Students should check out alternative spring break options

At the end of this excruciatingly long week, students will be packing their bags to go home, board cruise ships and catch planes.

Anticipating that students may participate in self-indulgent, reckless activity, the Wellness Center has plastered campus with posters urging students to take care of themselves during spring break.

Some students are taking this advice one step further through a Bulls Service Break (BSB) trip, not only taking care of themselves, but also the less fortunate. USF’s BSB programs offer great opportunities for students to give back all over the country and even beyond the U.S. and should be considered over a vacation.

The challenges students face on a daily basis would be a holiday compared to the hardships that people around the world face every day.

Mental health breaks don’t have to be spent idly; sometimes taking up a new project in a fresh setting can be just as therapeutic as it is productive. And according to MSN Health, doing good for others is one of the best ways to improve mental health.

“As Darwin noted, group selection played a strong rule in human evolution. If something like helping benefits the group, it will be associated with pleasure and happiness,” Stephen Post, a research professor of bioethics at Case Western Reserve University, said to MSN. “When you’re experiencing compassion, benevolence and kindness, they push aside the negative emotions. … One of the best ways to overcome stress is to do something to help someone else.”

BSB trips vary in location and range in activity from rebuilding homes to providing public health.

Travel is expensive, and in many cases this is enough to deter

students from participating in trips that deliver aid directly to the areas that need it most. While local volunteering can be done at home and one’s neighbor’s needs should never be placed far from one’s own, cultural immersion is a priceless experience.

Scholarships and fundraising can even help students pay for a large amount of their travel expenses and some USF resources are available, including scholarships through the Honor’s College. Generosity is a contagious thing, and people who are willing to give will always be able to find others willing to support them.

Of course, there is a level of comfort in the safety of popular tourist sites that volunteers veer away from as their missions lead them to unpolished areas that need attention. Danielle Locke, a program coordinator for the Honors College BSB 2012 trip to Nicaragua, said, “a 24-hour hotline, travel insurance and travel guides while in-country to ensure student safety.”

It’s safe to say that these students are far more protected than the average tourist.

The unique memories made on these service trips cannot be booked through portside cruise ship excursions or bought at a beachside resort.

Julia Rauchfuss is a freshman majoring in biomedical science.