Nine Moravian College students and two professors took an alternative spring break to the Southwest, spending their vacation not on the beach, but in the wilds of New Mexico, working hard on community service projects. Andrea Giardina '16 shares her top takeaways from the experience:
1. Travel light and travel smart.
Lugging around heavy suitcases is never fun, so don’t overpack! At the same time, make sure to pack for all types of weather and know the environment that you’re going into.
2. Our country is a big, beautiful place.
I had never been to the southwest before this trip, and just seeing how different it is from the northeast, I realized how vast and beautiful our country is. This lit a spark in me—a goal to see the rest of the country and experience life in all the different states.
3. Working together means compromise.
Our group was comprised of 11 very different individuals. There were nine students of varying majors and interests and two advisors from different departments. Each person was unique in their own way and that meant we weren't always on the same page. In those moments, we realized the importance of compromise.
4. You will form some great friendships.
One of the best parts about this trip was the friendships that I formed with people I didn’t know at the start. You are able to get so close with people in such a short period of time—we even bonded with our awesome guide, Jeremy!
5. Our faculty advisors are pretty awesome.
One of the best parts of having faculty advisors on these trips is that the students get to know them on a whole new level. We may see our faculty everyday at school, but when you are living and working with them for a week, it completely changes your relationship.
6. Community service isn’t always glamorous.
We volunteered with the US Forest Service, repairing an old cabin and doing trail maintenance, which meant clearing a lot of dirt and heavy rocks. We experienced 75 degree heat one minute and sleet the next. This was difficult, filthy work, but it was so worth it because…
7. Community Service is so rewarding.
The work we were doing allowed us to see the direct results of all our labor. We repaired a dilapidated old cabin and turned it into a freshly painted little paradise on top of a 7,000 ft mountain. Then, we created a 2.5 mile trail up a mountain that will connect two different national parks. We permanently left our mark on New Mexico, and countless hikers will be able to enjoy our hard work: that feels amazing.
8. A week in nature puts everything into perspective.
Going into spring break, I was beyond stressed about school and life after graduation. By going on this trip and turning my phone off, I was able to get away from it all and realize not only how beautiful my surroundings were, but also what really matters in life.
9. You will get out of your comfort zone and push yourself beyond your limits.
We did some challenging stuff this week, and we weren't always comfortable. In fact, some of us didn’t think we could do half of it, but with the support of the group, each of us got out of our comfort zones and realized exactly what we are capable of.
10. Everyone should do an alternative spring break trip!
You learn so much about yourself and your fellow classmates and faculty, all while traveling, exploring the country, and giving back through community service. That's a win-win-win!