While most college students hit the beaches or go somewhere tropical for spring break… over 500 students from Saint Joseph’s University choose an alternative spring break. They pile in vans with fellow Saint Joe’s students who initially are strangers and begin their journey to the Appalachian region. They leave the familiar and enter into the great unknown—a world away from theirs—a different culture and a different lifestyle.

The Appalachian Experience at Saint Joseph’s University is a service immersion program—students serve with and for the people of Appalachia. We are not “helping” or “fixing” problems; we are serving with and for those of the Appalachian region. The Appalachian Experience is unique to Saint Joe’s—it is a combination of service, interaction with the community and your fellow students, and building lifelong friendships between the two.

The Appalachian Experience is a time to challenge yourself. It is a time to grow. It is a transformative experience that can change your life if you allow and embrace it.

We enter the Appalachian region as strangers and come out as family, with unbreakable lifelong friendships.

The Appalachian Experience is a time to ask questions-- questions of why-- questions of social justice-- questions that are challenging.

It’s impossible to not feel the contagious love on Appalachian Experience. Though we come from different backgrounds, different walks of life, and have different stories—we are all human. Humans with thoughts, feelings, desires, etc. The people of the Appalachian region have been through things we will never experience and we have been through things that they will never experience. Our differences are minor because we all share the same human connection.

Though the Appalachian Experience consists of a week-long trip to the Appalachian region, it is a trip that lasts more than a week- it lasts a lifetime… because what you learn on the Appalachian Experience sticks with you forever.

Special shout out to Deer Lodge, TN and Ivanhoe, VA for giving me two beautiful Appalachian Experiences that changed my life.