volunteer

4 Alternative Spring Break Ideas

With March just around the corner, Spring Break will be here before you know it. With more free time than usual, you may be tempted to spend the entire break watching cat videos but there are plenty of alternative Spring Break options to make the most of your time off.

1. Travel

Vacationing over spring break is an obvious and popular choice. Shake off your cabin fever from spending all winter indoors with a nice getaway. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or exotic (although it certainly wouldn’t hurt) to be an amazing vacation. For any traveling needs like finding out flight, hotel or car rental prices, Kayak.com is one of the leading search websites in doing so. World Map

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2. Volunteer

Spending time helping others is always time well spent. Spring break is a fabulous time to help out around your community or in another city. Some colleges even offer programs to volunteer in communities abroad. Habitat for Humanity is a great organization to get involved in as a student, for more information, you can see if your college has a campus chapter at http://www.habitat.org.  

Habitat for Humanity

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3. Get Organized

The middle of the semester is a good time to get organized. Clearing out old papers from last semester and cleaning up your living space will make a huge difference in your work ethic and stress level. When you are throwing all those papers away, remember to recycle. Its a great option to take when getting organized because not only are you cleaning up, you are doing something good for the environment, and if you would like to know more about recycling check out Earth911.

 Messy desk

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4. Revamp and Refresh

With winter gone, a new fitness routine is in order. Spring break is the perfect time to trade in your treadmill run for a run in the park or on the beach. Fresh air and sunshine are sure-fire ways to motivate your workout (and let’s face it, summer is getting dangerously close). If you would like some work out encouragement, check out some of the videos on Fitness Magazines website that you can use during your routine.

Running

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Try out this list and you’ll feel refreshed and ready to take on the rest of the semester by the end of the break!

WARNING: By the end of your awesome spring break you may feel an urge to start a countdown to summer break. Side effects include procrastination, loss of motivation, and an urge to burn textbooks.

Places for Students to Volunteer Domestic and Abroad

How do you give back to those around you? This is a question that doesn’t often get asked, or even thought about by a percentage of college students. In between cramming for exams, trying to stay afloat in the social stratosphere that is college, and planning for your future, students tend to simply run out of hours in the day to give back. That’s not to say that everyone does, but let’s admit it, it’s not always in the foreground of our priorities. Work gets in the way, time slips by, and things just don’t work out. However, if the mood strikes you, and the time permits, I have to say that volunteering, both locally and abroad, is one of the most rewarding and beneficial activities that you can engage in as a college student.

There are a number of reasons to get involved in service, the most obvious being that you’re helping other people. However, that’s not always the first reason people get involved—and it doesn’t have to be. Volunteering is a life-long activity that can serve you physically, socially and mentally. You are physically bettering your community, making lasting relationships that can transfer well beyond service projects, and doing something good for yourself, while also helping others! What beats that?

All of these reasons are great—however, as well intentioned as service may be, these benefits may go overlooked as a result of how crammed and busy our college lives tend to be. This doesn’t make service any less desirable to get involved with, but it does make it trickier to “market” to college students. How can you convince students to give up time, energy and effort for a cause that doesn’t seem as relevant as Tuesday’s Biology exam? How can you showcase the wonderful and lasting impressions that service can make without overshadowing the real reason for doing the service in the first place? It’s a balancing act—you want students, and other volunteers to enjoy service, and have a good time, but also understand the depth of the activity, and the “whys” behind doing it in the first place.

With all of this being said, where and how can students and potential volunteers look to get involved? Is it better to go far away to help, or can you look in your own backyard?

My advice is to look at both! There are numerous trips and geographic areas that you can search for! You can choose to go far away, or stick to more locally based programs and projects. My school is on the smaller side and specializes in service trips—it’s one of the larger departments in our service office—so take these trips with a grain of salt or use them as a jumping off point for where you and your school could eventually travel to, or for projects you could eventually start!

