Spring Break Alt

A Rewarding Spring Break Alternative

College is stressful. Whether it is midterms, papers, presentations, or finals, breaks always seems to fall at the perfect time. Breaks often consists of catching up on sleep or maybe partaking in a Netflix marathon from the comfort of your couch at home.

The cliché spring break would be somewhere exotic, warm, and sunny – a place where you can relax with your friends, enjoy the sun and make the most of your days without school work.

I have a feeling you are picturing a place similar to Cancun or Punta Cana. What comes to mind for me would be the beautiful country of Guatemala.

Monmouth University has a program on campus called the Alternative Break Program. Run by Corey Inzana, Residential Life Administrator, this program offers students a chance to use their break to give back to communities that are less fortunate than the one we live in here at Monmouth University.

Alternative Break Programs are offered during all three breaks: winter, spring and summer. These trips travel to three different countries: Haiti, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. Haiti occurs over winter break

Twelve students are chosen to travel to help build a school for underprivileged children in Canaan, just outside Port-au-Prince. During spring break, students travel to Guatemala to construct a school with the help of Salud Y Paz.

The school is located in the small destitute community of Xepocol, just outside of Chichicastenango. This past June was the first trip that Inzana lead to Nicaragua. Students were given an incredible opportunity to venture outside their comfort zone. Growing together, as well as growing as individuals through this community service opportunity can hardly be explained in words.

I was given the chance to travel to Guatemala last year for my spring break. The group of 20 students that I traveled alongside with came up with a word to explain how the trip impacted us. Sosentee, (so-SENT-eee) a noun, means a shared, unexplained feeling. It is the feeling that words cannot describe; a feeling that words would minimize; known between two parties, but cannot be verbalized. 

These communities have virtually nothing except love, simple joy, and hope. Beth Brody, Director of Leadership Programs in External Affairs, who traveled with us to Guatemala, said, “We visited local families who live in shacks with nothing but a rusted roof above their heads. No electricity, no running water, nothing that any of us take for granted here at home.

Often, I was even more struck by the amazing young women and men from Monmouth who chose to go on this journey on their spring break and serve in whatever way they were called. Each and every one of these students touched the lives of everyone around them (including me), and are already making a huge difference. I know that each will go far in life because they have this faithful, strong, and solid core and they want to serve and make an impact with their lives. This trip has been life opening, because my heart feels bigger and fuller than it ever has.”

Senior Kate Milazzo says of her trip to Guatemala last spring, “On my first day back from Guatemala I felt blessed. A little bitter sweet but definitely blessed and content as I continue thinking back on this amazing experience. I don’t know where time went but honestly I’m so happy I had the chance to do this.

It has honestly changed my life and every perspective I have. I’m going to miss my Guatemala family, but I’m glad we had the chance to come into each other’s lives. I just want to say thank you to every single person who was on that trip for the love and joy and compassion that was shared everyday of this trip. I will deeply miss you all.”

Love knows no borders. This trip is my first small step of many more steps to come. Sometimes I wish I could go back in life, not to change things, but just to feel a couple of things twice. The children of Guatemala left permanent footprints in my heart.

I went to Guatemala in the hopes of changing lives but instead my life was changed. With that in mind, wasting away on a beach somewhere may not sound as appealing.

PHOTO COURTESY of Meaghan Wheeler