The Student Experience Office at Carleton University has offered the Alternative Spring Break (ASB) program to students for 10 years now. The ASB program provides students with the opportunity to travel nationally or internationally during the winter reading week to engage in community service work with a diverse array of communities. For example, in February 2020, students travelled to five different destinations in the United States, Costa Rica and Guatemala. Each trip was focused on a specific theme including immigration, education, food security, emerging markets and sustainability. 

 Alternative Spring Break gives all Carleton students, regardless of year and program, the chance to step outside of Carleton’s campus and learn about the social, environmental, and economic challenges impacting other communities, while building and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships with community members.  

The Background

This year, students have the opportunity to travel to Guatemala 

The purpose of the Guatemala trip is to learn about the impact the coffee industry has on climate change and the supply chain. Students will learn about free, fair and direct trade while picking coffee alongside local farmers in Guatemala. Students will also engage with local Indigenous communities to learn about the impact the coffee industry has had on their community and ancestral lands. Buying, selling, and consumption of coffee is a worldwide business, yet the production aspect often gets overlooked. This trip will help educate young professionals on the impact and larger picture of their morning cup of coffee.  

The Rollout

The ASB Guatemala experience costs $3,400, which includes flights, accommodations, meals, and the experiential learning opportunities students will participate in. The funds offered will help offset the financial responsibility of the students, and it will help facilitate a more financially accessible program. In doing so, students will have increased confidence to apply and a chance to attend.  

Aside from the financial offset, the funds further provide the opportunity to immerse and educate students in environments and fields that are not offered in a classroom setting. The funding will also provide the chance to build purposeful connections and relationships with a variety of families and community members.  

The Impact

Whether there is a business student learning about the fair trade of coffee beans, a student in Environmental Studies witnessing the effects of climate, or an Indigenous Studies student reflecting on the impact the coffee industry has on ancestral lands, there is something for everyone. This opportunity focuses on current social and environmental issues that all students, regardless of faculty, can learn about and bring back to the classroom.  


Through interacting and learning from our partner communities, students will enhance their intercultural competency and expand their understanding of current global issues.  

 ASB alumni have consistently expressed improvements in personal development, interpersonal skills and real-world connections to their academic discipline as a result of their participation in the program.  

 With your help, more passionate students and future leaders will be able to participate in the Alternative Spring Break Program. 

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