Spring break is rapidly approaching, and it is about time to figure out how to fill the free time. Among various volunteer opportunities provided by Oakland University, Alternative Spring Break is one that students wait all year to apply for.

During these trips, students are involved in multiple mission works including disaster relief, health care, education and tutoring.

In previous years, ASB students have traveled to South Carolina, Texas, Pennsylvania, Florida and Illinois.

This year, groups will be traveling to provide community services in four locations. Here’s what each place is all about, according to ASB’s GrizzOrgs page:

Austin, Texas — Thinkery, Any Baby Can, Austin Animal Shelter and Starry: Students will be helping at an animal shelter and doing minor home repairs.

Nashville, Tennessee — Nashville Rescue Mission: Volunteers will be serving at a soup kitchen and working in a warehouse that handles donations for underprivileged people. This option is a new addition this year, according to Emily DeLano, the Center for Student Activities and Leadership Development coordinator of leadership and service learning.

Fort Lauderdale, Florida — Victory Living: Students will be working with an organization that strives to give people with disabilities services and opportunities. 

Kissimmee, Florida — Give Kids the World: Volunteers will be serving food and operating rides at this cost-free resort and theme park for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families. 

This year, OU’s spring break is Feb. 19-26. Attending ASB is an opportunity to make a difference, meet new people and develop new skills during time off from classes.

DeLano gave insight into this year’s ASB as she looks forward to her seventh year of volunteering.

“Students have life-transforming experiences,” DeLano said. “They oversee recreational therapy for kids with illnesses. Students learn from people in need. They learn thankfulness, patience [and] a greater appreciation for their college education.”

She said 70 students volunteer and fly to the various locations. They volunteer around eight hours a day.

The student fee for ASB is $300-$500. This cost includes housing, meals and transportation. DeLano expects ASB’s application to include volunteer and leadership experience, hard work and great character.

“There is no greater feeling to see students serve others and, in fact, they learn from serving,” DeLano said. “There is no other gift better than to serve someone else in need. If they [students] are ready to grow in character and be a servant leader, this is the trip for you.”

Cassie Stoutenburg, president of ASB and senior biomedical sciences major, explained ASB from a student perspective. She is going into her fourth year attending the trip.

“My favorite part about ASB is the people that I meet while on the trips,” she said. “Meeting people from OU that are passionate enough about volunteering on their week off from classes is a really cool thing when you are also that passionate.”

Stoutenburg’s bond with the people in need makes the work worthwhile.

“Seeing the smiles on their faces and hearing the appreciation in their voices makes the early mornings and late evenings on our week off beyond worth it,” she said.

Going on a trip with no familiar faces can be a step out of a student’s comfort zone. Stoutenburg said attending ASB her freshman year changed her for the better.

“I met the most incredible students at Oakland through that trip and learned so much about myself,” she said. “I would tell students that these trips will transform their outlooks on life. You will come back refreshed and thankful, and that is something that you truly cannot understand until you experience this.”