The Experience of a Lifetime: In Memphis, Tennessee
By Morgan Smith, Community Service LC member; first-year Elementary Education major
In the first few months of attending the University of Connecticut I knew that as a freshman in college I didn’t want to miss out on any experiences. I was told by an upperclassman that their biggest regret was waiting too long to get involved on campus; join an Alternative Break and experience the growth that goes along with it. I personally knew the feeling from my freshman year in high school. Being new to my high school, I was scared to death to get involved with anything and I knew I didn’t want to make the same mistake here.
When I heard about the Alternative Break to Memphis, Tennessee I knew it was the perfect opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and get involved. I expected this trip to be full of people from the Community Service Learning Community. Although there were quite a few of us, I was shocked by how many people I didn’t know on the trip. This challenged me quite a bit because I tend to withdraw whenever I am put into a larger group of people. We were also placed into smaller teams, which made it easier for me to open up about my feelings regarding the service done.
Once in Memphis, the service projects were absolutely amazing! The people at the service sights were welcoming and grateful. My team members were supportive and hard-working. My favorite organization we worked with was First Steps, a teenage pregnancy agency, which offers every class you can possibly imagine, in order to learn how to be a good parent. We were put to work organizing supplies (diapers, baby food, baby clothes, etc.), which they provided to young women who needed them. We also encountered some challenges along the way.
As was expected, we were in an unfamiliar area and we had to adjust to those around us. Some of these challenges included getting lost, bad weather, and a diverse set of ideologies. As a whole, we handled these situations as they arose. We then were able to think about them during reflection. I strongly believe that the reason I grew so much from this trip was because of my team leader, Savannah; my team members, and the trip directors, Chris and Danielle. They provided a comfortable environment that allowed me to really reflect on my feelings and gain something from this trip. They pushed me to come out of my comfort zone and really say what I was feeling.
Coming away from this trip, I think that I am more confident then I was before. I realized that not everyone judges you for what you believe and what you say. There are so many different opinions in this world, and we encountered quite a few of them going down south. I learned that it is best to give people the benefit of the doubt because you have no inclination of what they have been though. Everyone has a different story to their life and a reason for believing what they do.
I would love to participate in another Alternative Break in the future. There is so much you can learn from other people and I found this truly fascinating. I hope that coming back to the University of Connecticut I can express all these things and share them with my classmates. My first goal is to spread the word. So that someone like me won’t pass up this experience of a lifetime.