Alternative Spring Break: 11 Reasons To Do It

Alternative Spring Break: 11 Reasons To Do It

Skip the beach, do some service work, and still make memories to last a life time

At the University of Iowa, there is a 3 hour credit course offered in the Spring semester called "Alternative Spring Break". If you are a student at the University of Iowa, you may have heard about it through University emails advertising it, or maybe a friend has participated. If you aren't from the University of Iowa, it's possible your college offers a similar experience.

Alternative Spring Break at the U of Iowa consists of a lecture and discussion that takes place for two hours one night a week. When you apply and if you are admitted, you are carefully placed into a service trip group that reflects your interests and passions. For me, I was placed into The Arts– which happened to be my first choice. Your service trip group is the people you sit with in lecture and have a discussion section with– and will also become some of the best people you get to know while at college, trust me.

I could go on for days about why I recommend participating in an Alternative Spring Break program, but I'm limiting myself to just 11 of the best reasons from my perspective:


Okay, so let's be real. You get three semester hours with this experience. You only have to go to class for half the semester and you have only five assignments, which are all reflection. The rest of your points come from going on the trip and participating. It's an easy grade for a life changing experience.

2. It costs like $80 to go on

It's seriously only $80 to go on a trip to a random city that is within 16 hours of campus. That's it. The University pays for everything else– unless you want to buy random things like souvenirs. Anyways, you can't put a money value on the experience you would have on the trip– IT'S PRICELESS.

3. You meet and get to know beautiful people

The people that are assigned to the same group as you will probably be strangers and will stay strangers up until you leave for the trip. While you are on the trip and literally stuck with those people– that's when you get to know one another. You bond, share stories, create inside jokes, reflect, share your secrets and insecurities with those people– you can quite literally learn everything there is to know about these people. It doesn't matter if you are introverted or extroverted– you develop a love and respect for one another– if you are lucky and have an amazing group of people like I did.

4. You get to go somewhere you may have never been or would ever want to go to

I got to go to Detroit. Honestly, I never had a desire to go to Detroit and did not know much about the city other than what I read in the news. After going on the trip I desperately want to go back. You too could get to go somewhere you may wouldn't want to go either and fall in love with that place. Who knows, you could also get to go somewhere you've always wanted to go.

5. You learn about the history and culture of that city– as well as a societal issue that is important to that city, and all cities in the US.

The class is a service learning class. This means the purpose of the class is to learn about societal issues that impact lives of people in your specific city and cities across the nation. This class would teach you how to be aware of these societal issues and educate you on how to respond and reflect on them. Speaking and learning about societal issues that don't relate to you can be hard, in addition to feeling like you have a proper perspective or right to be speaking about them. This program gives you an opportunity to work on your skills of creating a dialogue and contributing to discussion about societal issues that are impactful and foreign to you. This is VERY important to learn and do in today's society.

6. How to be an active citizen

It is a big thing in college to volunteer. At U of Iowa I know many people volunteer at the University Hospital, which is awesome and amazing that students are dedicating their time a few hours a week to that; however, that isn't being an active citizen. This class will teach you how to be an impactful citizen that can contribute to change for the better in your community by learning the differences between a volunteer, citizen, and active citizen, which is something we should all be aware of.

7. Pushes you out of your comfort zone

Unless you are an extremely extroverted person, going on a trip with 15 strangers to a city you may have never been to is intimidating. Going on this trip will push you out of your comfort zone and challenge you. If you are looking for a way to put yourself out there in your college community, this is a perfect opportunity.

8. Memories

This trip lasts six days, two of those being travel days. Six days of uninterrupted time with a group of people. There is no such thing as "me time" on this trip. The only thing closest to "me time" is when you are showering and sleeping. That's it. The concept can be daunting, but it is one of the best parts of the trip. It forces you to have six days of nonstop talking, interactions, and memories that are being made.

9. The people you meet in your desired city while on the trip

Again, this trip is for service. You serve with nonprofit organizations while on the trip. The people you meet are people that either spend their professional lives or simply volunteer their free time working and serving with nonprofit organizations. The people I was fortunate to have met are easily some of the most beautiful, selfless, creative, passionate and extraordinary people I have ever met. I came back from the trip so determined and inspired to be better and more involved in my community, you could too.

10. (The most important reason) The service work

This is the most rewarding and most impactful part of the trip. Serving with the numerous organizations while on the trip will give you exposure to just how impactful volunteering and serving can be. One of the biggest questions I had while on the trip was "Is what I'm doing even making a difference?" My response to that question since serving is this: Little things add up, especially when in large numbers. My group and I were able to accomplish work in one day that could have taken those organizations multiple days or weeks to complete. Nonprofits are typically run on reliance from volunteers– taking the time to volunteer and learn about their organizations and why they are important to the community was beautiful and inspiring.

11. It will literally change your life.

The Alternative Spring Break program is designed so that you will get out of it what you put in. If you keep an open mind and are willing to participate, I guarantee you will have a positive experience. My trip quite literally changed my life. I was lost before going on my service trip. I had just switched majors and the life plan I thought I had no longer existed. This trip has inspired me to look into pursuing a career in nonprofit work. You too could get something out of the trip you weren't expecting and it could change your life.

