Service Learning Summer Programs Aren’t Your Average Summer Vacation
Our service learning trips wrap many experiences into a few short weeks. And without the distraction of modern technology, students who travel with us are able to soak in their surroundings without the constant buzz of an email or text message begging for their attention. They can concentrate on being present in this amazing experience.
But what do students really do while they’re on a service learning trip with RLT? Sometimes we’re asked, “So is this just a 2-3 week vacation for these students?”
While these trips do include some vacation-like adventures, the short answer is no.
Today, we’re going to go a bit more in-depth about what students accomplish and learn while on our trips—and how it’s very different from an average vacation.
Volunteerism is a core element to our service learning programs. Sometimes that means working with wildlife conservation efforts, rebuilding community centers and schools in impoverished or disaster-stricken areas, planting trees…we could go on and on. In short, about two-thirds of the students’ trip is spent helping others.
By the time students have completed their trip, most will have completed 50-90 volunteer hours—and will have earned a Certificate of Community Service as well as a Presidential Volunteer Service Award. their efforts and work creates a profound impact on the communities they serve.
Another aspect of a RLT trip is the opportunity to learn new skills and to sharpen old ones. For example, some of our summer programs include language immersion experiences, during which students are able to practice their foreign language skills with native speakers. The reverse, being a teacher to young children is also an extremely fulfilling opportunity as well.
Other programs include a chance to learn more specific skills (like SCUBA diving or wilderness safety), leadership training, exposure to cultural norms, and a general look into another way of life. On a normal vacation, we sometimes miss these opportunities to be more like locals and experience how natives interact with their environment on a daily basis.
Everyone gets nervous about going to a new place with new people. It’s natural. But students on RLT trips quickly form bonds and friendships built on a foundation of trust and respect. Students gain a sense of independence while traveling with a group of peers that empowers them to a sense of direction and purpose upon arriving home.
Cynthia, one of our past travelers, shared her experience as this:
“The challenges that I faced sometimes led me to question why I had chosen the path that I had, and why I had not instead, stayed home and done something within my comfort zone. But sooner than I thought, I realized that only when you take a challenging opportunity and you broaden your horizons, do you gain the most invaluable knowledge.”
Yes, it’s true that there are still recreational elements to each trip. We kayak, snorkel, surf—because that’s part of enjoying the environment, too. But our travelers do much more than get a suntan.
When students travel with RLT, they come to learn, to volunteer, and to better understand themselves as young adults. They are actively participating. They are constantly taking in new experiences. It’s much more than a vacation.