George Mason Law School

Making your spring break about service

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March 13, 2017

10:27 PM

The infamous week has come and gone: spring break. According to the National Center for Education, more than 11 million students in the States took advantage of this annual migration, the most favorable destinations being Florida, California and Mexico. Instead of spending your next break in these hot tourist spots, how about doing a service trip? There is nothing wrong with letting break just simply be a break. Nonetheless, spending at least one of your spring breaks on a service trip would be a life-changing experience.

We presume everyone else has the same, or at least similar, experiences. Not exactly true compared to what I have seen during my service trips to Tibet and Cambodia.

There are a lot of things we take for granted as college students, and it is hard to see them if we do not get out of our bubbles to have a taste of the real world. For example, we enjoy top-notch education here at the College of William and Mary. Thus, we presume everyone else has the same, or at least similar, experiences. Not exactly true compared to what I have seen during my service trips to Tibet and Cambodia, when I saw students who were forced to work at an early age. You may say, at least this might be the truth in the United States? Wrong again. I spent my last spring break in Washington, D.C.’s infamous Anacostia area. It was simply shocking to me to see the extreme social inequalities in our beloved national capital, in the so-called strongest country in the world. To see is to believe, and we need to see more.

A service trip might not carry the magical power to change your career path or the trajectory of your life, but it could absolutely awaken some consciousness toward the real world and the imbalance of development.

Students at William and Mary are certainly smart and ambitious students who seek to make real changes in the world. Nonetheless, we usually don’t confront reality. We take classes in school that are considered useful for us to secure competitive internships; through internships we find our dream jobs and begin our glorious “yuppie lives.” Later in life, we marry someone from the same social stratum and send our own kids to elite colleges just like the one that we attended. This whole thing seems like a vicious cycle to me. Have you ever thought how many times in your life would you be willing to give up a whole week to make some real changes to places in need of urgent help? The answer is: not many, and spring break is absolutely one of the best times for you to take this adventure. A service trip might not carry the magical power to change your career path or the trajectory of your life, but it could absolutely awaken some consciousness toward the real world and the imbalance of development. Sometimes it feels good to just do something and expect nothing in return, and even if you don’t gain some reward, at least you are offering real help to people who are in need.

Moreover, it is not only about helping; the service trip also comes with fun. You will gain invaluable friendships through working together with your buddies. You will find real joy in your own work, and when you see the achievements you have made during the short span of one week, you will retain a sense of confidence in how you could change the future. This is something that you could not normally get from your classes or internships.

The college needs to advocate the importance of participating in a service trip and in the meantime, offer more opportunities for its students.

Lastly, the College has some work to do. It needs to advocate the importance of participating in a service trip and in the meantime, offer more opportunities for its students. William and Mary overall strives to prepare its students as the future leaders of the nation and the world. The first step toward being a leader, in my eyes, is to learn how to give and sacrifice for others.

For your next spring break, would you consider attending a service trip instead of going to beaches in Cancun? I hope the answer is clearer for you now.

Email Alfred Ouyang at [email protected].

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  • Alfred Ouyang