Popular Right Now

I Am A College Student, And I Think Free Tuition Is Unfair To Everyone Who's Already Paid For It

Stop expecting others to pay for you.


I attend Fordham University, a private university in the Bronx.

I commute to school because I can't afford to take out more loans than I already do.

Granted, I've received scholarships because of my grades, but they don't cover my whole tuition. I am nineteen years old and I have already amassed the debt of a 40-year-old. I work part-time and the money I make covers the bills I have to pay. I come from a middle-class family, but my dad can't afford to pay off my college loans.

I'm not complaining because I want my dad to pay my loans off for me; rather I am complaining because while my dad can't pay my loans off (which, believe me, he wants too), he's about to start paying off someone else's.

During the election, Bernie frequently advocated for free college.

Now, if he knew enough about economics he would know it simply isn't feasible. Luckily for him, he is seeing his plan enacted by Cuomo in NY. Cuomo has just announced that in NY, state public college will be free.

Before we go any further, it's important to understand what 'free' means.

Nothing is free; every single government program is paid for by the taxpayers. If you don't make enough to have to pay taxes, then something like this doesn't bother you. If you live off welfare and don't pay taxes, then something like this doesn't bother you. When someone offers someone something free, it's easy to take it, like it, and advocate for it, simply because you are not the one paying for it.

Cuomo's free college plan will cost $163,000,000 in the first year (Did that take your breath away too?). Now, in order to pay for this, NY state will increase their spending on higher education to cover these costs. Putting two and two together, if the state decides to raise their budget, they need money. If they need money they look to the taxpayers. The taxpayers are now forced to foot the bill for this program.

I think education is extremely important and useful.

However, my feelings on the importance of education does not mean that I think it should be free. Is college expensive? Yes -- but more so for private universities. Public universities like SUNY Cortland cost around $6,470 per year for in-state residents. That is still significantly less than one of my loans for one semester.

I've been told that maybe I shouldn't have picked a private university, but like I said, I believe education is important. I want to take advantage of the education this country offers, and so I am going to choose the best university I could, which is how I ended up at Fordham. I am not knocking public universities, they are fine institutions, they are just not for me.

My problems with this new legislation lie in the following: Nowhere are there any provisions that force the student receiving aid to have a part-time job.

I work part-time, my sister works part-time, and plenty of my friends work part-time. Working and going to school is stressful, but I do it because I need money. I need money to pay my loans off and buy my textbooks, among other things. The reason I need money is because my parents can't afford to pay off my loans and textbooks as well as both of my sisters'. There is absolutely no reason why every student who will be receiving aid is not forced to have a part-time job, whether it be working in the school library or waitressing.

We are setting up these young adults up for failure, allowing them to think someone else will always be there to foot their bills. It's ridiculous. What bothers me the most, though, is that my dad has to pay for this. Not only my dad, but plenty of senior citizens who don't even have kids, among everyone else.

The cost of living is only going up, yet paychecks rarely do the same. Further taxation is not a solution. The point of free college is to help young adults join the workforce and better our economy; however, people my parents' age are also needed to help better our economy. How are they supposed to do so when they can't spend their money because they are too busy paying taxes?

Free college is not free, the same way free healthcare isn't free.

There is only so much more the taxpayers can take. So to all the students about to get free college: get a part-time job, take personal responsibility, and take out a loan — just like the rest of us do. The world isn't going to coddle you much longer, so start acting like an adult.

Cover Image Credit:

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

Writing Saved My Sanity

Write it all down when you can't talk to anyone.


I love writing.

I have since elementary school, and I've dreamed of becoming a published author. I started off writing stupid plays in elementary school, then it grew it almost writing a full-blown novel in middle school. I have no idea where that thing went to. It was all notebook paper and bad writing. In high school, my writing was kinda pushed to the side so I could focus on school. When I entered college, I started writing small poems about my now ex-boyfriend.

I was scared to express myself to him sometimes, the intensity of my feelings for him scared me. So instead of telling him, I wrote them down. When I tried to share them with him, he hated it. He thought writing down feelings was weird and creepy. So I didn't share anything else with him. When we finally broke up for good, everything just poured out of me. What I couldn't express verbally, I wrote or typed out.

I always have ideas flowing through my head. They never cease and I wouldn't want them to. Writing gives me an escape, from stress, work, school, or fights. It gives me a place to vent and to be open with everything. This is a reason I love writing for Odyssey, not only has this place brought me amazing friends but revived my love for writing. I'm never without my notebook anymore, I'd get distracted in class by an idea and have to write I think then and there.

I love sharing my more personal writing with close friends, especially my poems as of late. I found that I have a voice for young women who find themselves in a toxic relationship much like mine was. I want to speak out and show them that you can grow from the bullshit. It may take some time, but you will be better.

Writing saved my sanity. It allows me to express myself without having to use my actual voice. Anyone who knows me, knows I hate public speaking. I tend to psych myself out leading up to it. My current projects include writing for Odyssey every week, I'm in the process of trying to continue my short stories, and I'm excited to announce that I'm currently working on my very first poetry book!

Writing has given me so much, and I'm so looking forward to making a career out of something I love so much.

Related Content

Facebook Comments