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Opinion

Spring break benefits students

Cristin Dempsey

March 25, 2015

Well everyone, spring break is now over and we are unfortunately swamped once again with homework, projects and tests.

For most, that just meant venturing from hometowns back to River Falls, putting aside sleeping in and watching Jerry Springer all afternoon and getting back to rigid schedules. For others, it meant jetting back from warm and tropical destinations to the returned winter weather.

And yet, for others, it means coming back with extra knowledge, experiences, and memories that they never could have imagined having. That’s why spring break is an important week to keep in the school year.

Many groups and organizations use the week of spring break to do mission work, whether in a different region of the U.S. or abroad. This is obviously one of the most fulfilling experiences to have, because students are reaching out and helping less fortunate people live a better life.

Several UW-River Falls students this past week ventured to areas such as Texas, Kentucky, Michigan and Mississippi to work towards ending world hunger, building homes or helping in schools.

Of course when anyone thinks of spring break, they think of wild partying on a beach all week. It’s not to say students serving on mission trips don’t have fun, but they do at least get to say they made a difference in someone’s life.

Even if you weren’t part of a mission trip through the university or elsewhere, there are still many other benefits to spring break. One important benefit is that it combats common stereotypes about an area. Obviously this includes stereotypes about a different country’s culture, people and landscape, but it also very much includes stereotypes about other states and regions within the U.S.

I experienced this myself last week. I went to Arizona, which is probably less than exciting to most people because it is a spring break hot-spot right behind Florida. Before I arrived, I pictured Arizona just as most people might: a huge sand desert with cacti, plentiful tumbleweeds, and cowboys whipping their lasso atop their horse.

And, of course, it’s not to say that parts of Arizona are not like this. Of course there are areas of the state that perfectly fit the stereotype, but what I saw is what one might picture finding in Colorado or Minnesota in the summertime. When I finally arrived, all I saw was a sea of green: green grass, fully bloomed trees, and yes, cacti (but not as much as I initially pictured). Despite being warned that it is extremely dry there, it does rain. Not much, but enough to make it green.

But the plentiful lush green was nothing compared to the landscape and inhabitants. As we ventured more and more north to make our way to the Grand Canyon, we found mountains. Yes, mountains. Tall mountains, snow-capped mountains, and vast mountain ranges were plentiful in northern Arizona, and even near Phoenix. Anywhere you turned, you could look at a mountain. They were just as majestic and beautiful as any other mountain in the world, which is what completely changed my opinion of Arizona.

As for the inhabitants of Arizona, they’re just like anyone else you would find closer to home. There aren’t cowboys and Mexicans escaping to the U.S. everywhere you turn. They are just…people. People like you and me, people who understand our language and culture. Yes, there were mannerisms that differed from what I have typically been exposed to from living in the Midwest. But I never felt like I was out of place or wasn’t welcomed because I wasn’t a “local.”

Wherever you go, it is important to just go. Traveling to different parts of the country or the world, whether for spring break or just a trip, is an experience of a lifetime, and our 20’s is a perfect time to go before being bogged down by countless responsibilities.

Whether you are helping a community in need or simply experiencing a new place and throwing away old stereotypes, it is difficult to feel disappointed by the decision to see the world. You never know what a city, state or country is really like until you experience it for yourself and come home with a story to tell.

Cristin Dempsey is an English major and music minor from Eagan, Minn. She enjoys writing, playing the flute and swimming. After college she would like to pursue a career as an editor.

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