Alternative Spring Break to New Orleans

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By: Kathleen Woods

New Orleans is known to be the city of jazz and broad cultures. This spring break Missouri Western students had the opportunity to attend an alternative spring break trip to visit New Orleans, Louisiana.

To be eligible to attend this alternative spring break opportunity, students had to compete for one of the fourteen spots that were available. The competition included writing an essay for review and paying a $100 deposit to hold your spot if chosen. I was one of the lucky fourteen students at Missouri Western who was selected to attend this amazing trip of a lifetime.

The alternative to this spring break was that students would have to volunteer their time at various locations in New Orleans while also getting to explore its culture and cuisines.

The trip was from March 11-15, and students volunteered at three different locations. To start the volunteering off was a homeless marketplace called Unity Warehouse where we helped to organize a little shop where the homeless of Louisiana could find items such as care products or blankets, etc. free of purchase.

The second volunteer location was Chalmette Cemetery, where students were able to choose between realigning tombstones, raking leaves or cleaning a monument. This volunteer work helped to create a more beautiful atmosphere for tourists and families.

Lastly, at the Audubon Zoo, six lucky students who volunteered ventured inside of the orangutan enclosure with the help of our zoo guide, Jamie. Inside the enclosure, we spread berries, oatmeal and greens onto plates or inside containers and hid them throughout the exhibit. Afterwards, we were able to watch as the orangutans were released to find their food. Everyone enjoyed this part. If you didn’t volunteer to go inside the enclosures, you stayed inside and created enrichment items out of arts and crafts for the animals to play with. Everyone was able to watch as Rigley, a babirusa, played with an enrichment box a student had made, filled with peanuts.

Other than volunteering, there were bonuses to this trip. I especially enjoyed renting bicycles and riding through the streets of New Orleans to get to the French Market. Around every corner was music playing on the streets or in stores. Colors bounced off of historic French buildings everywhere and from the paintings displayed along the sidewalks for sale by vendors. Shops ranged from your typical boutiques with cute knick-knack items, souvenir shops and Voodoo shops.

To enhance our knowledge of New Orleans, a double decker bus tour was scheduled to shuttle us around and would stop every thirty minutes to let people off to explore new areas. Of course, New Orleans wouldn’t be New Orleans if there weren’t haunted stories of vampires, witches, Voodoo and ghosts. We were fortunate to go on a haunted history tour through the streets of New Orleans to discover epic tales such as these. We were even shown where certain movies were shot like, “Interview with the Vampire”.

Sights weren’t the only thing we were able to explore. Every night, as a group we chose a restaurant to eat at, which mainly consisted of creole seafood. There were other options if you did not want seafood. New Orleans is also known for their soul food. Of course we cannot forget dessert, beignets from Café Du Monde, perfectly paired with an iced cafe au lait were of no shortage on this trip and one of the most popular places to visit.

I may be biased, but I think that alternative spring breaks at Missouri Western are a necessity. It’s affordable for students, cultures can be explored, friendships can be made, and opportunities to make a difference are available. If you’re looking for an enriching college experience, look for the next alternative spring break trip.