MCLA

Experiential Learning

Students travel abroad over spring break


03/11/2009

For MCLA students, spring break offers the opportunity to experience more than a trip to the beach. Thanks to travel courses and the annual Alternative Spring Break program, it is a chance to learn, to help others, explore new cultures or make a profound difference on the world around them.

During last year's spring break, 16 MCLA students traveled to New Orleans to assist with ongoing Katrina relief efforts. This trip was part of the Alternative Spring Break program, organized annually by MCLA's Center for Service.

While in New Orleans, these students replanted tree saplings in the 2,800-acre Fontainebleau State Park, which lost many of its trees during Hurricane Katrina. The project was organized by the National Wildlife Federation's Coastal Louisiana Habitat Restoration Initiative.

Student Jaclyn Ford '11 noted in the Beacon - the campus newspaper - that the experience was life-changing.

"You can't go there and not be changed," she said.

Past MCLA alternative spring break programs have included service projects in Washington, D.C., the Navajo Nation, Belize, and a previous trip to New Orleans. A survey of 2007 Alternative Spring Break participants revealed that 84 percent were more likely to volunteer in their communities as a result of the experience. Three months of the event, 40 percent of them had already followed through on that pledge.

This spring, students are headed to the Cordoba, Mexico, area for an Alternative Spring Break experience where they will build ovens for a small, rural community.

Alternative Spring Break is just one of many life-enriching experiences offered at MCLA. Travel courses organized over spring break have allowed students to blend their academic goals with travel and cultural immersion. These upper-level academic courses include regular classwork before and after the break, academic reading, research and visits to educational sites.

This year, travel course students are headed to China and Spain.