My two-day orientation experience was filled with overwhelming information and it was exhaustingly long. Coming in as a freshman at Florida International University, I took a stroll around the involvement fair and was overwhelmed with the many organizations trying to recruit me. At one point, I felt like giving up and just looking up the organizations online but then there was one organization by the name of “Alternative Breaks” that piqued my interest. The name of the organization caught my attention and I would come to find out that it involved one of my passions; community service.
The student I spoke to explained that their motto was “Changing the World One Break at a Time” and that the name of their organization is called Alternative Breaks because they give students the opportunity to give back through community service trips that take place domestically or internationally. Where some students might use their winter, spring, or summer break to vacation, Alternative Breaks gives them the option of giving back and having an impact in other’s lives as well as their own. The student further explained that their organization has about 10 different social issues that I could pick my preferred social issue.
Afterward, I promised myself to look more into the organization when I got home. Inevitably, I took a nap after orientation and forgot. However, during my First Year Experience class called SLS, my peer mentor was talking about Alternative Breaks. I took a flyer she had and told myself I would sign up because I believed it was a sign. After completing my interview with a site leader, I was extremely proud of myself and hoped I would get a call back to be a participant. To my joy, the site leader contacted me back and I was part of something that would impact me forever but at the time I did not know that.
During the first meeting, there was a revelation and I found out that my social issue was homelessness and poverty in Washington D.C. and that it would take place during winter break. Throughout the fall semester, my goal was to fundraise as much money as possible for my trip and with the help of my site leaders and fellow participants I was able to complete the total. The day before the trip, we had a meeting and I was filled with excitement because I had never traveled outside Florida for community service.
My group and I worked with the Steinbruck organization in D.C for five days and it was an unforgettable experience. During the trip I bonded with strangers who till this day are some of my closest friends, I got out of my comfort zone for my passion of community service, and most importantly, I impacted the lives of others by giving them my time. The week consisted of working with kids, helping shelters, food banks, and other community groups. Every day we would be educated about homelessness and poverty and after a long day, my group and I would reflect on the day’s work. On the last day, we said our goodbyes to the individuals who worked with us the entire week and it was sad but it was a reminder to always appreciate the time you spend with others.
It was not long after the trip ended, that I began to miss my group and the bond we created. I missed the “good mornings”, the breakfasts, the service activities, the people, and funny moments that we shared. Alternative Breaks is an organization like no other that has helped me flourish into the individual I am today. My experience with Alternative Breaks reminds me of the famous quote by Gandhi “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in service” and during that trip, I resonated with those words. I am blessed to have been a participant for Alternative Breaks and am currently, a part of the Steering Committee. I am proud to be continuing to take “Alternative Breaks” with this beautiful organization and will continue to do so throughout my college career.
Author: Amy Gonzalez (MMC Communication Coordinator of Alternative Breaks)
University: Florida International University