Frequently Asked Questions about 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 hands-on experience with social justice issues, as student groups partner with community initiatives in locations across the globe and learn from community leaders ranging from El Salvador and Camden, NJ to Jamaica and Florida. 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.
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 may be participants or trip leaders.
Current faculty or staff (including graduate assistants) may be learning partners.
Am I eligible to participant in a spring or summer trip if I graduate in the fall?
No. All participants must be currently enrolled at GMU.
As an international student can I go on an Alternative Break trip?
Yes! Please keep in mind that if you choose to participate in an international alternative break trip, you must check with your embassy or consulate to inquire about travel requirements such as visa regulations. The SAIL office, student trip leaders, or community partners cannot verify this information for you.
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.
If you are interested in being a trip leader, complete the online application: Alternative Break Trip Leader Application. In order to be a trip leader, you must be a past participant or have equivalent experience, have knowledge of the issue and/or the region, and have demonstrated a commitment to social justice.
If you are interested in being a learning partner, please contactOmar Aziz. Learning partners with experience relevant to the trip social justice theme or destination and have a demonstrated commitment to social justice and working with students, will be selected by SAIL staff and student trip leaders.
How many people go on the trips?
Generally, between 10-15 participants, which includes 2 student trip leaders and one learning partner.
Can I get credit for Alternative Break and how?
The SAIL office does not offer credit through our program. However, you may work directly with a faculty member to design an independent study or related assignment(s) for credit.
How much does it cost?
The total trip costs vary by trip location. Please refer to the trip page to familiarize yourself with the specific costs of the trip(s) you are interested in, and what each trip fee will cover. ***Trips costs will never include cost of flight, visa/passport fees, or immunization costs***
Is the money paid all at one time?
No, the money is paid in two different transactions. The first portion is your non-refundable deposit to secure your spot on the trip ($100 deposit for domestic trips and $250 for international trips) the second is the remaining balance. The deposit will go towards the final cost of the trip.
I paid my deposit but can no longer go on the trip – can I get a refund?
No. Deposits are non-refundable.
Why is my deposit 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.
I paid deposit and final payment but can no longer go on the trip – can I get a refund?
The deposit is non-refundable. Final payments may be refundable due to extenuating circumstances.
Why are flight costs not included?
It is impossible to estimate how much flights will be at the time of the trip. The SAIL office and your student trip leaders will work together to find the best flight options for each trip.
Is food included in the trip costs?
This is dependent on the trip you will be attending. Please refer to the trip description. Your student trip leaders will also provide this information.
Where can I pay my deposit & final payment?
Pick up a cash receipt from the SAIL office (442 Enterprise Hall).
Take your cash receipt, along with your payment to the Cashier’s office located in SUB 1- Room 104, Monday thru Friday 9:00AM-4:30PM. You may pay cash or check (if paying with check, make out to George Mason University).
Bring the yellow copy of the cash receipt back to the SAIL office.
Is there financial aid or scholarships available?
We offer fundraising support and a limited number of needs-based scholarships:
Fundraising: All trips are expected to participate in at least 2-3 group fundraising activities. We also encourage individual fundraising campaigns. Your student trip leaders and SAIL staff provide resources and support for both group and individual fundraising.
Needs-based Scholarship: The SAIL office offers a limited number of scholarships each year: $250 for international trips and $100 for domestic trips. Please indicate on your online application that you are interested in applying. The SAIL office will then contact you with instructions for completing the essay questions and deadline. We take into consideration feedback from the financial aid office, your essay responses, and application. Please keep in mind that scholarships are awarded after the deposit is due. Also, additional scholarship funding are provide in-part by the Parents Funds.
Are trips safe?
Student trip leaders work with SAIL to create a safe, educational, and service-oriented itinerary for the trip. All travel, domestic and international, comes with a level of risk that students should be aware of. Students should research their destination and take all safety precautions.
What immunizations do I need?
You are responsible for talking with your physician and looking on the Center for Disease Control website to make informed choices of which immunizations you will need. Search for your destination country on the travel health page.
Do I need to be fluent in Spanish to attend the Guatemala or El Salvador trips?
No. However, we encourage people who have a working knowledge of Spanish to apply.
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. Please be aware that we cannot guarantee that facilities or support services will be available at each location abroad and in the same range and quality as on the GMU campus.