Alt. Break offers week-long, immersive community-engaged learning programs traveling to Washington, Southern Oregon, and California during OSU’s spring break!

During these multi-day, overnight programs, groups of 10-12 students immerse themselves in one of three Pacific Northwest communities to learn its historical, cultural, and political background. Students engage in a variety of direct service projects, educational conversations and presentations, and reflective dialogue with leaders and change-makers in their respective communities. You’ll have the opportunity to explore the complexity of social issues, reflect on your own assumptions, and develop your ability to lead for social change, all while connecting with fellow OSU students!

For questions regarding Alternative Break, contact us at [email protected] or 541-737-3041.

The 2024 alt. Break program has concluded. Check back next year for our 2025 trips!

Application Deadlines

Priority Deadline: will be announced during 2024-2025 academic year
Applications accepted on rolling basis after priority deadline.

For full consideration, please apply by the priority deadline. Participants who apply by the priority deadline will be notified of their application status no later than the end of Week 5 of winter term. Applicants who are not assigned to a team after the priority deadline will be added to waitlist and we will continue adding applicants to the waitlist after all teams are full, so we encourage you to apply any time!


"I am amazed, intrigued, and humbled. I will forever hope to continue to grow and open my mind in the way I did on this trip."
-past Alt. Break participant

Program Locations & Descriptions

Explore the complex, multi-faceted factors at play impacting food and housing security in San Francisco, CA. Learn about houselessness issues in major urban areas including relevant short-term relief and potential long-term solutions, and gain a behind-the-scenes understanding of the community organizations addressing these issues. Participants will complete service projects centered on addressing food and housing insecurity, while meeting and working alongside local visionaries who actively address these issues in their communities. The trip will include hands-on direct service work such as preparing and serving meals, and assembling wellness kits that may include toiletry, hygiene, and/or harm reduction materials. We will also engage in educational sessions with local community leaders, deeply reflective street retreats, and team dialogue and activities. On our community immersion day, we will explore San Francisco by electing group outings that may include visiting Coit Tower, Lombard Street, Pier 39, Chinatown, shops, and/or other options.

Please note: Participants will do a fair amount of walking (1-2 miles on some days) and take public transportation around the city to travel between projects and sessions. Additionally, some food packing projects may ask participants to work with common allergens (e.g. peanuts). We will work to find suitable accommodations to the best of our ability.

Lodging: Hostel

Uncover the human face, cost, and impact of land acquisition, settler colonialism, and immigration by exploring the influx and interplay of different cultural groups in the Yakima Valley, WA.  This program offers a wide variety of experiences and narratives. We focus on the experiences of: Native Americans from the Yakama Nation, Filipino-Americans, the Latine/o/a/x community, undocumented migrant workers and their families, those experiencing housing insecurity, children, economic disparities, food insecurity, influences of agriculture, environmental justice, and more. Each day is filled with vitally important information that assists in the understanding of the systemic roots of oppression and marginalization in the Yakima Valley, while recognizing the resilience of communities co-existing together. Through direct service work, educational sessions with community leaders, and team reflective activities, we will examine the buried roots of communities’ historical relationship to the land and explore implications for the present and future of different cultural groups in the region. During our community immersion day, the group will elect outings that may include a group hike or park visit, a community festival or fair, a visit to Yakama Nation Cultural Center or Yakima Valley Museum, or exploring historical art murals.

Lodging: Retreat center or Air Bnb

Discover the pressing environmental conservation and restoration issues in the Ashland, OR area. Participants will complete direct service projects that may include creek restoration, planting native species, mulching, invasive species removal, garden-based projects, trail building/maintenance, and other environmental restoration/conservation projects with a variety of community organizations. We will meet with local environmental leaders to learn about threats to the natural environment, local factors impacting natural habitats and ecosystems, renewable energy, waste reduction, and various sustainability topics. Participants will explore power and privilege in the environmental movement, and examine connections between environmental, social, economic justice. This trip will include many physical, hands-on direct service projects, educational sessions, and team reflective activities. On our community immersion day, we will explore Ashland by electing group outings that may include hiking, attend the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, visit shops, and/or other options.

