"the trusted voice of teens who travel"
March 13th, 2012
Let’s be honest. The typical college student imagines their spring break looking something like this:
But not nearly as many can say that they spent their spring break doing this:
I ditched the typical college tropical getaway for a week on the Eastern Shore of Virginia in the small, low-income town of Exmore. There a group of us from Boston College built a house through Habitat for Humanity.
Habitat derives the bulk of its man-power from volunteers, specifically college students, to volunteer at its many sites around the world. By taking that (awful) 12-hour bus ride from Boston to Exmore, VA, my group was able to make real progress on a house for a low-income community member.
After a fun, challenging, eye-opening week, I’ve discovered a few reasons why taking an alternative spring break to do a service trip is not only rewarding to a community, but rewarding to oneself.
1) You can make tons of new friends!
My group of 20 clicked instantly, so working together for a week only brought us closer and I now have a bunch of new friends! There is something about group effort, especially in physical labor, that really brings people together. From helping each other with the tools at the work site to sharing stories and laughs around dinner, I really got to know my peers outside of the typical campus setting.
2) You can meet inspiring and wonderful community members.
I had never really been in the South before my service trip, so meeting the community members around our work-site was very enjoyable for me to see their different ways of life. Learning about their lives and their stories was one of the highlights of my week. Not only were they so grateful for us being there, but they were some of the most generous people that I have ever met! Almost every meal we ate was provided by caring community members (and the food was delicious)!
3) You will most likely learn more than you give.
Before our trip, the program leaders told us not to go into it with only the mindset of “I’m doing charitable works for others.” Part of the biggest aspect of Habitat — as well as any service trip — is the broadened mindset and changes that occur inside the individual doing the service. If self-reflection isn’t your style, then at least you’ll learn how to use some really wild power tools! Before Habitat I had never even picked up a hammer or used a hand saw. But by the end of the week, I was helping my group members lay foundation, nail in floorboards, cut wood, and all of the other tasks involved with building a house.
4) You can gain a sense of gratitude and really reflect on your home life.
For me, this realization came when we would drive home from the work-site every day. Just seeing the visible reminders of the poverty that possesses the region put a face to the problems that we hear about on the news. The sense of security and opportunity that I comparatively enjoy at school and at home is not as apparent in some regions of the country. I feel that it is important for everyone to realize how very lucky they are at some point in their life through travel.
5) It’s just so much fun!
From sing-a-longs and dance routines, to prank-pulling and nighttime conversations, I laughed harder during that week than I had in a long time! The bonds that you form when working with others and experiencing hardships together are stronger than many of the friendships that one typically makes at college.
While jetting off to the Bahamas or Cancun is appealing, sacrificing your spring break to help others (and help yourself) is another way to enjoy yourself and let loose from grueling schoolwork for a week. For me, it was a highlight of my time at college thus far.
I recommend Habitat and any type of service trip to anyone who is looking to travel and make a difference.