Tuesday, October 15, 2019

It’s wild to think that one of the best experiences of my freshman year started off on a Friday afternoon with over a dozen of us trying to pack all of our things into the vans, getting soaked in the rain, driving eight hours through traffic in said rain, and eating dinner at a Hardee’s in the middle of nowhere. This was the beginning of our Habitat for Humanity Alternative Spring Break trip to Chattanooga, Tennessee. And what a trip it was. 

We arrived at the St. Paul’s Episcopal church late that night (I want to say around 9:00 pm), unpacked our things, prepared our air mattresses and sleeping bags, showered, and got ready for the days ahead of us, expecting to work at a home build site for the week. The next morning, however, during our orientation with Habitat, we learned that we would NOT be working at a home build site over the next few days. Instead, we would be helping out with neighborhood surveying! Yay...? (It was kind of a bummer, but at least we got really cool shirts!) 

I didn’t think the neighborhood surveying was that bad. I mean, we got to meet some new interesting people within the Chattanooga community and learn about their experiences within the neighborhood. We even ran into some kids playing basketball on the street and decided to join them for a bit. For the remainder of the week, we helped organize two Habitat ReStores and worked in one of their warehouses to build door frames and cabinets, among other things. It wasn’t the work we expected, but it still led to an overall fun and varied experience! One where I got to do wonderful things with wonderful people. 

Every day after work explored the beautiful city of Chattanooga. We visited the Hunter Museum of American Art, the Chattanooga Choo Choo, and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. We also walked across the Walnut Street Bridge overlooking the flooded Tennessee River multiple times, ate at local restaurants, and much more. In the evenings at the church, we cooked great food. Well, I didn’t since I can’t cook. Trust me. We talked about life, played games, did homework, etc. Being able to spend time with other scholars outside of my cohort made this trip incredibly special for me. All the aforementioned activities led to some wonderful bonding experiences and memories that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I would maybe trade Marika (Class of 2021) throwing shade at me on occasion. (Luckily Sarah Wood (Class of 2021) made a great video documenting our adventure, be sure to check it out!) 

Anyway, I enjoyed the trip so much that I immediately decided that I wanted to go on, and even help plan, the 2020 Alternative Spring Break Trip. So, fast forward to a few months later: I’m sitting in Dr. Z’s office with her suggesting ideas of places to go for the 2020 trip. She mentions Charleston, South Carolina. I was going there on vacation a few weeks later, so I decided to contact Charleston’s Habitat for Humanity and meet with their volunteer coordinator to see if they would be interested in hosting us. Long story short, we are going to Charleston for ASB 2020, and we should actually do some construction this time! I’ve had a fun time planning the trip with Cade (Class of 2022), Sarah, and Dr. Z, and I am excited to see what this new adventure has in store for us! We already know that we get to take a larger group, construction is more of a possibility, and Marika won’t be going (I’m just messing around, we will miss her very much this year!!), so there’s already a lot to look forward to!