I know it feels like school just started, but it’s never too early to start thinking about ways to make the most of your winter break. One somewhat non-traditional thing to consider this winter is to participate in the Take a Break and Make a Difference program. For a week this winter, students will travel both nationally and internationally to work on issues that need passion and attention– including, homelessness in Arizona or New York, urban education in Belize, or affordable housing in Mississippi. Last year I traveled to Phoenix, Arizona to volunteer at the André House of Hospitality, and it was a memorable experience that is still impacting me today. Here is why you should do an alternative break trip from my personal experience:
1. The meaningful connections. Each student group is a team, all working together for the same purpose. At André House, there was a quick camaraderie as we motivated, supported, and joked with each other. A service context can bring out a person’s most caring, empathetic side. We each revealed a piece of ourselves during our daily fireside reflections, and as corny as it sounds, we spoke from our hearts. Not to mention, building both personal AND professional contacts will only help you after graduation.
2. The lasting change in perspective. The memories you make on your Alternative break trip will stick with you because of the personal investments; we got to know a lot of the homeless on an intimate level, as we saw the same people every day. Stereotypes were challenged as we learned that many of them lost their homes from unfortunate circumstances and not out of laziness. Our empathy was increased as we saw hundreds line up for a meal. An alternative break trip will make you want to continue to do something about the issue.
3. The feeling you will get when you help others. On these trips, you will know that what you are doing is truly helping others. At André House, we were completely immersed in helping with showers, making the meals, handing out blankets and clothing, or cleaning. As the homeless can be lonely and feel ostracized from society, the guests really needed positive social interaction, and were generally happy to connect and talk with me.
Students who went on any of the other trips had similar life- changing experiences. If this sounds like something you would be interested in, apply soon; applications for the winter trips are due in the Community Service Center by October 1st! If you have any questions about the trips, please feel free to comment.
Have you ever been on an alternative break trip? What was that experience like for you and where did you go? What issues are you passionate about? Where would you like to go if you were picked for an alternative break trip?