Alternative spring break: Benefits of volunteering or planning a staycation

Volunteering while in college can be beneficial in a number of ways. (Credit: Louvonia McClain)

Volunteering while in college can be beneficial in a number of ways. (Credit: Louvonia McClain)

So you’re looking ahead to spring break, but your budget does not support one of the awesome trips some of your peers are planning. You may not wind up on sandy beaches for your spring break, but you can look into the alternative spring break (ASB) opportunities offered on campus. There are many benefits to volunteering, and an ASB could be just what you’re looking for to gain positive experience. Because many ASBs still take place abroad, and do require fundraising to participate, they may still be beyond the limits of your wallet. No worries—you can find ways to volunteer close to home, or plan staycation activities to make sure your spring break is anything but ordinary.

Why volunteer?

“Volunteering while in college can be beneficial in a number of ways,” wrote Louvonia McClain in “Reasons college students should volunteer” for RollingOut. Along with giving back to your community, “finding time to volunteer will not only help build your resume but also give you a great deal of experience before joining the real world of employment,” McClain noted. Here are some of McClain’s top benefits of volunteering:

  • Volunteering closes the gap between other jobs, showing future employers you’re not lazy.
  • Volunteering with a company in your field may give you a foot in the door to future employment.
  • You can use volunteer experiences to develop new skills, build experience and grow your network.

In addition, studies have shown that volunteering increases your self-confidence and helps you stay healthy. So helping others really does help you back!

Alternative spring break abroad

In “Spring break volunteer work,” posted at Destinations360, a writer noted, “you don’t always have to give up sun and sand to volunteer either. Plenty of volunteer opportunities are available overseas in tropical countries where the standard of living is low, but the rewards are sky high.” A good place to start to investigate these opportunities is your student life office, where you can sort out which organizations are reputable. Some groups worth checking out, that may involve domestic or international travel, include:

There may also be spring break travel opportunities through local faith-based or service organizations. Many of these programs have early application periods, and those may already have passed—so check out additional ideas for volunteering closer to home.

On campus and local volunteering

If you’re staying on campus without travel plans, this doesn’t mean you can’t find a way to get volunteer experience. Think about causes you believe in. Are there local organizations working toward those causes? Your local area probably has a food bank, women’s shelter, hospital, soup kitchen or even animal shelter. Local environmental groups may need help blazing trails as the spring weather gets warmer. If you belong to a faith organization, what kind of volunteer work could you do to assist your local church, temple or mosque?

Even small campuses probably need volunteers right at the college. While you’re in your student life office, look at the types of volunteer experiences happening right on campus. Perhaps students who are visually impaired need selections from course anthologies recorded as audio files. There might be a campus cigarette butt pick-up scheduled. The athletics department could need volunteers to assist with preparing or spreading promotional materials. Or if your campus has a community garden, you could lend a hand while other volunteers are traveling.

Staycation ideas

But not every minute of your day has to be spent on volunteer work. If you’re stuck on campus for break, there are plenty of ways you can have fun with other fellow non-travelers. Debra Ronca, writing for TLC, pitched “10 spring break staycations,” including:

  • Host a movie marathon (alternately, have a movie marathon day at your local big screen theater—the popcorn’s pricey, but still cheaper than traveling abroad).
  • Be a tourist in your own area—there’s plenty of cool local stuff off campus that you might miss if you’re spending all your time in the dorms! Contact your town or state’s department of tourism for brochures of hot spots in your area—you’re sure to find something new.
  • Host a video game Olympics. “Pick games like bowling, ski jumping and tennis,” Ronca advised, so that people who aren’t playing won’t get bored. With enough advance planning, “you can set up tournaments and give out prizes or trophies…. If you have a lot of people participating, you can even break everyone up into teams and wear team colors.”

How would you spend a local spring break? Tell us in the comments.

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