By Jamie Kerner
University of Maryland Alternative Breaks (AB) hosted an interest fair on Sept. 27 for students who want service experiences during school breaks.
AB is an on-campus program run through the University’s Leadership and Community Service Office. Its goal is to provide students with experiences working on social, political and economic issues in a specific community. The program runs during the winter, spring and summer breaks. It coordinates about 27 domestic and international experiences to promote different social justice issues.
The fair was held at the Grand Ballroom Lounge in the Stamp Student Union. Students had the opportunity to walk around the room and talk to trip leaders, who were stationed at tables with posters that displayed information about their specific trips.
“The event today is to increase awareness about Alternative Breaks on campus and to encourage people to apply to participate in our program,” said Mitchell Rock, a senior physiology and neurobiology and government and politics double major. Rock works as an intern in the AB office.
“Additionally, the goal of [the fair] is just for people to have an understanding of all of the trips we have to offer and the different experiences they can be apart of,” Rock said.
The AB program is a year-long commitment: students participate in pre-trip education and reflection, the service trip during a school break and post-trip service work.
The types of trips led by the program range from environmental projects to community development. During these trips, students have the opportunity to serve the community they travel to by doing advocacy work, environmental cleanup and other service work.
Participants can travel to urban centers like New York City, rural communities like Bland, Virginia or internationally, to places like Guatemala.
Two trip leaders accompany every Alternative Break trip, according to senior geography major and trip leader Char Robbins. Trip leaders are students who have been on at least one AB trip in the past.
Junior electrical engineering and finance double major Gina Hyun will be a trip leader this spring on an experience to South Dakota. Hyun first got involved with AB as a freshman. She said what makes the program unique is that it emphasizes reflecting on experiences.
“At the time, as a freshman, you kind of don’t know a lot about yourself,” Hyun said, speaking about the reflection portion of her first AB experience. “It gives you the chance to talk about things you really wouldn’t talk about [at home].”