When you hear the words “spring break” what types of images pop into your head? Probably things like beach parties, drinking, hanging out with friends, and getting as far away from school as possible. But in today’s competitive job market, you should think about maximizing your time off, differentiating yourself from the competition, and exploring new things. You might just discover your current major isn’t the best fit, that you want to relocate to a new city after graduation, and find yourself rejuvenated and super motivated after giving back. Let’s take a look at some alternative spring break options to get ahead of your peers.
Experiment With An Externship And Save Yourself Time
When I was in college, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I met with a career counselor several times my freshman year and still felt totally overwhelmed with the thought of finding a job after graduation. Making decisions can be hard when there are so many things to choose from. So my counselor suggested I try an externship over spring break to get my feet wet, and I’m so glad I did!
What is an externship? Externships are learning opportunities intended for you to shadow someone on the job, observe their duties, ask questions, and experience a hint of actual work environments. They’re short too, typically 2-5 days long, which is perfect for an alternative spring break. Externships are also stress free, and give you an inside look into real life jobs.
Externships are unpaid and won’t get you any college credits, but you can still put the experience on your resume. You’d be surprised what a few days can do too. I went on a 5 day externship with a marketing director for a luxury goods company and got to sit with several members of his team.
Although my externship was a lot of fun and I got to learn many things, I realized that marketing was not the career path for me. So I was able to save myself a lot of time because I adjusted my remaining college classes to other areas, and didn’t waste my energy applying to marketing jobs my senior year.
Try Out New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington DC, Boston, or LA
I love to explore and encourage everyone to travel if they have the time and means to do so. I grew up in a small suburban area, and I clearly remember how awed I was the first time I went to visit New York and San Francisco. I fell in love with both cities and quickly became determined to find a way to work in both of those places. The job opportunities, city life, diversity, and culture I experienced got me motivated to graduate in 4 years or less so I could start living my own life. Sure enough I managed to graduate in 3.5 years and have worked in both incredible cities.
I also went on trips to Washington DC and Boston while I was a student and quickly realized I didn’t want to live in either of those places after graduation. Job hunting gets really time consuming, and I was able to save myself a lot of time not searching in those locations so I could focus on the places where I knew I’d be happy living.
So I encourage you to think about where you might want to live after graduation, take a trip there and see if you actually like it. I suggest visiting New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington DC, Boston, and LA because they have some of the largest job markets. Plan a trip to whatever city or area that interests you, and see how you feel pretending to live there.
Get Involved With Alternative Spring Break (ASB) Programs
More and more colleges and universities like Stanford are offering alternative spring break programs. These are typically week long programs designed to help students immerse themselves in various social issues affecting communities domestically and abroad. The trips are designed around real life issues and topics such as immigration, permaculture, health, art, education, etc. A lot of students find these programs to be extremely enlightening and life changing. Many students even end up changing their majors or course tracks because of the experiences and knowledge they encounter.
Alternative spring break programs take a lot of preparation however because course work is often required many months before the week long program actually takes place. There is also a competitive application process, so you’ll need to do your research on your school’s offerings well in advance so you don’t miss any deadlines. Another nice thing about ASB’s is you often get college credit for participating and you’ll get to experience a true sense of reward and giving back to the community.
Consider Volunteering & Voluntourism
We’ve all heard many great things about volunteering with Habitat for Humanity and the United Way. Both are fantastic organizations that help people in need and rely on volunteers. They have popular spring break programs each year specifically targeted towards students, and are an affordable way to experience something bigger than yourself. They also don’t require coursework like ASB’s which is nice. For ex. this year the United Way is focused on the recovery effort for Hurricane Sandy and after school care programs. Just $350 dollars covers a week of housing, meals, transportation, and activities for participants this year. That’s a good deal and is rewarding to boot!
Voluntourism is another option you may want to consider. It generally involves traveling somewhere overseas or to a wilderness area where you get to help out, while also having fun exploring a new area in your free time. This can get expensive though depending on where you want to go due to the cost of airfare, visas, and housing.
One advantage to volunteering and voluntourism though is you don’t have to be a student to be able to participate, and you can also find organizations that operate on schedules outside of spring break as well. Escape the east coast snows and freezing temperatures helping school children, or building houses somewhere below the equator! There are so many options to choose from like helping clean coral reefs in Belize, repairing hiking trails in a national park, and saving sea turtles in Costa Rica.
Untemplaters, what has been your most memorable spring break? Have you ever tried an ASB, externship, explored a new city, or spent time volunteering on an alternative spring break?
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