Is service for others one of your passions? Are you looking to gain a better worldview or a fresh perspective? Are you ready to take a step outside of your comfort zone and travel to a new country for a short period of time? If so, the Alternative Break Program might be right for you.
Monmouth University’s Alternative Break Program was created by International Student Advisor, Corey Inzana, to give students the opportunity to travel to do service in impoverished countries including Haiti, Guatemala, and Nicaragua on their winter, spring, or summer breaks.
The Alternative Break Program allows Monmouth University students to work in a group to help build and refurbish schools and churches, some of the most vital parts of these countries. Students are immersed in the culture of the country for 10 to 12 days, depending on the trip they take part in.
While there, students meet families and children and give as much help and service as possible in the period of time they are there. Though the trips may seem as though they are a short length of time, students can make a lasting impact on these countries and the people they meet, and also gain a lasting impact themselves of new perspectives from their experiences.
Erin Smith, Social Media Coordinator at Monmouth University, took part in the Alternative Break Program twice. Smith went to Haiti as a student in 2014 and Nicaragua as an advisor in 2016.
Recalling the Nicaragua 2016 trip she said, “I saw students board the plane attached to their phones and way of life. Once we were there it was totally different. The 21 students became a cohesive unit ready to dig in.”
The change in students who participate in the Alternative Break Program is not always temporary either. Austin Skelton, senior at Monmouth University, went to Nicaragua in 2016 and was selected to return as a trip leader in 2017.
“My Monmouth experience has changed by going on these trips by making me want to see the world more and understand as many cultures as I can. It pushed me to study abroad and travel more on my own time, while also making me want to continue doing service,” said Skelton.
On top of all of the important service that is done on these trips, many students experience not just personal growth but growth as a team member as well. Katie Hanrahan has been on trips to Nicaragua and Guatemala.
“These trips allow students to grow as an individual and as a team player while working to complete various different projects. Without these trips I would without a doubt say my Monmouth experience would have been incomplete,” she explained.
Students looking to apply for the Alternative Break Program should keep a lookout on their e-mail and around campus for more information about dates and times for interest meetings, or contact Corey Inzana, whose office is located on the first floor of the Rebecca Stafford Student Center.
“The change that one experiences on a trip like this is hard to put into words. Witnessing students come to the realization that the things that are so important to them back home are things that children and families in Nicaragua don’t even know exist! How important can Facebook, your new jeans, and manicure really be?” said Smith.
PHOTO COURTESY of Alexa Olah