Service beyond one’s self: Students spend Spring Break on immersion trips

By Laura Gallagher
March 13, 2013


Spring break can be valued by college students in different ways: a break from schoolwork, time to spend with family and friends, or maybe even a chance to relax and recharge. On the other hand, there are some students that choose to step out of their comfort zone and fully immerse themselves by giving up their time for volunteer work.

“There is nothing like living in solidarity with a community that is not your immediate community, taking on and sharing in their triumphs and their struggles,” Clare Pressimone, junior social work major, said.

Having made a conscious decision to travel to Guatemala and see the world through a different lens, Pressimone shared just one reason why she chose to go to a developing country during her spring break.

“Students should go on trips like this one because if we only experience our world and our way of life, then we will be missing the big part of the global picture,” Pressimone said. “I think the picture makes a lot more sense when you see the whole thing.”

Going on a cross-cultural trip can give students the opportunity to experience a hands-on way of learning and thinking. Seeing the complexities both domestically and abroad can be eye opening and, at times, overwhelming. This challenges students to open up their mind and heart in order to gain a better understanding and appreciation of different cultures.

“I believe that having these cross-cultural experiences enables people to become better people, and make a positive difference in the world,” Vonya Womack, professor of business and organizational leadership, said.

Studying abroad during her own undergraduate career to places such as Egypt, Jordan, Israel and Greece gave her a different kind of knowledge on how to communicate with people.

“You’re always going to be working with people from different cultural backgrounds. [After these experiences] you have a better perspective of the world and you also start to value that people believe different things from you,” Womack said.

Another group of students traveled to New Orleans over break and had the chance to not only learn about another community, but they also gained a better understanding of themselves and the struggles of the U.S. even years after Hurricane Katrina.

“It helped me grow a little and it helped me to be more comfortable and be more confident within myself,” Maya Huston, senior psychology major, said about Campus Ministry’s trip to New Orleans.

Students pictured during the immersion trip to New Orleans during Spring Break. (Submitted by Campus Ministry)

Being immersed into another culture can change one’s perception of the world and allow a person to reflect on what their core values and beliefs truly are.

“The experience definitely put Cabrini’s mission ‘education of the heart’ into practice for me,” Maura Lemke, sophomore social work major social justice minor, said. “I feel that I have grown spiritually, intellectually and socially in this past week.”

She, along with Pressimone, traveled to San Lucas, Guatemala. Her experience in this developing country is not something that can be taught in a classroom.

A cultivating aspect to these trips is learning to work alongside different types of people. It’s easy to want to push our own traditions and beliefs upon them, but it’s important to be accepting of a community’s social norms.

“The truth is that we are not alone in this world; there are other communities and nations living day-to-day lives just as we are and we must not forget them because we are all living on this planet together,” Pressimone said.


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Laura Gallagher

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