A do-good spring break alternative

Spending your spring break in the service of others will impact you in ways that will last a lifetime.

Spring break is a coveted ritual among college students that usually translates into a weeklong blur of bikinis, beaches and drunken mayhem. For too many, it’s a time when embarrassing episodes are created, never to be lived down. So for some students, the thought of returning to another beach hotspot, sipping too many margaritas and nursing third-degree sunburns is just too much to handle.

“Voluntourism” offers another option. Following a trend with roots in Hollywood, many students are trading in the tequila hangovers and tanning oil for a shovel and a hammer. Like Brad and Angelina, they’re abandoning the ocean view suites to spend time helping the less fortunate. By participating with various nonprofit agencies’ voluntourism programs, students get the opportunity to improve the lives of others while growing as individuals themselves.

Lift Kids, a nonprofit organization based in Minnesota, sponsors volunteers who travel internationally, typically spending one or two weeks building sustainable businesses that will stimulate economies in impoverished regions. Currently, Lift Kids offers a voluntourism program in Guatemala. Participants stay in modern housing while helping out in various ways, such as building structures, tutoring children or coaching a soccer team. Volunteers also have access to tours and educational classes, where they can visit various destinations and learn about the local Mayan culture.

Witnessing widespread poverty can be an eye-opening experience, as well as a wake-up call. Many college students lead comfortable lives without the stress of worrying about shelter, food and sanitation. Many first-time volunteers admit they didn’t have a clue what they were getting into, but after just a few days abroad, they feel a deeper sense of compassion, a more mature outlook on world issues and a desire to use their fortunate circumstances to address poverty.

Ben Stevens, a recent graduate of Carlson School of Management, participated in Lift Kid’s voluntourism program and traveled to Guatemala for one month.

“Even for such a short visit, it made a pretty big impression on me,” Stevens said. “Seeing firsthand what it is that we are working to do increased my sense of urgency, humanized the reality behind the statistics and shed light on the complexity and intangibility of inaccessibility to opportunity.”

As college students, the stress of building a résumé is overwhelming at times, but adding cultural and volunteer experience could help your résumé stand out against the rest. Many employers look specifically for applicants with oversea experience because it shows you’re adaptable and not afraid to step outside your comfort zone. Individuals who donate their time to a worthy cause also exude a positive, compassionate and hardworking attitude, which are great attributes in the workplace.

Spending your spring break in the service of others will impact you in ways that will last a lifetime, not just one week. For more information on Lift Kid’s voluntourism program and how you can participate, visit liftkids.org.

Tiffany Jungers is a University student. Please send comments to [email protected]