Last week I had the opportunity to advise a Buck-I-SERV spring break trip to New York City. Along with 16 students, two trip leaders, and one other advisor, we spent the week doing community service at soup kitchens, food pantries, and daycare centers throughout NYC. One reason this trip was unique was that it was directly connected to the Buckeye Book Community (BBC). This means the location, activities, and service were directly related to the themes and plot of this year’s BBC book: The Submission by Amy Waldman.
Anyway…I can’t wait to tell you all about this trip…but since I’m quite removed from my first year at Ohio State (circa 2007), I thought I’d bring you a more relevant perspective– from a first-year student who attended the trip with me. I interviewed Sally Raudabaugh, a Chemical Engineering major from Dublin, OH, who I met on the trip. I spoke with Sally after we returned from NYC, and here is what she had to say:
Why did you apply to attend a Buck-I-SERV trip?
College has helped me realize how fortunate I’ve been, and I really want to give back. Religion is also a big part of my life, and by going to churches around campus, I’ve discovered community service as a way to help others. This trip was amazing, and I definitely want to attend more alternative break trips in the future.
Tell us three things you learned on the trip.
You can’t guess who a homeless person is just by looking at him/her. We served so many people who were hungry and homeless in NYC, and none of them looked like the stereotype of what we think a homeless person is supposed to look like.
Homelessness and hunger are a HUGE problem in NYC. People really need help escaping unemployment and getting on their feet. They can’t do it alone.
One thing that surprised me is all the help that’s available for people…all the soup kitchens and food pantries available… at least there is some help available if you look for it.
What else surprised you on the trip?
I always thought NYC was one big melting pot, but so many people there spoke other languages and expressed their own cultures.
I also went into this trip having preconceived notions about 9/11. September 11 was always something so distant that you’d read about in history books. But being there at the sight of the World Trade Center and hearing first-hand stories of survivors helped me realize how it impacted thousands of individuals and the city. I never knew the rubble from the towers was stories and stories high and was on fire for days. Or how they couldn’t simply replace the towers with new office buildings right away (it took years to do so, and they’re still working on it). The entire impact of 9/11 was not real to me before. I used to see it on the news and think it’s terrible. But it doesn’t feel real or hit your heart until you’re there. It was very moving.
Now that you’ve nearly finished your first year of college, how have your reactions and thoughts about The Submission changed?
Just reading the book was not enough to understand it. But now that I’ve been to NYC and attended the lectures in the fall by Amy Waldman and Reza Aslan, I understand the bigger picture of what the book was about. Everything is suddenly more tangible… talking about sensitive issues, seeing how 9/11 impacted people of different cultures, hearing the author’s perspective while writing the book… this made the book an experience. Reading the book alone is not enough to truly grasp it.
How would you sum up the trip in 5 words?
Inspiring. Exciting. Making a difference.