Every year around this time, we're bombarded with news reports and photos of college (and sometimes even high school!) students on spring break going wild with too much alcohol and drugs. There are bikini contests, wet t-shirt contests, and inevitably reports of someone who was so inebriated he fell off a balcony. If he's lucky he survives; often that is not the case.
However, not all students buy into this chaos. There are plenty of ways to enjoy spring or summer break and relax that don't involve crazy, life endangering behavior. If you're a college student or you're the parent of one, there are spring or summer break opportunities that let you or your child do good, and sometimes even travel.
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Spring Break Volunteer Opportunities
There are many different volunteer opportunities available for spring or summer break. Some are only for a week, others last longer. Most cost as much as a crazy spring break in Florida or Aruba; others are even cheaper. Just to give a sampling, here are some break volunteering opportunities available:
1. American Hiking Society.
Organized through americanhiking.org, you can volunteer to hike for a week and spend a few hours each day cleaning up the hiking trails. You pay less than $300 for the week, which includes your food and shelter on the hike.
2. The Student Conservation Association.
Those interested in preserving the environment or working as a Park Ranger can volunteer for one of the many trips available at thesca.org. Best of all, these trips are fully funded by American Eagle Outfitters, so transportation and other expenses are free for volunteers.
3. Service for Peace.
If you'd like to travel internationally and help others, Service for Peace (found at serviceforpeace.org) helps citizens in the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Kenya and the Philippines to become more self-sufficient through Service for Peace's assistance. Your fee covers the cost of food and shelter and other basic needs while volunteering.
Of course, this is just a small sampling of the volunteer opportunities available. Others include volunteering in the Appalachians and other areas around the world.
Other Ways To Volunteer
Keep in mind, if you don't have a lot of extra cash to volunteer, there are fundraising opportunities available for some of the more expensive programs.
Or, you could skip the trip and instead volunteer closer to home. There are plenty of ways you could volunteer locally. You could volunteer at the library, a nursing home, a soup kitchen, the list goes on. There are plenty of places close to home that need your help, and you can end up just as enriched as you would if you took a trip specifically to volunteer.
Why Should You Volunteer?
So, why should you volunteer while others are partying during spring or summer break? There are several worthwhile reasons why:
1. You're doing good for others.
You're helping others who are less fortunate. By donating your time and energy, you're making the world a better place. The funny thing about volunteering, though, is that you, the volunteer, often come back just as enriched and fulfilled as those you were helping.
2. You're gaining valuable experience.
Many volunteer trips let you test out possible jobs and career avenues. Many of the students who volunteer for the Student Conservation Association go on to work for the Park Service, for instance.
In addition, your time volunteering can be added to your resume and can help you become a more valuable job candidate than someone who didn't volunteer and partied the week away.
If you'd like to volunteer and travel, keep in mind that the programs often quickly fill, so be aware of the day you can register. In addition, many require that you plan months in advance. For instance, Service for Peace has an application deadline of about six months before the actual volunteer opportunity begins.
Have you volunteered during college? What was your experience like?