Winter break—offering several unclaimed weeks of time during the academic year—can give students a chance to explore a new interest, field of study, or corner of the world.
Whether it’s shadowing alumni in their jobs, completing research projects, or making purposeful journeys around the globe, students use this time to learn inside or outside the classroom and broaden their Lafayette network.
Alternative School Break (ASB), which enables students to participate in community-based service projects that make an immediate impact, got its roots 17 years ago when a group of students wanted to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Hugo. Each year planned trips are both abroad and domestic, but all have a goal of sparking a lifelong interest in active citizenship. A total of 34 of 56 ASB members were assigned to winter trips to Honduras, Atlanta, and Tucson, Ariz.
Trisha Agarwal ’20 and Talia Baddour ’20, co-presidents of ASB, planned trips that focused on responding to humanitarian crises (Georgia), mentoring and tutoring female leaders (Honduras), and exploring immigration policies and their impacts (Arizona).
“Every ASB trip I have been on has forced me to think more deeply about my place in the world,” Agarwal says. “My trip this year focused on the process of refugee resettlement in the United States. Working with children and adults who are starting a new life, I was urged to take a closer look at my privilege in life whatever my struggles might have been. I left the trip very grateful for the ability to articulate my problems in English and seek support. This further urged me to use my privilege to advocate for others. I return to school a lot more aware of my surroundings as well as the ideas and initiatives I choose to spend my time on.”
This year, 283 students completed 302 experiences as part of the externship program, which provides several days of exploration across a variety of industries, including those in the arts, life sciences, media, nonprofits, health care, law, and psychology. Approximately 180 alumni, parents, and friends of the College hosted externs. The 179 hosts included Comcast, Johnson & Johnson, LinkedIn, Lou Reda Productions, Forbes Media, Rockefeller Group Development Corp., Spotify, and United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley. Participating students had the ability to receive aid for related expenses through funds dedicated by the Alumni Association.
Like externships, the Career Tracks program gave students exposure to fields where they may eventually build a career. The program is made up of three- or four-day “tracks” offered in the Lehigh Valley, New York City, or Boston. This year, students gained real-world experience in engineering/innovation, legal, real estate, financial services, technology/innovation, and media/communications. The tracks, which were hosted by alumni, parents, and friends of the College who hold various professional roles that align with each, included professional development sessions, alumni panels, networking, and visits to employers.
For some students, interim courses provide an opportunity for their first trip outside the country and their first experience with another culture or way of life. For those who don’t see how studying abroad can fit inside several years of working through classes, studying abroad during January is the answer.
During these courses, students attended a dozen plays at London’s West End and fringe theaters, learned firsthand how volcanic and geomorphic processes have shaped the Hawaiian Islands, participated in peer-to-peer mentoring with high school students in Madagascar through the LIME program, and were introduced to the many cultures and religions of South Africa, the “Rainbow Nation.”
“The students we select for the LIME program worked since September to prepare all of their lessons and materials for the Malagasy students, and that’s a huge credit to them. They’ve made an investment,” says Susan Averett, professor of economics. “Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world, so we bring everything from SAT practice books to chalk and erasers for the classroom. Our suitcases are pretty full. It’s a brilliant program, and there have been eight Malagasy students who have come to Lafayette as a result.”
Other students who took part in the interim session remained on campus and were offered learning opportunities that are not always available during a regular semester.