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A Blessing in Disguise

Nola 2

Priya spent last her last spring break working at an animal shelter in New Orleans as part of Texas A&M's Alternative Spring Break project.

With spring break being less than three weeks away, I find myself remembering my spring break last year and how that one week completely changed my college career for the better.

Last year, I was blessed with the opportunity to go to New Orleans for the entire week and volunteer at an animal shelter through Alternative Spring Break (ASB).

ASB is a service-based organization in and out of the BCS community that primarily aims to provide students with a meaningful spring break experience through selfless service. Every year, a group of about 45 students choose between four projects across the country through which they can make the most out of their week away from school and classes.

Image-1-2Originally, I was signed up and ready to go to Oklahoma to volunteer at a Native American Reservation. When that trip was cancelled, I was, instead, placed on the New Orleans trip, which looking back was a blessing in disguise.

I remember sitting in the van en route to New Orleans and being nervous about how my spring break was going to turn out. I didn’t know anyone on my trip because I was added to it at the last minute and I didn’t know what to expect from the volunteer site.

But New Orleans changed my life. From eating beignets every morning, to playing with the sweetest dogs and cats every day and bonding with my group every night, I can definitely say I made some of my favorite college memories on that trip.

The shelter we volunteered at was heavily understaffed and there were way too many dogs and cats for all of the employees to shower with affection, so we were able to do what they couldn’t. After being in their cages all day, the larger dogs, especially, had a ton of energy and got so excited about the smallest things, even just playing with us for 10 minutes.

We left with a bunch of scratches and bruises, but it was definitely worth it to give the animals the loving attention they deserve!

Additionally, were able to help the staff, too, by cleaning cages, changing food bowls, doing laundry, giving some of the smaller dogs haircuts and baths, and organizing the very unorganized linen cabinet.

The pre-veterinary students even got the opportunity to shadow the on-site veterinarian when he was spaying and neutering the dogs that were new to the shelter.

After volunteering from only 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., my group and I were free to explore the city! Some of the things we did included holding baby alligators, taking Instagram-worthy pictures at the Botanical Gardens, shopping around the French Quarter and Magazine Street, going on a haunted city tour, and ending the experience by watching the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Priya, with the new friends she made during her ASB experience

When the week was over and we were back in College Station, I knew that I wanted to go on another volunteer spring break trip again.

I loved that I was able to positively impact so many people and animals through a fun volunteer experience.

So, this year, ASB is taking me to Memphis to volunteer at a food bank in an underserved area! I can’t wait to see how Memphis will change my life like New Orleans did!

A piece of advice that I always give to prospective college students is to never be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone.

I stepped outside of mine by going to a city I had never been to with people I had never met; I left with an incomparable experience, a group of people whom I now consider some of my best friends, and a new passion for selfless service.