Please note: participants will need to bring outdoor clothing that they don’t mind getting wet/dirty including rain jackets, hiking/outdoor boots, hat, gloves/mittens, and extra layers. Ashland can have unpredictable weather at this time of year including cold temperatures, rain, and even snow, so participants should be prepared to do outdoor service projects in these conditions. If you do not have access to any of the outdoor gear listed above, let us know and we will share resources. This program is more physically laborious than the other programs due to the nature of the service projects. Participants will be encouraged to take breaks and rests as needed throughout the experience.

Lodging: Willow-Witt Ranch Meadow House (local net zero energy ranch focused on sustainable farming)

General Program Information

Participating in Alt. Break is a significant time commitment. Participants must attend all parts of the program in-person for the program dates and times listed below.

  • Team Meeting #1: Monday, February 19 | 5:00-7:00 pm | WK 7

  • Team Meeting #2: Monday, March 4  | 5:00-7:00 pm | Week 9

  • Team Meeting #3: Monday, March 11 | 5:00-7:00 pm | Week 10

  • Send-Off: Friday, March 22 | 5:00-7:00 pm | Finals Week

  • Program Dates: Saturday, March 23-Friday, March 29 | Spring Break

  • Reorientation: Wednesday, April 24 | 5:00-7:00 pm | Week 4 *tentative

During Team Meetings, you'll get to know the other 8-10 students on your team and the two student staff co-leaders for your group. You'll learn about the community you'll be traveling to, the program itinerary, and other logistics! The Team Meetings also cover teambuilding and leadership topics such as values and leveraging your strengths and other's strengths in collaborative work. 

The Send-Off is an exciting dinner event where all 3 teams come together the night before leaving! And at Reorientation, everyone will come back together after the traveling program to reconnect, reflect, and take what they've learned from the experience into their lives at OSU and beyond!

Additionally, you will be asked to commit 3-4 hours total outside the times listed above to review materials and resources (articles, videos, etc.) that include background information about the history and social issues in the host community.

Please let us know if you have any extenuating circumstances that might cause you to be unavailable for certain dates, as exceptions may be granted on a case-by-case basis.

Program Fee: $200 (Corvallis campus & *Ecampus students)

We strive to set a program fee that accurately reflects the value the Alt. Break program offers to student participants. We charge a program fee to recover some of the cost for offering the Alt. Break program, and as an added layer of commitment from participants.

$200 program fee covers the following:

  • Transportation from the OSU Corvallis campus to the program location and back
  • Lodging in shared/communal housing (ex. Air BnB, hostel, ranch house etc.)
  • Food:
    • 7 dinners: 6 prepared by the team and 1 dinner out together
    • Food staples for preparing breakfast, lunch, and travel meals.
    • Note: If participants would like travel meals or want to supplement the staple groceries provided for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, they are responsible for purchasing any additional groceries they may want
  • Full week-long (7-day) itinerary of engaging service projects, educational sessions, and reflective activities with community organizations and fellow program participants. The co-leaders work extremely hard to plan and facilitate an engaging, educational, valuable, and fun experience for program participants!
  • 3 pre-trip team meetings that give you the opportunity to build connections and learn about the program
  • 2 dinners provided outside the 7-day traveling program at the Send-Off and Reorientation
Program Fee Waivers

Program fee waivers are available to cover a portion or all of the program fee on a sliding scale based on a "contribute what you can, take what you need" policy.

We are committed to equity and access. We hope the program fee does not create undue stress due to your personal circumstances. We believe that no student should be excluded from participating due to financial barriers. What's most important is that the students who are selected to participate are fully committed to the Alt. Break program.

At the end of the application, you will be able to indicate the amount of the program fee you are able to pay, and we will waive the rest, no questions asked.

