Baller: College students continue to take on dangerous spring break options

College students head off to dangerous spring break vacations, but the University of Iowa now sheds light on the positive alternative spring break option.


Nick Rohlman

A bus stops at the Old Capitol Transit Center on Wednesday January 30, 2019.

Kasey Baller, Opinions Columnist

Having a break in college is exciting for anyone, because it gives you time away from all of your activities and school work. Going to a warm place for spring break has long been exciting, but now a new and fatal spring break idea has become a trend among many college students. These spring breaks include a week in the hot sun while drenching themselves in liquor constantly until returning home.

Now, all of this might sound fun to some of you, but unapparent dangers come along with this. Some harmful and even fatal.

This past week thousands of UI students headed off on their vacations. Some to South Padre, Texas, some to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, etc. Because of the constant drinking, drunk driving at these destinations has become an increased concern. According to the Washington Post, last year there were more than 400 crashes involving young drivers during spring break alone. Sound scary? It only gets worse as thousands of metal cans and glass bottles are left in the sand, making it hard for anyone to tell what glass or metal pieces might get stuck in their feet.

But wait — the problems do not end here. Along with drunk driving on the rise during spring break, sexual assault is increasing also. Do you think you are safe in broad daylight with your friends and thousands of others? The New York Times reports on past assaults that have occurred on spring break — two students were charged with sexually assaulting a 19-year-old woman on a crowded beach.

The UI Alternative Spring Break promotes another way to still have an enjoyable and definitely memorable spring break.

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These are horrifying but real examples of the new spring-break culture going wrong. Fortunately, the UI provides positive experiences for students wanting to do good while having a positive, fun spring break.

The UI Alternative Spring Break promotes another way to still have an enjoyable and definitely memorable spring break. Students also receive three-semester-hour credits for being enrolled in the academic course. The UI reports that the focus areas of this trip are LGBTQ+ rights, youth health education, urban development, criminal-justice reform, immigration, arts, youth education, children’s health, public health, racial justice, housing, education equity, food, justice, and economic disparity. The team traveled to 16 cities, including Atlanta; Biloxi, Mississippi; Dallas; and Columbus, Ohio.

A UI student leader of the trip to Birmingham, Alabama, and second-year attendee, Benjamin Nelson said he had a positive experience. His team focused on gentrification.

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“This was my first year leading a trip after I was a participant last year,” he said. “I kept coming back to the Alternative Spring Break because it is just as much of an adventure as a more traditional spring break. I think my team left with a much greater sense of how nonprofits are organized and how you go about creating community change.”

Perhaps going on a responsible service trip is the better option for keeping yourself safe and accountable. PubMed reported that students who vacation with friends for break dramatically increase their alcohol use, while students who had more responsible vacations were at low risk for excessive alcohol use. This trip does not exist to keep students away from drinking, it exists to help them grow as people. After the trip, students reported an increase in their ability to participate in sociocultural conversations and viewed themselves as a community member at the UI.

Reporting statistics about the dangers of spring breaks will not guarantee that students will listen and take action to be more alert. It also will not prevent students from going on the dangerous trips, but with the help and support of the UI, students now have better and more rewarding spring-break options. If you have a passion for service, or even if you do not but want to be more involved, help out the community and keep yourself safe by partaking in the Alternative Spring Break.