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My ‘Alternative Breaks’ trip experience

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Maryland chapter.

During my spring break this semester, I visited North Carolina as a part of the University of Maryland’s “Alternative Breaks (AB)” experience alongside some of my peers. 

AB trips are week-long service projects managed by Adele H. Stamp Student Union that allow students to engage and directly serve their community in areas they are passionate about. In North Carolina, I had the opportunity to work one-on-one with an individual with autism at a camp owned by the Autism Society of North Carolina. I chose this experience in particular to get a better understanding of autism and to meet new people from UMD with similar interests as me, and I definitely think I got to do both. 

During the week that my peers and I went to the camp, the camp’s focus was on learning and strengthening important skills in day-to-day life, most notably cooking. Every day with our campers, we cooked breakfast for the entire camp, and would do the same for dinner when it was our turn. After these meals, we helped clean the kitchen and dining hall together. 

As we worked in and out of an industrial kitchen, which most of us didn’t have experience with, it was great seeing how we coordinated with each other to get things ready on time. 

After these meals we had  free time, where our campers got to choose the activities they wanted to do. This could be anything, from watching a favorite movie of theirs to playing a sport of their choice in the gym. It was a time when I got to involve myself in different fun activities, and wind down from the first half of the semester, like making a painting alongside my camper. 

We had other activities as well, including going on hayrides, making s’mores and taking hikes through their beautiful campus. These activities were personally my favorite things that were on the camp’s schedule, as I was able to bond with and learn about the different stories of the campers and volunteers from UMD. After the camp’s day-long activities, our volunteer group would wrap up our nights with educational videos related to autism and volunteering, which would further strengthen our understanding of the service project and conduct further discussions. 

Overall, through the interactions and the lessons the experiences taught me, I think this trip allowed me to achieve my goals of wanting to learn more about the autistic community. This AB trip was well-organized, and it helped me to develop some great relationships and from really great memories. 

Harini Muthu

Maryland '25

Hi! I am Harini Muthu, currently majoring in neuroscience and minoring in Sustainability.