How would you act if you were visiting someone else's home? You may bring treats, you’d take your shoes off at the door, and you’d probably make your bed in the morning (even though you may scoff at the idea of actually making your own bed at home). You probably wouldn’t express distaste in their choice of decor, you would be reticent to crinkle your nose at an unfamiliar smell or taste. With respect to your friend and the space your friend calls home - you’d do everything in your power to be a good house guest.
Now, consider the impending visits you’ll be making on your alternative break.
We often prepare for alternative breaks with a self-serving lens: what’s the packing list, what articles should I be reading, can I sift through all the Facebook pictures of my potential new best friends, etc. (We know, we’ve been there too.) But the eagerness for the experience can often leave out the most important truth about the trip: We are visitors in a new place.
Being a human in a new space begets a shift in attitude - on an alternative break, students and staff have the opportunity to create an intentional shift. Rather than observing a community with an eye ready for critique and proposed solutions, we are compelled to thoughtfully enter with an eager sense to expand our own understanding, as we learn from and engage with a community that is not our own.
As you start to pack your bags and make those beloved road trip playlists, keep these ideas in mind. More than just the high anticipation of team-wide inside jokes and copious car snacks to be consumed, prepare yourself for a community-centered experience. Our goal is to invest in alternative break trips and enter communities with the humility to learn, observe, engage, and, most importantly, be the kind of house guest who’ll be invited back.