Alternative Break in Jamaica

By James Green

ATTENTION STUDENTS! If you aren’t familiar with Alternative Break offered by the Center for Leadership and Community Engagement, I hope I can persuade you to become acquainted with it! My name is James Green and I am a freshman student at George Mason University. Throughout the beginning of the year I noticed a plethora of pamphlets around campus regarding study abroad trips to many exciting places, but never looked too deeply into them. I’ve always wanted to travel the world, but I brushed the idea of traveling abroad off because I feared the expenses.

Alternative Break trips offer the opportunity for international and domestic service at relatively low costs (compared to traditional study abroad trips), less duration of time from home (average of a week), as well as scholarship availability to help offset the costs! I researched more into the programs offered and found that they span from cultural emersion trips in Israel, to sustainability awareness trips in Florida. The trip I found fitting to my service interests was a trip to Jamaica focusing on elementary education.

After arriving in Jamaica, our group of twelve Mason students dove right into our educational mission. When we went to the school for the first time, I immediately took notice to how tarnished the buildings were. The school contained two small structures, totaling four classrooms, and around sixty students –only staffed by two teachers. We decided to find some ways to help around the school other than solely assisting with teaching. JimmyOur group decided that half of us could aid the teachers with their curriculum in the classroom, and the other half could stay outside to repaint the faded pink walls of the school. We also agreed that it’d be nice to switch the jobs of the groups halfway through the day, allowing everyone the opportunity to impact the students in the classroom. I enjoyed both painting and teaching because I knew that we were having a large impact on the school physically as well as with the students. Inside the classroom we read books, played games, and talked about our lives. The kids loved us, and we loved them!

Leaving them on the final day was the most difficult part. In a week’s time I had grown close to many of the students, and I didn’t want to go so soon. They all walked out of the class and into their vans to go home, hugging each of us at the door. It was a sad moment, but a moment that allowed me to feel as if I did truly have a positive impact on their lives –it felt great!

Our last two days were our “fun” days (even though the entire trip was a blast), where we were able to explore the area surrounding Treasure Beach. We went on a boat tour in the serene blue ocean where we were greeted by dolphins, we traveled through Black River –greeted by sunbathing crocodiles, and visited the most amazing set of waterfalls I’ve ever seen! The Jamaican people were kind and accepting, and taught us a lot about their culture! Last but not least, the food was spectacular! Jamaican food seems to be simple, but it tastes like you’re eating food from the finest of restaurants!

These priceless memories and experiences are not available to anyone and everyone, but as a George Mason student, they are accessible to you! I encourage everyone to look into the programs, as you will find life changing experiences in each and every alternative break trip offered! Your life is an adventure, you just have to choose how interesting you want that adventure to be!



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