Hop in your car, catch the Megabus or grab a ride with a friend, and you’re home before you know it. For those of us who live in another state or country, going home for spring break can be costly and impractical.
Students from Texas are eager to get away, and understandably so. Perhaps they’ve lived in Texas all their lives, and Austin is just another construction and traffic-ridden city. But for students that come from elsewhere, Austin is a new and exciting place with good music, delicious food and friendly people. Unfortunately, students just don’t have much time to explore it.
“A lot of times you have exams so you’re just stuck in a cycle of work, homework, study,” biology freshman Kyle Chiu, who is from New Jersey, said. “Until you have a week or weekend off, you don’t really have much time to go out into Austin and explore.”
Spring break provides a welcome breather from the stress of school, and many students use it as an opportunity to travel, relax and unwind. A trip to Mexico with a group of close friends is tempting, but simply not an option for many out-of-state students already paying over $37,000 a year for tuition.
“I’m already spending this much money. I don’t want to spend an extra couple hundred,” said Chiu, who plans to stay on campus for spring break
So what can we do? The answer is right in front of us — we just need to know where to look.
Volunteering is a great option for students who may not explore Austin because they don’t know many people, are unfamiliar with the layout or struggle to find fun things to do.
“The benefit of volunteering locally is that you get to know your community,” said Amory Krueger, director of Longhorn Center for Community Engagement. “I think it takes you to parts of the city you wouldn’t normally go to. You get to know infrastructure and stories of other people you wouldn’t normally get to know, and it’s a chance to learn about the place where you live.”
I already enjoy volunteering, so when I realized I would be staying in Austin over break, I decided to search for volunteer events near me. This wasn’t as easy as I thought, however, because the places I wanted to volunteer at required training, orientation and a weekly commitment following spring break, and I could not fit this into my schedule.
Then I discovered UT’s Center for Community Engagement website, which has a list of local, one-time volunteer events available to UT students. I signed up to volunteer at a three-day writing workshop for high school students, and I’m very excited.
“It’s going to be my job to promote these events across campus as best I can,” Krueger said. “We want to make sure there’s no divide between the campus community and the greater Austin community.”
So, to all out-of-state and international students: Before booking expensive plane tickets, consider engaging in your new community. Volunteer at an animal shelter, or Special Olympics Texas, or South by Southwest (when it’s not cancelled). Austin was voted the best place to live in America for a reason, so go out and have fun! There is so much waiting for you beyond the boundaries of campus.
Taylor is a Spanish freshman from Seattle, Washington.