This spring break, more than 90 Drexel students participated in alternative spring break trips sponsored by the Office of Campus Activities. Eight trips allowed students to get away from the hussle of campus and participate in community service projects on their week off. It’s definitely a sacrifice; the quarter system leaves us with barely any time to breathe. Choosing to spend a week traveling and working is exciting and sometimes stressful, as participants know they will only have one or two free days to prepare for the upcoming term. Still, the experiences that can be gained on ASB are things that students simply can’t get on campus, and the projects are therefore beneficial in a myriad of ways. Two members of the Editorial Board at The Triangle were able to participate in one of the ASB trips and have seen firsthand the value of opportunities like this.
For one, ASB trips allow students to give back. We are lucky to attend a respected University, and despite complaints about high tuition and impending student loans, we have to admit that we are privileged. Even if the destinations are far away (some this year went to South Carolina, Kentucky and Costa Rica, to name a few), students get to use their abilities to benefit other people. Instead of studying to earn themselves good grades, instead of exercising to keep themselves healthy, instead of socializing to keep themselves happy, students are suddenly spending all day working on behalf of someone else. Doing hard work to benefit someone else and finishing a day exhausted while knowing none of the work you did is directly benefitting you can be refreshing.
Traveling and helping people also has the ability to open participants’ eyes to things they wouldn’t be exposed to if they stayed in the city. Many ASB trips take students to places ridden with poverty, allowing participating students to see and experience economic hardship outside of Philadelphia. This has the potential to change perspectives and give students a fresh appreciation for all that they have.
Even though many ASB trips follow a jam-packed itinerary with minimal free time, there’s always a fair amount of time to have fun with your fellow volunteers. You may get a chance to explore a nearby town, to try some new foods and meet locals. Some of the most memorable moments of an ASB trip can be talking to random people you meet outside your work site. Depending on where you go, there’s a good chance the locals may be far more hospitable to strangers than one could expect in Philadelphia. Talking to them can be very inspiring and can give you a strong sense of appreciation for their culture. Those of us who went on ASB last week can say from experience that if you go into it with the right mindset, it feels more like a vacation than a week of service.
If reading this makes you regret not going on ASB this year, we have good news for you: You don’t have to wait until next year to go on a trip like this. OCA only organizes service immersion trips during spring break, but other offices and student organizations plan trips during other term breaks. Contact the Lindy Center for Civic Engagement for more information on service immersion trips offered throughout the year.