Experiencing the “Real World” through Alternative Break Immersion

Posted on: October 23rd, 2013

By Jackie Arnason
Student, MA in Social Justice and Community Development
Graduate Assistant, Campus Ministry

Why go on an Alternative Break Immersion? I could quote our promotional material and tell you “ABIs provide opportunities for you to expand your learning beyond the classroom and involve a combination of direct service and cultural immersion in a host community.” I could give you a schpiel with reason after reason you should apply for an ABI because I am the graduate assistant for the program. But, instead I want to tell you about an ABI experience that I had as an undergraduate student.  My sophomore year, I was given the opportunity to visit the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming which is shared by the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes. We listened to the stories of elders, learned the history of the injustices in the community and did needed maintenance work around the reservation. But more than all of those things I did, I experienced what was real. I was always told the “real world” is found after graduation. But I was experiencing it then. I experienced the real world when the elders shared the injustices they faced as children, being forced to unlearn their native language. They also challenged me to recognize injustices in my community and do something about it. In a prayer attributed to Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, Bishop Ken Untener wrote, “We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.” I didn’t change the world that week. But it did change me. I received more from the Wind River Community in their hospitality, gratitude and challenges than my raking leaves, painting the church and working in the schools could ever equate.

To this day, I continue to unpack and feel the impact of this experience. I have had many alternative break immersion experiences since this trip to Wyoming and it is a main part of the reason I do the work I do. Here at Loyola University Chicago, ABIs have a special focus. “Through immersions we live simply, build community, deepen faith, and do justice, while sharing work and gaining new awareness from our interactions with diverse communities and one another.” I would highly encourage anyone and everyone to apply for an Alternative Break Immersion. I am a product of Jesuit education and alternative break immersions and the combination of these two has changed me life forever. In the words of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, “I am ruined for life.”

Applications are due November 4th and further information can be found on our website (www.luc.edu/abi) or apply online (http://www.luc.edu/ABIapp).


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