Please note, if you are in a position to contribute the majority or all of the fee, it will allow us to ensure we can offer program fee waivers for students who need it most into the future. 

No payment is due at the time of application. Final payment due dates will be communicated to students who are selected to participate.

*Additional program fee: $200 (Ecampus students only)
Total Ecampus program fee: $400

Ecampus students are responsible for paying the $400 fee in two parts:

  1. $200 base program fee on a sliding-scale as described above where they can receive program waivers for any portion.
  2. $200 additional fee to compensate for not paying the student incidental fee (see below for further explanation). If students need assistance paying this additional $200, please reach out to Eddie Rodriguez ([email protected]), Ecampus Student Engagement Program Manager, to request supplemental funding.

The Alt. Break program is funded by the student incidental fee, which is paid only by Corvallis campus students. This allows us to reduce the Alt. Break program fee for Corvallis campus students to $200 total. Since Ecampus students do not pay the student incidental fee, they are responsible for paying a higher Alt. Break program fee of $400, which represents the full cost for one student to participate in Alt. Break. This includes all transportation, meals, lodging, & activities during the trip, as well as all food and space reservations for meetings before & after the trip.


The Alt. Break experience is centered on team building, learning, relational leadership development, inclusivity, and community building. To create the most meaningful experience for yourself, your teammates, and our community partners, we ask that you be engaged to the fullest extent possible throughout the entire program by upholding the following commitments.

  • I will attend ALL elements of the Alt. Break program in-person and participate to the best of my ability. This includes:
    • Pre and post-program meetings (Team Meetings, Send-off, & Reorientation)
    • The full itinerary of the traveling program including all service projects, educational sessions, and activities.
    • Showing up on time, being present, and sharing when appropriate.
    • Refraining from use of technology that is not relevant to the sessions. 
    • If extenuating circumstances arise that create a schedule conflict with part of the program, I will make arrangements to make up missed content with my co-leaders. Acceptable reasons for missing a program meeting include classes, labs, medical appointments, and jobs where a participant cannot take leave.
  • I will support the mission of Alternative Break as a program that is focused on immersive community-engaged learning experiences centered on personal growth, relational leadership development, community building, and creating social change through service projects, educational sessions, reflection, and team building. This experience is NOT a vacation or sightseeing experience.
  • I agree to take responsibility for my own learning and experience. I agree to ask questions if I don’t understand, participate even if I have done an activity before, and challenge myself to do things outside my “comfort zone” during the experience. I will be open to processing (at my own comfort level) the Alternative Break experience individually and as a group through organized reflection, journaling, and other activities.
  • I will practice open-mindedness and explore new and diverse perspectives, opinions, and experiences. I will expect to learn and be challenged.
  • I will be flexible and adaptable to changing and unexpected circumstances to the best of my ability.
  • I will be respectful of diverse communities, identities, lived experiences, cultural norms, and values (practice cultural humility) that I may experience in communities and/or with members of the Alt. Break team. I will practice empathy, deep listening, and vulnerability and will create an inclusive space for members of my team and community. I will practice social consciousness/mindfulness of others and center care. I will respect the humanity and dignity of all people.
  • I commit to being an active contributor to my team and show respect for fellow team members, community partners, and populations with whom I am completing projects. I will do my best to uphold the team/community agreements that my team develops together.
  • I will assume best intent and attend to impact: We all make mistakes and this is part of our learning and growing. I am committed to taking accountability for my actions and addressing any impact on others.
  • I will serve as a positive role model and representative of Oregon State University, Community Engagement & Leadership (CEL), and myself during this program.
  • I agree to take responsibility for personal needs and practice self-care for my own wellbeing including getting enough sleep to participate fully. I agree to let a trip leader know if I am not feeling safe, heard, acknowledged, or anything else that is taking away from my learning experience. We cannot support or make changes if we are not aware of your needs.
  • I agree to refrain from using alcohol or non-prescription drugs during the Alternative Break experience. Alcohol and other drugs don’t have a part in what we hope to accomplish.
  • I will be responsible for my own actions and behavior and understand and agree to adhere to the OSU Code of Student Conduct. I will be held accountable for actions and behaviors that violate the code of conduct.
  • I will respect the property of our lodging site, community partners, and CEL/OSU.
  • I understand that to remain a participant, I must sign this Alternative Break Learning Agreement and follow all program guidelines and policies as well as adhere to trip leader instructions during the program. If I fail to uphold this learning agreement (based on the discretion of the trip leaders and Alt. Break Coordinator), I may be asked to leave the program. If I am removed from the program or voluntarily leave the group, I bear the responsibility for arranging and paying for return transportation to campus.
  • I agree to adhere to the expectations outlined in the Alt. Break Expectations and Information Related to Domestic Travel & Public Health to support the health, wellbeing, and safety of all participants, staff, and community partners.
A note on personal wellbeing:

