Her excitement was peaked, as she looked up at all the tall buildings so close to each other she thought, “This is nothing like Salt Lake.” Looking down she saw one of the fresh markets that she’d heard so much about. Eager to find out what it was like she exclaimed, “Guys we have to spend a day here.”
Summer Finkelstein had never been out of town for spring break, but with Salt Lake Community College’s Alternative Break program, she had found her opportunity to not only go somewhere but give back to the community as well. So, in spring semester of 2014 she went to Seattle and had an experience both rich in culture and diversity while performing community service.
It was a Sunday like any other but Finkelstein was about to embark on a fruitful trip. She repeatedly thought to herself, “I wonder who I’m going to be meeting on this trip. I hope the work isn’t going to be too difficult. What’s Seattle like?” All of these thoughts were spinning in her mind as Finkelstein anxiously drove to the Salt Lake International Airport.
When the plane touched down in Seattle all Finkelstein could think about was, “We’re here! Man look at this place. I can’t wait to explore this city.”
But the fun part would have to wait as the group now had to go through the routine of collecting their bags, renting a couple vans and then check into the hostel that they would be staying at for the week.
After all that tediousness Finkelstein was ready to get this trip started, “Four days of work, three days of play, let’s do this,” Finkelstein determinedly told herself.
When they all arrived at the Green Tortoise Hostel, Finkelstein took one look at it and at first thought, “Whoa, this is where we’re staying?” The building had what one would call an ‘older, beat-up’ look to it, even so uncertainty gripped her but that would be short lived as Monday’s work would soon begin.
“Ah time for breakfast. Wonder what’s on the menu? Wonder if there’s even a breakfast plan for us,” Finkelstein thought to herself. That prayer would be answered as the hostel would have breakfast ready for its guests throughout the week as well as dinner Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday night.
“Man this hostel’s got it all; meals, free movies, games. We’re set,” joyously taking it all in. She had the privilege of speaking with an Australian fellow who was also staying at the hostel. He was traveling the world by himself going from city to city, country to country. This was something that Finkelstein certainly had a yearning for, to see the world in her own eyes and experience all of the culture and diversity that this world has to offer.
After the morning meal, the group leaders gave everyone the plan for the week. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday would be work days working on their site from 8:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. with the rest of the day to do as they pleased, while Wednesday and Saturday would be their personal play days.
“I wonder what organization we’ll be working with while we’re here. I hope the work won’t be a drag,” Finkelstein thought to herself. When they learned it was environmental work they’d be doing through Earth Corps and Mountain to Sounds Greenway, Finkelstein beamed like a ray of sunlight. She thoroughly enjoyed the work of planting trees, digging up invasive species, clearing the pathways and seeing the forests around the city. However, this was the pebble to the boulder for what she loved most.
The culture she got to experience when her and her new friends got to take Wednesday to experience the city on their own and simply walk around explore was the day of awe. The market just across the street from the hostel was what really captured and wowed her the most.
Since Seattle lies right next to the Pacific, the town has a great market for fresh fish and seafood.
Walking through the fish market was an experience of itself. Finkelstein could hear the songs being sung by the fisherman who were tagging and tossing the fish back forth to each other across the aisles of the market area. The freshness of the vegetables, the glimmering of the jewelry, the art of the handmade crafts, all of this was so much to take in and she loved every moment of being in a market such as that.
Finkelstein is grateful for jumping in on this opportunity and is now returning to Seattle this year for her second year.
Students may be asking, “How can I go on a trip like this? Is there more than just Seattle and environmental work?”
Any student willing to take part in an alternative and even affordable (compared to a week of partying) spring break, can simply stop by the Thayne Center or Student Life and Leadership office on their local campus.
This year, students can travel to Seattle to aid in environmental restoration, Kanab to work with Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, San Francisco to give aide to the homeless, and the Hopi Nation in Arizona to help the indigenous.
One of the key things about these trips is not that they all don’t cost more than $400, but what a student can take from the trip itself; self-gratitude and a better connection with the world around them.