Spring Break: Alternative trips give NKU students a chance to make a difference at home or abroad

Some students nap, others party and some even study. But, for a few Northern Kentucky University students, spring break is a time for traveling the world and making a difference.

Several students will be taking part in international study abroad trips to Mexico, Spain, Ireland, Germany and Costa Rica over spring break through programs coordinated by the NKU Office of Education Abroad.

In Berlin, the group of students will tour historical places and see the places that they have only read about in their history courses.

“I love going to new countries and learning firsthand rather than from books,” said NKU senior Erin Jamriska, an anthropology major who will be traveling to Berlin for a week-long study abroad experience. “This is the only way that I would like to spend my spring break.”

Other students will participate in service-learning projects in Mexico City as part of a program NKU has sponsored for 12 years.

Service projects have ranged from working with children in camps to teaching English and making repairs and improvements to school facilities.

“Usually, [students] really love [the Mexico City trip] because it is the opportunity to get out and help these people, stay with a host family and they love that they are really immersed in culture,” said Beth Lorenz, study abroad adviser, who has previously participated in the trip.

The students do not have to master the native language before participating, as the program offers translators and guides to them.

One of the best things that students learn through these international experiences is how to adapt, Lorenz said. Employers are often looking for students who have demonstrated that they can integrate into new surroundings, and even a one-week experience with a study abroad program can be a major résumé boost, she added.

Some students see other personal benefits.

“I hope to learn more about the Celtic culture, but I also hope to learn more about myself,” said Lauren Tesla, an NKU student who will travel to Ireland through the program. “I believe it is an essential part of the college experience. People should constantly be pushed to try something new. What better way than to submerged in another culture?”

Exposing students to a diversity of viewpoints and cultures is also the goal of another program which gets students involved in service over spring break.

A group of about 20 students will be traveling to various locations in Kentucky and Tennessee to work in the community. They will work with agencies assisting those experiencing homelessness and poverty. These communities include Louisville, Bowling Green and Nashville.

“One of the advantages is that you have this opportunity to explore what its like to work with other people,” Brian Combs, campus minister, said. “We will be serving people and get to talk about why we do that.”

“[Homelessness] is definitely an area that we as a BCM wants to be involved in, and I think as college student a lot of people are in to helping the homeless and those experiencing poverty get back on their feet,” said Combs.

The main goal for the Baptist Campus Ministry (BCM) trip, however, is to build relationships between students from diverse groups.

“I think it will help students get to know themselves, as well as how to get to know each other,” Combs said.

Although the trip is organized by a Christian organization, it was open to all NKU students. Several students from other faith backgrounds or with no particular faith beliefs will be joining members of the organization.

BCM leaders said they are excited about the diversity of the students participating in the service trip.

“I am looking forward to building closer relationships with the students coming with us,” said BCM president Susan Stine.

Combs also said he hopes that students, through this trip, will be inspired to do some local service when spring break is over, noting that homelessness is a problem in Northern Kentucky. He said he hopes students will look to some of the many groups on campus that are regularly engaged in service outreach to the community.

For Stine, spending her spring break this way is simple.

“If I can help them in a small way, then that is definitely a great way to spend my time,” she said.

Story by Jesse Call