By Ardith L. Feroglia
We, in the college world, are quickly coming to that anticipated respite from the academic grind. Although in the meantime that probably means lots of studying, researching or writing, it also means looking forward to the glory of having more than two days off in a row. I’m talking about spring break.
Many people already have plans. These plans range from a week or so of gaming and “catching up” on sleep, to the standard cross-country road trip or tropical getaway, usually accompanied by a temporary lapse in fiscal judgment (new bathing suits and multiple trips to In-N-Out Burger are not cheap, people). However, I know there are other people—just like myself when I was an undergraduate—still wondering, “How am I going to spend an entire week of free time?”
It turns out there is an option that is rewarding, unique and meaningful. No, it’s not a contest down in Cabo. What I’m talking about is known in most circles as “Alternative Spring Break.” “Alternative” to what exactly? Alternative Spring Break, to put it succinctly, is an alternative to the decision of throwing lots of money at plane tickets, drinks or swimsuits you’ll come to regret. It’s also an alternative to general boredom and perceived free-loading.
ASB trips function to give college students a chance to participate in short-term volunteer trips while also providing a change of scenery and pace. These trips are not only a chance to give back to communities, but also to make new friendships—or if one goes with already-established friends, to make memories together while chipping in toward the greater good (and all at the fraction of the cost of a typical spring break trip).
However, you may still find yourself wondering why you should forgo a perfectly good week to “zone out” in order to help others. As Stanley McChrystal shared in a recent Newsweek article, it is “because Americans performing critical, selfless service to our country are less common than they must be. We have let the concept of service become dangerously narrow, often associated only with the military. This allows most Americans to avoid the sense of responsibility essential for us to care for our nation – and for each other. We expect and demand less of ourselves than we should. And now it is time to fix it.”
Despite the circumstances surrounding McChrystal’s resignation from his post in Afghanistan, the words he shared have great weight—and they rightfully should. As students at American institutions, we are accustomed to the norms of an individualistic culture. We do things to get ahead, to make ourselves stand out from the crowd.
But I challenge you to consider that by working on a team in an environment where help is valuable and cherished, you are sticking up for not only yourself, but for an entire community.
My university, Oregon State University, has two ASB trips planned for the upcoming break. One trip will focus on community outreach in the city of Yakima, WA, while the other is a partnership with the University of Oregon, focusing on sustainability. Both trips will give participants the chance to work on various projects, such as volunteering in a local soup kitchen or restoring trails in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, as well as opportunities to explore the city of Seattle, WA and embark on tours. Both trips stand to be fun yet—dare I say it?—educational. Two trips in the ASB world, though, is minimal. Check with your school’s volunteer or community outreach center; you may find that some of them have over twenty different trips! To be cliché, there’s something for everyone.
In a time where we stand to lose public funding for organizations that serve a public good, it is crucial that the college students of America stand up and say, “We care.” I leave you with a quote from Lao Tzu to consider: “Go to the people. Live with them. Learn from them. Love them. Start with what they know. Build with what they have. But with the best leaders, when the work is done, the task accomplished, the people will say, “We have done this ourselves.”
Ardith L. Feroglia is a current Graduate Assistant at Oregon State University’s Honors College.
Did you take an Alternative Spring Break in College? Share your story in our comments section!