Frequently Asked Questions: Spring 2021 Alternative Break

What is an Alternative Break?

  • Alternative Break brings GMU to the world and the world to GMU. Offered during spring and summer breaks, these student-led immersion programs provide meaningful experience with social justice issues, as student groups partner with community initiatives in locations across the globe and learn from community leaders ranging from Camden, NJ, Maryland, Graterford State Prison and Guatemala. It is a way to connect service with current social issues and get hands-on learning experiences while instilling an active citizen mindset in young adults.

How will this year be different from previous Alternative Breaks?

  • All of the trips will be held virtually and will consist of dynamic speakers, community members and activities around a specific social issue. We recognize this creates a different experience but our trip leaders have been working hard to ensure a deeply meaningful and thought-provoking trip. They have incorporated breaks as well as opportunities to spend time in community. We understand zoom fatigue and our trip leaders are working hard to have purposeful experiences without creating this fatigue.

Who is eligible to go on an Alternative Break trip?

  • Currently enrolled GMU students, both undergraduate and graduate part-time and full-time degree seeking students as well as faculty and staff may participate

How can I apply for an Alternative Break?

  • If you are interested in being a participant, complete the online application: Alternative Break Participant Application. Prior experience with service or volunteering, travel, or a particular social issue is not required. However, we are looking for students who are passionate about community engagement and being an active participant in social change.

Why is this being held May 11th-14th?

  • Spring Break was cancelled this year for George Mason and we wanted to find a time that would be accessible to most students. May 11th-14th is the time between the end of finals and graduation. This will ensure that all students will be able to participate, including graduating seniors.

I work full-time, would I be able to pop in when I am available to sessions?

  • We’d prefer not, only to respect the time and energy of our community partners and trip leaders who have put in a lot of time to put this together. The entire program has been thoughtfully created to intersect with one another so that you are able to get a full picture of the social issue.

How many people go on the trips?

  • Generally, between 10-15 participants, which includes 2 student trip leaders and one learning partner. As we are virtual we have some flexibility with numbers.

Can I get credit for Alternative Break and how?

  • Unfortunately, participants will not be selected until after the add/drop date for the semester so this is not possible for this year.

How much does it cost and why is there a cost?

  • The trip will cost $25. This is so that we are able to cover the costs of our community partners and speakers who will be providing their time and energy to these experiences. This is also to help ensure that we have participants for our speakers and trip leaders who have worked so hard to make these experiences happen.

I paid my deposit but can no longer go on the trip – can I get a refund?

  • No. Unfortunately deposits are non-refundable. Once participants are selected and have paid their deposit to secure a spot on their trip, the SAIL office then notifies each of our community partners to confirm the final number of participants for each trip. Our community partners are generally non-profit organizations working with limited resources, and they spend a great amount of time and effort to plan and accommodate our students. If a student drops out of the trip – we are still required to pay our community partners for their time and services.

Can students with disabilities go on Alternative Breaks?

  • The Alternative Break program makes every effort to ensure that students with disabilities can participate successfully in Alternative Break programs. As these will be virtual, we will do our best to accommodate any needs but please let us know the best way to support you.


Other questions or concerns? Please don’t hesitate to reach out to Patty Mathison, SAIL Director at

Alternative Break Spotlight: Jo-Vivian

Alternative Break Spotlight: Jo-Vivian

Meet Jo-Vivian: I believe knowledge is power. Especially during a time like now, it feels impossible to stand together as a community to continue being involved with social action and justice while we’re social distancing and quarantining. However, we can continue to be involved by reading and becoming more informed, discovering and researching groups with similar interests, and spreading knowledge. There are so many different outlets and organizations that are also trying to bring social justice into the community.

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