During Spring Break in college, it is common to hear about wild trips with friends to tropical places. While those trips are definitely fun, some decide to spend their break in a way that has more meaning behind it.

I decided to spend my time off from school on an Alternative Break trip, where I travelled to Memphis, Tennessee.

The mission of my trip was pediatric health care, and I was able to provide service to the children of Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.

On top of meeting new people, whether it be patients, family members or hospital staff, I was able to walk away from the hospital every day knowing that I made a child smile or that I gave a parent a chance to catch up on some sleep.

cONTRIBUTED PHOTO: oLIVIA bELANGER

cONTRIBUTED PHOTO: oLIVIA bELANGER

Whatever the circumstance may have been, every day at Le Bonheur gave me a sense of purpose that only a service trip can give.

While volunteering, the hospital staff was intrigued to know about us and why we were volunteering.

After explaining that we were from New Hampshire and were spending our spring break volunteering, almost everyone was shocked.

They couldn’t believe that we were taking so much time to help with the children and they were so grateful for the service we provided them.

With the awe came a sense of disbelief, considering most did not understand why we weren’t spending our money toward a plane ticket instead of toward a cramped minivan road trip to go volunteer.

The answer to that is simple. Yes, I would love to go to Florida with my best friends and party for the week.

It would allow me to unwind and make a ton of great memories, and I plan to take a few of those trips before I graduate.

However, the opportunities you are given on an Alternative Break, to me, are incomparable to any sort of tropical party.

When I look back on my spring break, I won’t only remember the place I went or the things that I did. I’m going to remember the feeling that it gave me to interact with each patient, the look of relief in a parent’s eyes when I said I’d stay with their child for a little while and the endless amount of love I felt in that hospital.

Not only will I remember that feeling, I will remember the incredible friendships on my trip.

Last year when I went on an Alternative Break, I met my best friend and current roommate, and this year I have never felt closer with nine people in just one week of truly knowing each other.

Along with making new friends, Alternative Break provides the opportunity to make connections with possible employment opportunities after graduation.

A few people on my trip are interested in the medical field and counseling, and were able to sit down with nurses and child life workers to get tips about their field, as well as getting their contact information for further assistance.

I chose an Alternative Break to do more than only benefit myself. As a college student, a majority of the time I feel selfish, so I want to take any opportunity I can benefit others.

Olivia Belanger can be contacted at obelanger@kscequinox.com