Spring Break usually conjures up images of college co-eds in little bikinis and board shorts on a crowded beach, not images of college students scrounging around a city for a place to sleep for the night or for food to eat for the day.
However, that's exactly how some Emory University students spent their Spring Break as an Alternative Spring Break, coordinated by Volunteer Emory to "create new opportunities for Emory students to explore social justice in various frameworks of understanding," according to Volunteer Emory's website.
This year was the second for this Atlanta "staycation" alternative Spring Break, which was created to teach students first-hand about homelessness, poverty and hunger.
The participating students spent their days volunteering at local shelters for homeless individuals.
They certainly weren't sipping margaritas or chowing down on hot wings, like other Spring Breakers. These students had to find a way to feed themselves on only $7 for the entire week.
They also had to walk, often miles, from shelter to shelter. For three nights of the week, the students slept outside, sometimes in the rain.
Other Spring Breakers are putting on just the right makeup, fragrance and styles and these particular students didn't shower or brush their teeth for the duration of the weeklong break.
Emory junior Shyama Appareddy, the trip leader for the Atlanta homelessness alternative break, said the participants were humbled by the experience.
Despite enduring a week without the physical comforts most students enjoy like shelter, hot showers and food, "we can never really understand the emotional or psychological trauma endured by someone who is actually homeless," Appareddy said. "A lot of our participants realized their own privilege."
As the students volunteered at various shelters and agencies in the city, they interacted with actual homeless individuals, learning of their personal stories and plans to overcome their struggles.
"Our goal was — and is — to reduce the distance between 'us' and 'them' by connecting with our homeless neighbors and hearing their stories," Appareddy said.
Read more about the other alternative spring breaks offered by Emory this year on the Emory University News Center site.