Columbia College | Columbia Engineering

Alternative Break Program FAQ

Who is eligible to participate in an Alternative Break Program-supported project?

Only currently enrolled Columbia College, Columbia Engineering, Barnard College and General Studies students can receive financial support, however any Columbia University affiliate or student from another university can participate on an ABP-supported project.

When can the projects take place?

All ABP-supported projects must have a significant component that takes place over one of the University's official spring or summer academic breaks. Much of the work for projects, however, will take place either before or after the actual trip as teams prepare or work on their projects. In addition, the ABP expects that all of the teams it supports will participate in debriefs following the end of their work.

How do I get involved in a project?

There are two ways to get involved with an ABP-supported project: (1) Project leaders design and organize civic engagement projects and submit  the required proposals. They also recruit and develop a team to work on the project. (2) You may be able join an already-organized project and help the team shape the experience. After projects have been selected as ABP recipients, if any are looking for team members, we will send an email out to our listserv.  Or you can come in to our office to ask us about any opportunities.

How do I form a project?

Project leaders start with an idea regarding addressing a community challenge and develop that idea, including ways to work with an organization in the community (identifying and collaborating with a community partner), forming a team, and fundraising for the project. The ABP will work with you to help you develop your project from the preliminary proposal up until your travel, through check-in meetings, trainings and providing support and connecting you with resources as needed.

What is the minimum/maximum size of an ABP project team?

ABP teams can be as small as one and as big as necessary to effectively achieve the mission and goals of your project. 

Will it cost me to organize a project?

Each team member is required to pay a deposit ($50 for domestic and $100 for international) however that money goes directly towards team project costs. Aside from that, the budget is entirely up to your project idea.  The ABP is set up so that students create their own civic engagement projects; they ultimately make decisions about: what kind of work they will do, whom they work with, where they work, how they travel, where they stay, and how long they serve. All of these factors will determine the costs for each team member. The ABP will help with fundraising plans and strategies as well as share a variety of funding sources with the teams. 

What is ABP funding used for?

The ABP provides project funding for selected projects to offset costs of travel for the team. Depending on funds available each year, team size, and number of selected projects, the ABP may or may not cover all of the travel costs. Travel and accomodations that can be pre-paid can be purchased using ABP funds. Flights must be purchased directly through the airline.

How does the ABP team help prepare for projects?

First, ABP provides funding for selected projects for travel costs. The ABP then provides support for teams throughout the project planning process. Support includes one on one meetings with team project leaders, brainstorm fundraising ideas, workshops on team building, conflict management, and identity formation, and assistance in finding a community partner wherever you wish to work. The ABP team is available throughout the entire process of planning for advising, and teams are encouraged to utilize the relationship.

What is Columbia's Travel Policy?

All Columbia students must comply with the University's undergraduate travel policy and process. For international travel: all project team members must submit their project trip details to the Undergraduate Travel Safety Committee for risk assessment. Once approved, each student must apply for "school sponsorship". Next, each student must complete their trip itinerary information in International SOS (ISOS), updating it once flights have been purchased. ISOS services are free and available to all Columbia students and provides worldwide assistance in the event of an emergency that requires special evacuation and repatriation services, or immediate medical intervention. For domestic travel students must fill out the domestic travel form

What do we need to do to prepare for our trip?

You are responsible for talking with your physician and looking on the Center for Disease Control website to make informed choices about which immunizations you will need. Look on the travel health page and then search for your destination country. ABP does not cover immunization expenses. However, some may be paid for by student health insurance plans. Students may also want to consult the state department regarding security risks in the countries of proposed projects. Additionally, you are responsible for researching whether or not you need a Visa to travel to your project country and apply for with enough time before your departure. 

If you have other questions, feel free to email us!

Alternative Break Program


515 Alfred Lerner Hall
2920 Broadway
New York, NY 10027

Call: 212-854-1371

9:00 a.m.–5:00p.m.