Alternative Spring Break: Volunteering on Vacation

For many collegiates, spring break stands as the optimal one-week rest period during an intensifying second semester where laziness and procrastination are not only allowed, but encouraged. A number of Colby students, however, opted out of the traditional vacation mindset, instead choosing to spend their time giving back to the community as a part of Colby’s Alternative Spring Break (ASB).

It was Amanda Young’s ’18  second year doing ASB. She led the Costa Rica trip this year and led the Virginia trip the year before. Between the two, however, she could not pick a favorite.  “The Virginia trip was a lot of physical labor that made me appreciate hiking trail, since we did trail restoration for the week. The Costa Rica trip gave my better insight and understanding to the Costa Rican culture and way of life,” she said.

Each year, Colby offers three service-centered trips over break, each with a different community-based focus. A single trip consists of about eight or nine students, who are randomly assigned to their location. This year those who participated traveled to Portland, New Jersey, or Costa Rica.

Annie Ahn ’20 from Orange County, CA, also enjoyed her time as a part of alternative spring break. “I went on the trip because I wanted to do something with my vacation instead of just going home, and Alternative Spring Break seemed like an awesome opportunity to meet new people and get more involved in student life here at Colby,” Ahn said. She went on the Portland trip where the group stayed by the beach and volunteered at Preble Street, an organization with a mission to improve the lives of homeless Americans. They also went to a refugee youth center called Tree Street in Lewiston. Ahn was especially intrigued by the success of the latter organization, noting the positive effect its short existence had on the refugee and the community in Lewiston.

“Getting to interact with the refugee children made me realize how serious of an issue it is,” she said. The organization was  created only six years ago by a Bates student, but has already made an immense impact on the community. “We heard about and saw older Lewiston residents who were completely against U.S. support of incoming foreign immigrants and refugees still show up to pass out crayons and play with the younger children. It made me realize that if you want to do something that benefits the greater good of the community, there will definitely be people there to support you,” Ahn said. “It was just so cool how a college student, someone my age, was able to start such an amazing organization.”

According to Ahn, participating in ASB  was just as fulfilling and enjoyable as going home and relaxing with her family. “Obviously, I got a little sad when friends from home sent me pictures of them hanging out or eating good food in California, but I’m definitely glad I stayed in Maine,” Ahn said. “It was such a perfect balance of work and play, and I will definitely be participating in my years to come at Colby.”

Both Ahn and Young seem to agree that the people involved in the trip are what made their experience so great. “My favorite part of both trips has been getting to know and becoming friends with a new group of people. You see each other for eight or nine days nonstop then when you get back to campus you miss seeing each other every day,” Young said. Ahn too enjoyed making new friends on the trip, and looks forward to hopefully participating next year. “We had eight people on the trip and I only knew about three people going into it,” Ahn said. “There was a great combination of freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors, and I was lucky enough to become close with all of them.” Overall reception to ASB was positive, and it will certainly continue as an annual tradition in future years at Colby.