Alternative Breaks are often physically, emotionally, and mentally challenging as a result of the immersive nature of the program. The experience is both challenging and rewarding due to long days spent completing service projects and educational sessions, which often require physical labor, dialogues, and reflection activities on social issues over the course of a 5 to 6 day period. Participants are asked and encouraged to take responsibility for their wellbeing during the trip by planning ahead to prepare themselves as best as possible for the experience and making needs known to the team and Alt. Break Leaders so accommodations and plans can be made that account for the needs of all team members. Participants will complete a self-care planning activity to support this process.

*Note: This section will be updated for 2024 program
⚠️ Required Protocols for Spring Break 2023

To participate in the Alt. Break program, you will be asked to do ALL of the following:

  1. Be in compliance with OSU’s Vaccination Program before program departure.
    • Students with a medical or non-medical exemption to OSU’s Vaccination Program will be provided accommodations to participate and should contact CEL ([email protected] or 541-737-3041) to discuss accommodations specific to the Alternative Break program further.
  2. Adhere to OSU’s current COVID-19 Safety & Success Policy to prioritize the safety and well-being of all participants, staff members, and community partners.
    • Certain parts of the Alt. Break program may involve adhering to additional local COVID-19 policies and protocols in the communities that students visit that may be different than OSU's COVID-19 Safety & Success Policy. Local policies and protocols may include masking and showing proof of vaccination. Therefore, to participate, students will be expected to uphold any additional requirements in effect at the time of the program. We will share any updates on additional policies and protocols as soon as they are available and work with students needing program specific accommodations to participate
  3. Take a free COVID-19 test and receive the result before program departure on Saturday, March 25, 2023. 
    • If you receive a positive test result before program departure, we ask that you not travel with  the program, and follow OSU's positive case notification protocols and current isolation & quarantine guidance, or the most current protocols and guidance in effect at the time of the program.
    • If you receive a positive test result and remove yourself from the program prior to departure, you will receive a reimbursement for the full Alt. Break program fee ($200).

Recommended Protocols:

In addition to the required protocols above, it is highly recommended that you do the following to prioritize the health of all program participants and to reduce the likelihood of a positive COVID-19 case(s) during the program.

  1. Some community partners may require showing proof of both being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and being “up to date” with COVID-19 vaccination or having a COVID-19 booster. For this reason, we strongly encourage all participants to be up to date with their COVID-19 boosters by program departure in order to be able to participate in all of the program’s activities and the full itinerary.
  2. If you are symptomatic or have a known exposure on the program, take a COVID-19 test within 48 hours after returning from the program.
  3. During the program: Continue adhering to OSU’s current COVID-19 Safety & Success Policy including:
    • Self-screen for symptoms daily and report any symptoms of COVID-19 to an Alt. Break Leader as soon as you become aware of the symptoms.

Protocols for handling potential positive COVID-19 cases during the program will be shared with students who are accepted into the program.

If you have any questions about these required protocols, please contact us at [email protected] or 541-737-3041.

