Alternative Spring Break Trips Offer Enriching Experiences Despite Organizational Challenges

For some Stanford students, spring break was a time to travel with friends or go home. For others, the break was an opportunity to learn about identity, the arts, and activism through an Alternative Spring Break (ASB) trip.

ASB trips are Stanford-funded experiences that expose students to “complex social and cultural issues through a unique experiential learning course,” according to the ASB website. The trips, most of which required students to take a course hosted by the trip organizers during the winter term, covered topics such as “Pilipinx Issues” and “The Soul of the City: Music and Organizing in Chicago.”

Robert Castaneros ’24 served as co-lead on the “Pilipinx Issues” trip, a year after first encountering the program in its first year, when it was taking place virtually.

Castaneros said he felt he had a unique responsibility to lead a program covering important issues of personal identity.

“If it didn’t exist at Stanford, there wouldn’t be a formalized space for students to learn about the Filipino-American experience,” he said.

While winter term classes focused primarily on Filipino history and structures of oppression, Castaneros said the trip provided an opportunity to see “the resilience that the Filipino-American people in the United States are able to display”.

The trip included visits to various Filipino community organizations in the Bay Area, including the Parangal Dance Company, which Castaneros says works to “preserve indigenous Filipino dance.” There, the group was able to learn and participate in two Aboriginal dances with the company.

On the last day of the trip, the group visited the Philippine Seafood City supermarket, where participants distributed flyers advocating Philippine human rights law. The flyer was produced in conjunction with a non-profit organization called The Malaya Movement, and reminded Castaneros of what he hopes to give back to the Stanford community: the opportunity to involve more people in Filipino activism. .

Anastacia Del Rio ’25 participated in the “Soul of the City: Music and Organizing in Chicago” trip, which aimed to examine music and activism in Chicago.

Although the trip ended up taking place in Oakland and San Francisco instead of Chicago, Del Rio described the transition as “pretty good,” due to the towns’ shared history of “grassroots organizing,” especially the social justice political party of the Black Panthers.

“I was really fascinated by the intersection of music and activism, and more broadly how [art] can really engage local communities and have a really big impact, especially in low-income communities,” Del Rio said.

A highlight for Del Rio was getting to know the other members of the trip, all of whom she felt were a good fit.

“I think this trip is a really good way to make meaningful connections with people I may never have met before,” she said.

By bringing participants together, the program has not only succeeded in enhancing the social experience of students, but also their educational experience. The “Pilipinx Issues” trip reinforced “the importance of sharing collective knowledge with everyone,” according to Jonathan Laxamana ’24, who co-led the trip with Castaneros.

“Every student [should be] exposed to the communities they discover in the classroom.

Laxamana said after hearing from members of the Filipino community during the trip, he was moved to ask his own parents about their migration history.

“They started telling me [their] great story and it was very moving [experience]”, Laxamana said. “I think it’s a testament to the power of trips like these, exposing students to these issues first hand and meeting the people we’re organizing for.”

The organizational aspects of the trip, however, were a point of frustration for Laxamana. As trip leaders, Laxamana and Castaneros frequently discussed how they “expected to feel much more supported by the Haas Center.”

“I remember feeling like we were basically alone,” Laxamana said.

Instead of receiving funds to offset some of the costs of the trip up front, Laxamana and Castaneros had to pay the costs themselves in hopes of later reimbursement.

According to Allen Yang Huang MA ’22, ASB’s financial officer, “The Haas Center does not provide funding for the ASB, as our funding comes from annual ASSU grants.”

Instead, trip leaders explained their projected funding need and “ASSU then issued advance payment checks for each trip based on budgets finalized during finals week,” according to Huang.

If trips exceeded their planned budget, trip leaders “were required to pay the excess costs up front to receive reimbursement later,” Huang wrote.

Ayush Pandit ’22 also faced organizational challenges when he co-led the ASB trip “The Soul of the City: Music and Organization in Chicago”. He first made the trip in his freshman year, and he described it as “an amazing time” thanks to the friends he made and “just learning[ing] more about the city.

Throughout the quarter, “uncertainty in various forms continued literally into the week before the trip,” according to Pandit. This included announcements from the University that the trip could not take place, before moving to requiring it to occur within 250 miles of campus.

” All this time, [we were] constantly changing plans, trying to revise our itinerary, trying to do everything we could to make sure that some sort of in-person trip could happen, while not knowing if anything was going to happen,” Pandit said. .

Adjustments to the travel policy have also complicated the reimbursement process, Huang said, noting that the changes “caused confusion among the ASSU, OSE [Office of Student Engagement] and ASB which has since been resolved but still caused delays in refunds.

Despite the challenges of the journey, Pandit said he learned to “take[e] into things as they arise, and just embrace the changes and appreciate what is, rather than what might have been.

Aubrey L. Morgan