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Students in Peru during 2011 Alternative Spring Break

Penn State Shenango Alternative Spring Break (ASB)/Study Abroad with Service Learning is a semester long cultural experience for Penn State Shenango students. Students will prepare for a weeklong cultural emersion, dedicated to learning about complex social and cultural issues through community service. In addition to the week long community service, students will engage in a semester long study abroad course with experiential learning, group discussion, readings, and reflections.

Where are we going in 2014?

Belize! Belize is on the Caribbean coast nestled between Mexico and Guatemala. This ideal location offers an intriguing mix of tropical forests, majestic mountains, mysterious Mayan temples, and excellent opportunities for diving and fishing. Our specific area of service will be decided in the Fall of 2013.

Students along with 3 staff and/or faculty will travel to Belize during Penn State University's spring break, March 8-15, 2014.

If you are interested in traveling with us for this this once in a lifetime opportunity, please follow the steps below and read more information about the trip in the Frequently Asked Questions section.

Participant Process

  1. Students must complete an application (located in Sharon Hall 103) as well as place a non-refundable deposit of $100.00 by October 3, 2013.
  2. Students will be required to sign an agreement stating they will pay the final student contribution amount by February 7, 2014.
  3. Depending on the amount of students interested, the Student Affairs Office may conduct interviews with students to select those who will attend the trip. This selection process would begin the first week of October with the intent to notify students of their status by the end of October 2013.
  4. Students selected to go on the ASB 2014 trip will be responsible for registering in the INTST 497 Study Abroad course, offered in the Spring of 2014. Students will complete coursework as a part of their study abroad experience, including; in class discussions, readings, reflective writing papers, and presentations.

For more information, please contact the Student Affairs Office at (724) 983-2836 or email ASB Program Directors; Jammie Tomasone (jlt31@psu.edu), Amy Evans (abl5043@psu.edu)

Frequently Asked Questions

How will we get there?

We will be flying out of Pittsburgh to Belize City. Transportation to the airport and ground transportation in the country will be provided.

What will we be doing when we get there?

Penn State Shenango has partnered with ProWorld to provide students with a comprehensive Study Abroad, Service Learning experience. This will be an 8-day program where students have the opportunity to travel to Belize and learn about its unique culture. Belize is a country rich with culture, offering authentic experiences with opportunities for multicultural development. Students will explore the urban area through various programs that expose the limited education, inadequate health services, and lack of employment challenging the nation’s development.

In Belize, ProWorld offers universities and private groups, customized volunteer and internship programs. The programs are focused on healthcare, community development, environmental conservation, business and marketing and NGO management.

Where will we be staying?

Lodging is in shared rooms at the ProWorld Bunkhouse. Living in a bunkhouse is ideal for cultivating a sense of community within our group and allowing students slightly more independence during the program. Meals are prepared by local cooks and served family style allowing for a generous amount of reflection on the day's challenges and successes. A typical Belizean meal includes a chicken dish, rice and beans, fried plantains, and sometimes coleslaw or potato salad. Volunteers find all of their basic needs met and all housing options provide volunteers with beds, indoor plumbing and showers.

What is other activities will we do?

The entire experience focuses on cultural emersion and students will participate in cultural activities throughout the week. These activities could include visits to Mayan ruins, exploration of caves, snorkeling in the barrier reef, as well as trips to local cultural festivals, events and markets. These events will also include less standard ‘round table’ discussions whereby local individuals are invited to sit with the students to discuss a variety of topics. The exercise is an excellent tool for raising awareness of misperceptions and different perspectives on universal topics such as marriage, sports and wealth.

How much will it cost?

While the total cost of the trip is ~$2700.00, the university has secured external funding sources to make this trip affordable for all students. Students will be expected to pay a small portion of the cost of the trip. Final cost of trip will be available by October 18, 2013. Cost of trip to include registration fees, meals, housing, transportation at the site, cultural and scenic trips, travel insurance and airfare. The student will be required to pay for passport, country entrance/exit fees, health insurance, and spending money on their own.

What if I can’t pay the final amount?

You will be expected to pay the final student contribution (to be determined by October 18) February 7, 2014. Payment plans and fundraisers will be available to help you defray the final cost. If you are still unable to pay by February 14, 2014, you will be unable to attend the trip and will forfeit any deposits made.

What will I need to wear?

We will be doing significant physical labor and dirty work during this trip. You will want to dress accordingly (old jeans, boots, etc.). More details will follow.

Can non-Penn State students go?

No. You must be an enrolled Penn State to participate.

Can my friend and I volunteer together?

Diversity is a really important part of the Study Abroad experience. When placing students in the smaller groups/teams on trip, we work very hard to create the largest amount of diversity within each group. Although it might sound like a good idea for you and your friend to be in the same smaller team, part of the experience is meeting and working with new people.

Can students with disabilities go?

Penn State makes every effort to ensure students with disabilities can participate in all programs. Please be aware that we cannot guarantee that facilities or support services will be available at this remote location and physical labor will be required.

Do I need to have medical insurance to go on the trip?

Yes, you do need medical insurance, but if you do not have private insurance, you can purchase Short Term Health Insurance for approximately $30 within a month of the trip. We require insurance for liability reasons and in case of emergencies.

Is this trip safe?

Since this site has groups participate often, they know how to work well with groups of volunteers and provide the most supervision. Although these trips have been well-planned, students are encouraged to protect their own safety by always following appropriate safety precautions, which will be discussed in class.

Why are Penn State trips and events drug and alcohol free?

To maintain positive and inclusive group-dynamics, to promote safety and productivity, to be respectful towards Penn State Shenango and the host site we are working with, and because you just do not need it if you are having a quality experience! Students who violate the alcohol and drug free policy will be referred to the Office of Student Conduct.

If I am 21, can I drink on an Alternative Breaks trip?

No, for the reasons listed above. The purpose of this trip is to represent Penn State Shenango with the heart of service.


March 2012
Caribbean coast of Costa Rica

Students spent the week at an Animal Rescue center helping with the animals on site, building a hatchery for sea turtle eggs, and doing night patrol of the beaches to prevent poachers from stealing turtle eggs. Free time activities included a walking tour of San Jose, shopping in local markets, visit to beaches like Cahuita and Puerto Viejo, dance lessons, Spanish classes, and kayaking.

March 2011
Urubamba, Peru

Students spent the week building cleaner burning stoves in homes of rural Peruvian families. Students worked along side the locals to help them create a healthier way of cooking inside their homes. Free time included tours of Inca Ruins, Spanish lessons, a trip to Machu Picchu, shopping in local Peruvian markets, and mountain hikes

March 2010
Tuba City, AZ

Students spent the week tutoring school children on a Navajo Indian Reservation. Participants were split up and put in classrooms to help teachers work with very large groups of students. Downtime activities included a trip to the Grand Canyon, a traditional Indian Sweat Lodge, and shopping at local markets.

March 2009
Gulfport, MS

Students spent the week working along side students from other PSU campuses and other colleges and universities working on houses that had been damaged by Hurricane Katrina. During down time, students got to check out some of the coast line that was completely wiped out and also had the chance to tour and explore downtown New Orleans.