  • Must be a currently enrolled OSU student at the Corvallis campus OR Ecampus
  • Must be in good university standing (academic and student conduct)

Requirements for Ecampus students to participate:

In order to apply and participate, Ecampus students must meet the following requirements:

  1. Must attend all parts of the program in-person, including 4 pre-trip meetings before the trips during spring break and 1 meeting after spring break in-person on the Corvallis campus. In-person attendance at these meetings will offer a more engaging experience and directly supports team building.
  2. Must travel to the trip location (Yakima, WA; Ashland, OR; & San Francisco, CA) with group by coming to the Corvallis campus on Saturday, March 23rd to depart with the team and return to Corvallis on Friday, March 29th. Teams travel to their location in 12-passenger university vans provided by OSU.
  3. Pay the $200 base program fee & $200 additional program fee ($400 total program fee) as outlined in the Program Fee section above. Financial support is available.

If you have extenuating, unexpected medical, academic, or family/personal circumstances that are out of your control and need to cancel your participation, you may be reimbursed for any expenses that Community Engagement & Leadership can recover. The emergency must arise before the program starts to receive any refund. Students will be asked to provide a signed request for any partial refund that summarizes the extenuating circumstances.

Please communicate any need to cancel as soon as possible so we can work with you. If you or Community Engagement & Leadership is able to identify a replacement participant that meets trip criteria, a full refund may be possible.

If accessibility accommodations are needed in order to participate in the program, please contact us at [email protected] or 541-737-3041.

Please contact us as soon as possible and preferably no less than one month in advance of the program dates due to the immersive nature of the experience.

The Alternative Break program at Oregon State University dates back to 2010. Site locations largely developed out of personal connections and student leader interests in the early years to establish programs in Yakima, Washington (established 2010) and San Francisco, California (established 2012). Additional program locations including Ashland/southern Oregon and Warm Springs, Oregon (established 2013) were developed with a desire to cultivate deeper connections within the state of Oregon, meet known community need, and maintain sites within driving distance of the OSU Corvallis campus. The Warm Springs program was created with the specific intent to maximize the community knowledge and connections within OSU Extension Services across the state and facilitate student exposure to the impact and work of Extension Services. Program expansion is a goal moving forward. Additional program sites may be selected and developed in ways that balance diversifying the social issues/causes examined within the program and existing relationships between the community and OSU.

Interested in receiving academic credit for participating in Alternative Break? If your major, minor, or concentration area requires practicum, internship, experiential learning, or other forms of applied learning we encourage you to contact your academic advisor to explore possibilities within your course of study. You will likely need to provide program learning outcomes and an agenda or itinerary. Alt. Break program leaders can support you in obtaining this information. 

The following academic units have supported Alternative Break credit in the past. Please note that this is NOT a comprehensive or complete list so you are encouraged to talk with your advisor or academic program to explore your specific circumstance.

  • Sustainability Double Degree
    • Sustainability Double degree students are able to receive credit for Alternative Break participation. Please connect with your advisor ([email protected]) to explore this option.
  • Leadership Minor
    • Leadership Minor students are able to receive credit for Alternative Break participation. Please connect with your advisor and/or [email protected] to explore this option.
  • Human Development and Family Sciences
    • Human Development and Family Sciences (HDFS) majors or minors may be able to receive credit for Alternative Break participation. Please consult with the HDFS internship coordinator  ([email protected]) to explore the possibility.
  • Political Science
    • Political Science majors or minors may be able to receive credit for Alternative Break participation. Please consult with the Political Science internship coordinator to explore the possibility.
  • Sociology
    • Sociology majors or minors may be able to receive credit for Alternative Break participation. Please consult with the Sociology internship coordinator to explore the possibility.
  • Environmental Sciences and select CEOAS majors
    • Environmental Sciences and other CEOAS majors may be able to receive credit for Alternative Break participation. Please consult with the CEOAS Experiential Learning Coordinator to explore the possibility.