Skip to main content

Alternative Spring Break: Chicago Immersion

March 15 - 22, 2024 Chicago, IL

What is Alternative Spring Break?


Alternative Spring Break (ASB) is a way to become an active citizen by learning about social issues and getting to know people who are especially impacted by those injustices right here in Chicago. You will have time to reflect on what really matters and build some meaningful relationships. We partner with Chicago organizations working for social change and put you in a position to have an experience of personal transformation. This is your opportunity to take advantage of spring break week and MAKE IT SOMETHING SPECIAL!

ASB is a service learning program based out of Leadership Development and Community Engagement in the Division of Student Affairs. The objective is to give Northwestern students opportunities to learn and build relationships through direct experience in local schools and nonprofits. 

A robust program of reflection and social justice education, combined with these immersive experiences, enables participants to understand and engage with social issues in meaningful ways. We also place high importance on building relationships within the group as well as opportunities for fun, rest, and rejuvenation.

What can I expect?

Expect to learn A LOT about yourself, how to get around Chicago, and how social justice issues play out in this city. You will get to know some amazing local leaders and build new friendships! There will be opportunities to unplug from the pressures of the academic year and get renewed for the spring quarter feeling more rooted in place and connected with your neighbors. ASB participants will do hands-on work with schools and nonprofits in Chicago that challenge participants to think critically and compassionately, with the goal of becoming active citizens dedicated to pursuing a more just and equitable world.

ASB participants (a total of 30 people) stay together in community at the Chicago Hi Hostel in downtown Chicago and travel by CTA trains/buses to get around the city. Each ASB participant will be in a small group of 6 people who will serve together Monday-Thursday during the day at a local Chicago public school or nonprofit. Being involved with the same community partner for 4 days in a row enables deeper relationships to form! Your service could look like tutoring students, assisting teachers, working in an urban garden, or other creative projects that contribute to the mission of the organization. Each evening, all ASB participants will engage together in learning/reflection and community-building activities. 

How much will it cost?

ASB participants' spring break experience is heavily supported by Northwestern; therefore, this program is free for those selected to participate.

How do I apply?

2024 ASB applications are now open. Applications will close on Sunday, January 28th by 11:59 pm. 

What are the expectations for ASB members?

  • Fully participate in the activities of the week
  • Attend 2 preparation meetings after selected to complete paperwork and get oriented
  • Refrain from using drugs or alcohol for the duration of the program
  • Soak in all the learning, reflection, and opportunities for growth you can


What are the Covid precautions?

If Covid concerns resurface and it becomes necessary to make adjustments to the original plan, we will have all ASB participants remain in their own campus or off-campus housing (rather than at the Hostel) and do daily programming together in safe ways. We will not cancel this ASB program, we will just adjust accordingly.

Can I come late or leave early from ASB?

No. ASB participants will be expected to participate for the duration of the program from Friday dinner on March 15 until 12pm on Friday, March 22. Special note: ASB runs Friday, March 15 - Friday, March 22, but spring quarter classes do not start until Tuesday, March 26. This means you still have a long weekend to rest, play, or do other traveling before spring classes begin! Campus housing will be open for you to return, or you could make other plans.

How will transportation / housing / food work during ASB?

You will be given a 7-day CTA pass that will cover all your train or bus trips during the ASB program. You will always be traveling in large or small groups, never alone. 

The Hi Hostel is located at 24 E. Ida B. Wells Dr. in downtown Chicago, a convenient location for traveling all around the city. It is an extremely comfortable and clean facility with professional staff. ASB Northwestern students will stay in rooms together (10 per room, with everybody having their own bed) and shared bathrooms. 

The Hi Hostel serves a continental breakfast every morning for all guests. We will be utilizing a local, family-owned catering company to provide our ASB lunches and dinners. All dietary restrictions will be accommodated. All food costs are included with no extra costs for participants.

Can I sign up with some friends?

Sure, all current undergraduate NU students are welcome to apply. Each individual must complete their own application, but you can specify that you are applying with a friend(s) in the application so we can take that into consideration for room assignments and service teams whenever possible.

What if I need medical care during ASB?

ASB is supported by staff who will be on-site at the Hi Hostel and can assist any participant who needs to seek out medical care at any time during the program.