Danielle Pereira, a third-year journalism student and ASB Mexico team member, writes about how the ASB program is exposing her to a rich and wide-range of cultural perceptions and attitudes.

Hello! My name is Danielle Pereira and I am a third-year journalism student.  I am travelling to Cuernavaca, Mexico as a participant in Alternative Spring Break (ASB).

I was motivated to participate in Alternative Spring Break after hearing about the amazing experience my friend had when she participated last year.  I had been looking into programs that would allow me to travel abroad doing community service work for a while, but for one reason or another, the timing wasn’t right.  Before starting school in September, I set a goal that I wanted to involve myself more in the Carleton community.  I wanted to be able to say that my time at university was more than studying and chasing people for interviews.  With that and my friend’s rave reviews of ASB in mind, I took the plunge and I’m so glad I did.

The more I’ve learned about ASB the more I’ve grown to love it.  I love the emphasis on reflection and how that is incorporated into all of the activities we do.  I think it ensures that you don’t get away with just going through the motions.  I also feel like it has allowed me to take the time to think about how I can use my degree in another area of my life that I am also passionate about.  This focus on community service-learning is the best part for me because everyone in your group approaches each activity and reflection from a different angle and set of values.  It’s a great opportunity to expose yourself to various perspectives, which allows you to reaffirm or amend your own.  The pre-departure sessions are also fantastic.  TED talk reflections and discussions about cultural perceptions are just some of the activities that have made up these sessions.  These have been great because it’s a way to prepare your mind and adjust your attitudes about cultural difference and community service, which makes me feel like I can really get the full experience when I’m in Mexico.

I have travelled abroad on vacations to various locations, but I have never volunteered to serve a community.  I’m most excited to get a better understanding of the everyday life and culture in Cuernavaca that I haven’t had from just going on vacation and staying on a resort.  I’m looking forward to immersing myself in another culture for a week and getting to meet the people who do amazing work in their community on a regular basis.  I am also really excited to work on projects that will make a tangible difference regardless of how big or small it might be.

I think one of the challenges will be building up the courage to communicate with the very little Spanish I’m trying to learn by the time the trip comes around.  I really want the people there to feel like I am making an effort as a guest in their country, so hopefully I won’t be too scared to try some phrases.  I think another one of my challenges will be feeling like I’ve made enough of a difference in Cuernavaca as my teammates and the people I will meet there have made on me.  I already feel inspired by the people I have met through ASB, so I am hoping that I am able to give back as much as I will receive.

So far this experience has reinforced the value of teamwork for me, self-reflection and awareness, and opened my eyes to bigger and better ideas.  I am so happy to be a part of team Mexico, but regardless of where you go, I think the entire ASB experience is one that you can’t help but grow and change from in the best ways possible.

Submitted by Danielle Pereira, a third-year journalism student.

To learn more about Alternative Spring Break, visit carleton.ca/asb


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