Editor’s Column: Not-So-Alternative Spring Break



I spent my spring break in a monastery. An Anglican Benedictine monastery, to be exact.

I was not in Daytona, or Cancun or Venice. I didn’t fly home. I didn’t fly anywhere. Instead, a friend and I drove down to West Park, New York, to Holy Cross Monastery, a pretty little building set right on the Hudson. He’s been thinking about rejoining the Catholic Church, and we’ve spent many, many hours talking about life, God, the universe and the great beyond. Colgate is surprisingly conducive to those types of conversations. The monastery, unsurprisingly, proved to be an even more appropriate venue. After our stay there, he’s still a devout member of the Church of Baseball, but I can see a new openness in him to the possibility of claiming the Credo once again. Spending time with the monks and our fellow retreaters was a very powerful experience, but it’s been a bit difficult to describe.

In explaining my break to my classmates, I’ve found myself jokingly using the term “counterculture.” I realized today that I’m not joking at all, though. I do feel that I had an atypical spring break experience. Apparently, the COVE agrees with me. After all, they don’t organize spring break trips. Remember, they organize “alternative” spring break trips. Clearly, there is something fundamentally different about taking a week to do service work in Jamaica or on a Native American Reservation in South Dakota instead of lounging on the beach or getting some much needed R&R back home. I’d like to think that there is something equally difficult about making a pilgrimage to Rome or taking a retreat at an Anglican Benedictine monastery. It’s a question of focus – self-fulfillment, self-care or self-sacrifice, or any combination thereof.

Colgate impresses me with the kind of opportunities that exist for self-development. Take volunteerism. Different service trips take place every year, and the COVE has all sorts of other volunteer programs that students run during both academic terms. Religious Life offers services, continuing education, interfaith initiatives and mentorship. Judd Chapel and Chapel House provide spaces to meditate and contemplate. All things considered, our university presents multiple avenues into activity labeled as “alternative” when presented halfway through spring term.

So is this kind of behavior and participation only countercultural or alternative during spring break, or is it out of the ordinary all the time? And given the numbers of people who participate in these different areas, how does such a label even begin to be deemed appropriate? Even though I might feel more than a touch countercultural in my approach to a week off, the student body’s activities contest the idea that such shared practices are outside the norm. That’s a pleasant realization. It’s a pretty thought to think that our students care about the welfare of others, in addition to being mindful of their own personal equilibrium.

So, although my skin is still winter pale instead of sun-kissed, I have no regrets as to how I spent my break. As I continue to trade stories about what we did in our time away, I’m looking forward to the next bronzed beachgoer that I find.

I think I’ll tell them that they’re very countercultural.