March. To some, it seems like just another month. To college students, this is the month they have been waiting for since school started in January. Spring break.
Spring break is the time where college students from all over the country flock to Florida, South Padre Island, the Gulf Shores or Mexico in search of warmth, beaches to lounge on and good times. Some students travel for service trips and the opportunity to give back by helping others. And some students decide to stay at home for spring break, often referred to as a “stay-cation.”
Spring break is an excellent opportunity for students to find rest and relaxation before taking on the last eight weeks of the semester. It is also a good time to experience something different or push yourself to do new things. It does not take flying across the world to try something new; it can be right here in St. Louis, Missouri.
As humans, it is natural to feel safe in doing the same things. Taking the same hiking trail, going to the same restaurant. It is comfortable and easy. But trying and experiencing something new allows for you to take something different and, perhaps, scary into something comfortable and easy.
If you like hiking, try going to a different trail than the typical, crowded ones like Castlewood. If you like food, try a place you have not been before or restaurant of a culture you have not experienced. If you like to travel, but can not afford to go to Florida or Mexico, take a day trip to Hannibal, Missouri or Kansas City.
For me, this spring break is about adventure and experiencing something new. While many of my friends are lounging on the beach, I will be on a plane headed to Accra, Ghana in western Africa.
I have never been out of the country and the idea of leaving the safety net of the United States gave me excitement and immense amounts of anxiety. I dreamt of seeing the world since I was a little kid and now, through this trip, I could finally see my dream becoming a reality. But as I read and researched more, my anxiety continued to grow.
Sometimes, we do not realize how easy we have it here in the U.S. We can go to a grocery store, buy fruit and eat it without thinking about contamination or disease. In Ghana, it is not recommended to even drink the water unless it is bottled or to eat vegetables unless they are cooked. The list of illnesses I could potentially take away from this trip, the vaccinations and medications I needed, and my visa not making it back in time furthered my fears.
Ghana is a whole new ball-game compared to my big family trip to California, or even for someone going to Europe. There were certain rules to be followed, specific visas to be filed, and in general, things to know that you would never expect to have to know when planning a trip. Not to mention, no one in the class had been to Ghana, so it was a new experience for all of us. At first, it all seemed very overwhelming and it made me wonder, how in the world was this all going to get done in time?
Each item checked off my list of things to do eased my nerves and allowed space for the excitement to grow. There were times when the anxiety crept back in, but I reminded myself this was just the beginning. I dreamed of this moment for so long, the moment where I saw more of the world than meets the eye. The moment where I experienced a new culture, one that is unfamiliar to me and perhaps, to most people. The moment where I did something I never imagined I would have the opportunity to do.
We are now less than a week away from leaving on our trip to Ghana. The eight weeks leading up to this full of research, vaccinations and Skype/FaceTime interviews paid off and we are ready to take on the adventure of a lifetime. These next two weeks are packed full of new experiences and ways to try new things.
Whether you are going to Florida with friends, on a service trip or having a “stay-cation,” I challenge you to make your own adventure. Try something new. Make memories. Take a lot of pictures. And of course, stay safe.
Happy Spring Break, Webster.