March 16, 2012
In the spirit of USC’s spring break this week, today’s blog post about the Alternative Break Program is brought to you by one of our admission office interns, Angel.
One of the things I love about USC is all of the amazing travel opportunities offered by different organizations on campus. This past winter break I was able to participate in the Alternative Break Program in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The Alternative Break program is run through the USC Volunteer Center which offers programs for winter, spring, and summer breaks. These programs travel domestically as well as internationally.
Along with 19 other USC students, I spent two and a half weeks in Chiang Mai teaching English to primary school students as well as renovating a school library and three different classrooms. Before my trip to Chiang Mai I had travel experiences in both Europe and Eastern Africa, so I was not worried about the actual travelling aspect, however I was most concerned with adapting to Thai culture and having an impact on the kids.
In reality, the kids I taught in Thailand might have had a bigger impact on me than I did on them. I have always had a passion for volunteering and working with kids and Alternative Winter Break (AWB) Thailand allowed me to experience both of those things in an international setting while exploring and embracing Thai culture.
We spent every day of the week in Chiang Mai volunteering from around 8am to 4pm. That might seem like a pretty demanding schedule for a “break” but I wouldn’t have traded my time with our Thai students for anything. We spent our time after school and on weekends exploring the beautiful city of Chiang Mai. This included visiting ancient Buddhist temples, or wats, walking the Night Market that took over the city on Sunday nights, getting Thai massages for 150 Baht (five dollars), and even going to the Tiger Kingdom to hang out with some cats! By far, one of the coolest things we did in Thailand was elephant riding and white water-rafting, on Christmas day no less.
Not only did AWB Thailand allow me to make amazing connections with my class of fourth grade Thai students, I also formed bonds with a diverse group of USC students that share the same passion for service that I have. It is programs like this that remind me why I love USC!