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Alternative Spring Break: Chicago Immersion

March 21-28, 2025 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 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 who will serve together Monday-Thursday during the day at a local Chicago nonprofit or urban farm. Being involved with the same community partner for 4 days in a row enables deeper relationships to form! 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?

2025 ASB applications will open in December 2024. Check back in here for the link to apply. 

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


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 21 until 12pm on Friday, March 28. Special note: ASB runs Friday, March 21 - Friday, March 28, but spring quarter classes do not start until Tuesday, April 1. 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.