Think beyond the obvious

Becoming a better community member through alternative spring break

The Observer

When asked about how they spent their spring break, a typical Case Western Reserve University student would probably say that they went home. Many would be likely to mention that they used the week-long lull to catch up on their classes with all the domestic comforts of home-cooked meals, mid-afternoon naps and a cable TV subscription. But, in a refreshing change of pace, many CWRU students chose to spend their break by getting engaged in unconventional experiences: Last week, a number of students traveled all over the country (and in one case, outside the country) to take part in relief efforts and community improvement projects.

This, of course, refers to the alternative spring break programs organized through different entities affiliated with the university. These programs are designed to offer students an opportunity to engage in service, learning more about community building and non-profit organizations. Most importantly, they are not just a fun way to spend a break, but they also are a vital part of a comprehensive and fulfilling college experience.

The importance of alternative spring break programs is multi-faceted. First of all, they give students a break from all the academics-related stress that seems to be so prominent on this campus. CWRU students can easily get bogged down with homework, projects and job searching and forget about one of the most important purposes of going to college in the first place: learning about themselves and their surroundings. By spending four years buried under a pile of books, graduating students put themselves at a disadvantage as they venture out into the real world with a bachelor’s degree but no experience in being successful employee, friend and a community member.

The academic part of college is obviously essential, but the art of succeeding in the so-called real world lies in momentarily letting go of pure academics. Alternative breaks allow students to do just that. They give students the opportunity to focus on what really is important. And there are no worries about paper deadlines or bad grades to distract them from the process. By making connections with the members of a community, CWRU students can set themselves up to make a global impact and spend time with others who plan to do the same.

Secondly, alternative breaks also give students an opportunity of hands-on learning. It is one thing to study anything from engineering to sociology from textbooks, but experiencing them in practice gives the sort of insight that cannot be obtained from a classroom. More importantly, it allows students to understand how their studies relate to the world outside CWRU. As students and members of CWRU community, we should strongly embrace the opportunity that the alternative spring break hosts provide us.

Of course, spring break is now over, but when you plan your next break, consider going alternative. Breaks do not always have to involve catching up with work or worrying about midterm grades. They can actually become life-changing experiences.