Winter Break at Home (and Away)

Manhattan students are inevitably looking beyond finals week to the elusive winter break. Breaks from school are often times that we spend at home, relaxing and spending time with family, but over winter break and spring break, many Manhattan College students spend their time helping others.

The Manhattan College Lasallian Outreach Volunteer Experience (LOVE) offers students “service and social justice travel experiences” according to the MC website. The trips are offered over winter and spring breaks and provide students with a mix of service and immersion trips.

Photo Courtesy of Bridget McQuade.
Photo Courtesy of Bridget McQuade.

“I chose to get involved with this LOVE trip because I wanted to participate in a global service learning experience,” Fiona Dunn, a sophomore, said. Dunn will be traveling to Port Au Prince Haiti along with nine other Manhattan College students and a chaperone in January.

Looking past winter break, LOVE groups will continue to prepare themselves during the second semester. For Bridget McQuade the winter break may be relaxing but spring break will be full of new experiences as she prepares to return with LOVE to Jamaica for her second trip, this time as a leader.

“I first went as a freshman and I decided that Jamaica would be a great fit for me because the focus was children with disabilities.  I have always been passionate about children with special needs, so I jumped on this opportunity and I have been wrapped up in it ever since,” she said.

McQuade had reservations about the trip at first, but they were quickly pushed aside by the excitement fot the new experience. She also worried what it would be like spending a break somewhere other than at her home.

“I thought it would be strange to be away from home for St. Patrick’s Day, the most important holiday in my house, but I was so distracted by the nerves and excitement about going somewhere completely different that I had no time to focus on that,” she said.

Dunn thinks that spending time with her LOVE team before the journey will also ease the change from spending the break abroad.

“My LOVE team meets as a group with our chaperone every week. Throughout the semester we have really gotten to know each other very well and have formed strong friendships,” Dunn said. “This makes it much easier to spend my winter break abroad because I know that I have ten other people to count on.”

Tommy Kanganis will also be heading to Jamaica on a LOVE trip. This trip will be his second with the LOVE program, as he journeyed to Texas his freshman year.

“I know that this trip will be a lot different than my previous trip,” Kanganis said. “It will be challenging but very rewarding.”

McQuade looks forward to the challenge and reward of LOVE Jamaica as well. “The trip is a little different this year. In the past, we have visited an orphanage for children with disabilities, but this year we will be spending the week at a home for adults with disabilities.  This is definitely going to be a different experience, but I am really excited to see what the week has in store for us,” she said.

While McQuade and Kanganis continue to prepare for their trip in the coming months, Dunn is preparing to head off to Port Au Prince within a month. And she has the challenges that her LOVE trip will bring in mind.

“I hope to experience a different culture and learn about the work of the Lasallian community in a different global context. I think some challenges will be living in a different country away from the many conveniences at home that are usually taken for granted,” she said. “The most rewarding part of this trip will be the relationships that we build within our group and within the community”

As MC prepares to head home for the winter break, students are preparing to head back off into the world to volunteer and immerse themselves in various cultures. For Dunn this experience will come in the middle of her winter break, and she is excited to head off to Haiti.

Photo Courtesy of Bridget McQuade.
Photo Courtesy of Bridget McQuade.

Still its a very different experience spending your break abroad than at home.

“My family is also very supportive of me and they believe that this is a great opportunity,” Dunn said.

McQuade’s family is also excited for her to return to Jamaica during spring break.

“My family is very supportive of this program and they are thrilled that I will be spending another break in Jamaica doing something that I love,” she said.

The LOVE program offers students the opportunity to experience new cultures and ways of life, and it also shakes up their usual break schedule. Weeks spent at home, become weeks spent abroad. While this is a challenging experience, most find it extremely rewarding.

“Even though we only visit for one week, we leave behind a part of ourselves and we take away so much more,” McQuade said, “That is definitely the most rewarding part.”