Students to spread good will during spring break

Pederson encourages others to get out of their comfort zone by participating in Alt Breaks.

Image courtesy of Olivia Pederson

Pederson encourages others to get out of their comfort zone by participating in Alt Breaks.

Ashlyn Ware

Ames has had an average temperature below freezing for the past few weeks, making many dream about spring break. Luckily, Alternative Breaks can make those dreams a reality.

Since 2008, Iowa State University’s Student Engagement Alternative Breaks have allowed students to immerse themselves in social issues such as Hurricane Ida relief in New Orleans or environmental projects in Rising Fawn, Ga.

For graduate student Olivia Pederson, her experience as a site leader was rewarding and eye-opening.

“As a current graduate student studying for my M.Ed. in Student Affairs, I was able to see the content I was learning in classes play out in real life,” Pederson said. “The bonfire, specifically, was such a special moment where we all opened up a little more than we have previously.”

Pederson traveled to Northern Minnesota to support summer camps with environmental projects such as raking, painting and organizing. She served at One Heartland in Willow River, Minn. and YMCA Camp Miller, Minn.

“The most memorable moment from our fall trip to Northern Minnesota was getting to bond around a campfire at the end of the weekend,” Pederson said. “Our group felt safe and comfortable, and we all sat and shared memories, trials and things [we] enjoyed about the trip.”

For students who want to make lasting memories, Alternative Breaks are a great opportunity to do so. 

However, many students get nervous about the trip, fearing that they’ll have to do the planning or get stranded. Pederson assures that while the anxiety of leaving your comfort zone is understandable, the planning is done for you. 

“I try to provide as much information as possible, create a trip itinerary and plan out all the travel plans for each trip to try and minimize any anxiety students may have before leaving,” Pederson said.

Alternative Break trips do prep work to alleviate planning stress, such as learning about the trip’s social issue and meeting your peers before departing. These trips take place in a controlled environment, yet they still allow students to explore diverse perspectives about social issues.

If you’re tempted to apply for an Alternative Break but are nervous, remember that site leaders like Pederson will support you.

“[It’s] really important to push yourself out of your comfort zone,” Pederson said. “You can learn so much and meet new people when you choose to participate in Alt Breaks!”

This semester, the Student Engagement office has four trips planned: Common Ground Relief in New Orleans, Cloudland Canyon State Park in Rising Fawn, Ga., Serve901 in Memphis, Tenn. and Food Bank of the Rockies in Denver.

The deadline to apply for Spring 2022 trips was Jan. 30, and the participation fee is $200.

For more information about the trips offered this semester and the application process, visit the Student Engagement website here.