While many University of Richmond students traveled home for Fall Break, a smaller group stayed on campus to learn more about the city of Richmond. Every year, The Center for Civic Engagement hosts a free alternative Fall Break in Richmond where students can explore the city and participate in many activities. The trip lasted three days and focused on three themes: the environment, the arts and the community.

The first day focused on the environment and started with a visit to the South of the James Farmers Market. The group then partnered with the university’s Outdoor Adventure and Recreation program for a hike around the James River. The second day focused on arts and the students went to the Richmond Folk Festival. The third day focused on community, and students had a panel discussion with city leaders and toured the State Capitol.

Adrienne Piazza, a manager for educational initiatives and leadership development at the CCE who helped plan this year’s trip, said this program had been around for about five years and choosing these themes seemed like a natural decision. “The folk festival is centered around the arts, and the environment, especially the James River is so important to the city," Piazza said. “It’s a great way to highlight some of the themes commonly found in the city of Richmond.”

Sien van der Plank, a sophomore exchange student from Leiden University in the Netherlands, said she decided to go on the trip because she had not seen much of Richmond and this seemed like a good way to explore the city.

Piazza said this program was created as a way to help gather students who were going to be here over Fall Break and help them explore the city. “We want to give them a chance to fall in love with city of Richmond and do things they wouldn’t normally get to do,” she said.

Van der Plank said she had a good and relaxed experience on the trip, and it was a good way to get to know people. She said she especially enjoyed the final day of the trip because they got to hear about the city as opposed to doing tourist activities.

Colleen Connolly, a CCE fellow, helped planned and supervise the alternative break. Connolly said, “We hope that they will get an understanding of the city and what it has to offer, from the river to downtown.”

Van der Plank said this program was very different than anything they have at her university in the Netherlands. “I haven’t heard of anything like a free Fall Break program before. It was generous of the CCE to organize these three days for us,” she said.

Connolly said when students thought of the CCE they usually thought of volunteer opportunities, but the CCE offered multiple ways, such as the alternative break, to connect with the city. The CCE also hosts an issue-focused Spring Break program in Richmond. This year’s focus will be education.