be led by two student site leaders, with at least one Wellesley faculty or staff member present. 

When do Wellesley’s Alternative Breaks happen?
Our Alternative Breaks occur during the last two weeks of Wintersession and over Spring Break. Check out the social issues we’ll be addressing during each of the trips!

Will I miss class?
Nope! Each Alternative Break is scheduled for either Wintersession or Spring Break when classes aren’t being held.

Who is able to go on an Alternative Break?
The Alternative Breaks are only open to current Wellesley students who are in good academic standing. Alumnae, faculty, staff, administrators and non-Wellesley students aren’t able to participate.

Why are Alternative Breaks alcohol free?
Alternative Breaks were founded as an alternative to the typical spring break experience. Also, while some participants may be legally able to drink, not all participants are able to which causes unnecessary divisions within the team.  Alcohol affects group dynamics, participant safety, the local community, the University, and the national alternative break student movement.

How do I pay for my Alternative Break experience?
Students are not responsible for covering the cost of lodging, meals or transportation during the break - only the cost of flights to and from their site. Financial assistance is available for students to cover the cost their flights; students do not have to be recipients of Wellesley College Aid or Federal Aid to receive CWS funding. Students needing financial assistance may apply for additional funding by including an essay and budget that outlines financial need. Please state why financial assistance is needed and the amount requested (include airfare, public transportation and additional anticipated costs).