The USC Alternative Break Program has added a summer trip to Uganda as one of its 16 planned destinations. The program is also planning trips to both India and Thailand for this upcoming winter break.
The program, founded in 1992, allows USC students to engage in volunteer and community service work during their winter, spring or summer breaks.
The trips are both international and domestic, sending students to destinations such as Guatemala, Thailand and the Navajo Nation in Utah. Students engage in a variety of volunteer work, ranging from building libraries to working with orphans.
Since the program’s inception, Alternative Break has grown immensely. In the past year alone, three trips have been added, according to Program Manager Joenique Rose.
“I can tell that they have grown in popularity,” said Rose, who has been with the program since 2008. “That’s why we keep adding more trips. Because, we see that students want to go. Students really want this opportunity.”
Rose said that the Alternative Break Program is perfect for those students who otherwise wouldn’t have the chance to engage in a study abroad experience.
“It gives students the opportunity to go abroad and do service at the same time,” Rose said.
The trips are led by a series of student coordinators who organize the majority of the trips’ logistics.
“It’s a very student-centered, student-run department on campus,” Rose said.
One of the student coordinators for the Thailand trip, Nicole Talion, a senior majoring in international relations (global business), said the program allows students to enrich their college experience.
“It’s an experience that takes you out of yourself,” Talion said. “I know in the USC bubble you can get so caught up in your own life and your own aspirations, but just taking the time out to go on this trip and really serve and see what life is like in these other countries helps you put things in perspective.”
David Mandell, a junior majoring in theater and a student coordinator for the India trip, saw this program as a unique opportunity to learn both about himself and other cultures.
“It’s definitely a spiritual journey,” Mandell said. “Its one of the most incredible experiences I could have asked for. Not only are you traveling and making a family with USC students, you get to appreciate more of what you already have.”
Stephanie Moon, a senior majoring in English and a student coordinator, echoed these sentiments.
“The alternative breaks are amazing experiences. I think the winter break program is great for students who want to see different parts of the world but don’t want to commit to a full study abroad,” Moon said.
This winter break will be the second year for the India trip, and those going hope to contribute even more to the same community they visited last year. One of their main focuses this time around will be empowering the women in the local community.
“We wanted to be more involved in the women’s center, teaching English and how to start sustainable businesses,” Moon said. “We hope by commercializing their efforts, they will be able to develop a limited financial economy and generate income and show their usefulness to their families.”
Moon believes that all students should try to take advantage of this unique experience.
“The winter trip in particular allows students to enter this space where they really are separated from being students and when they come back they can take everything they’ve learned and transform it in a way that benefits the community back here,” she said.
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