Domestic Trips that get rave reviews—both on the “fun” scale and the impact that the students are able to make—are located all over the country.  Over spring break, 40 students travel to Harlan, Kentucky located in the Appalachian Mountains. While there, the students stay in small log cabin. They not only make friends and memories, but also help to rebuild homes and neighborhoods in the local community. Students participate and work on full-scale construction sites with local carpenters, builders and technicians. The trip is rewarding for the community because they receive outside support and recognition for their hardship, however it is also rewarding for the students as they see how others live in this country, and experience first hand the importance of supporting and giving back.

Students also travel to reservations in Montana to work with and support children and communities. Another large project that students are involved with is an annual Habitat for Humanity trip. The location changes every year, however the students are able to engage in hands on work that benefits a family or community in need.

Other domestic, local projects you can look to get involved with are soup kitchens, local shelters, food banks, thrift stores, city clean ups, charity walks or events, or even rehabilitation centers, community centers, or after school programs. Any help or time you are willing to give is appreciated. Find a cause, or project that means something to you and search for ways to give back.

If you interested in volunteering abroad there other options. Some students take a year off and volunteer to travel the world to different countries, fulfilling different needs as they come along. Other students take trips to the Dominican, or to Central America. These trips require research and most likely, formal arrangements. Don’t let the restrictions deter you, just do your research and look for a program that fits your needs.

Volunteering can be special and rewarding. Not only will you make life-long memories, but also you will find an activity that you can participate in for years to come. The relationships and experience you gain for the simplest of service can change your outlook, and maybe even the time you have left at school!

-Ring Queen

Ways to Volunteer in Your Community

There is a community service office at most college campuses.  Chances are that you have some options available to you that you weren’t even aware of. If you are interested in giving back to your community, making some valuable friends, and having a great time—community service may be the outlet you’re looking for!

So what are some ways that you can get involved? My first advice to you would be to seek out your student or university life office at your school and see if they can put you in touch with the right people. Often times, groups of like-minded students come together and form service groups that may go out in your area already!

However, for the sake of this post, let’s say you don’t have a service office. Don’t fret! There are ways—easy ways—to do your part and get connected with giving back. Are you involved in any student organizations? Why not try hosting a clean up, or neighborhood “Trash Bash”.  This idea works well if you are interested in forming partnerships both on and off campus! What better way to make connections than to work together sprucing up your educational stomping grounds!

At my school we made Trash Bash shirts, designed by a student of course, with a fun trashcan logo and then listed all the participating groups on the back. Cleaning up can be a great service activity, but also a great way to advertise your group and get your name seen by other students. Try hosting these “bashes” after heavily populated “party weekends” like Halloween, Homecoming, St. Patrick’s Day, Spring Fling, etc. You will earn major bonus points with administrators and do your part to better the community and surrounding area.

There are numerous other ways to get involved in service. Try searching on the Internet for local soup kitchens, dining halls or shelters.  Soup kitchens are a great way to get involved with hands-on, immediate service. Often shelters and kitchens will need extra hands serving, setting and clearing up! Serving food can be a beneficial group activity. It will open your eyes to people who are truly in need and opens doors for advocacy events, information sessions, and even reflection groups that you can bring back or start on your campus!

Another project that can be started with a little coordination is tutoring—either at your school, or neighboring high schools and elementary schools. Younger students benefit from having older mentors who can set a good example and show them the benefits of buckling down and studying. However, make sure you check with the school beforehand for any required background checks, or necessary paperwork that needs to be filled out before you work with children.

In my three years of college, I have found community service to be not only a beneficial activity for the community, but also a rewarding personal experience. I have met some of my very best friends by participating in service projects, and programs and I don’t know what I would do without them. It can be scary at first, but trust me, stepping out of your comfort zone and giving back to the community is hands down the best decision you could ever make in college, or in life. Community service is a life long activity and often, incredibly fun! Try it once, and hopefully you’ll be hooked!

-Ring Queen

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