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AWBreak in St. Paul, MN!

Alexandra Khodadadi

As I mentioned previously, I spent the first week of my winter break on a service trip to St. Paul, Minnesota. Just to recap, it was AWESOME. We left on a Saturday night around 10 PM. Luckily, I had finished my finals the Thursday before, so I was well rested. However, there were some students in our group who didn’t finish their finals until 9 PM that night! Nevertheless, we were all ready to hit the road at 10 PM. St. Paul is about a fourteen-hour drive from Nashville, so we spent the whole night and the following morning making the trip. While road trips can be hectic, they are a great way to bond! We spent the night jamming to music on the XM radio and sneaking in power naps when possible.

We thought it was cold when we left Nashville (it was in the mid thirties), but when we hit the Illinois/Wisconsin area we realized what a real winter was. The temperature had hit in the single digits, and there was snow everywhere. Since I am from Alabama, it was crazy seeing so much snow on the ground.

Watching the sunrise in Illinois!

After the long drive, we finally arrived in St. Paul. We first went to the church where we would be staying to drop off our stuff. After settling down, we headed to the Regional Tibetan Youth Congress, where we did the majority of our service. The members of the congress had cooked us a delicious lunch of authentic Tibetan food. After bingeing on the amazing food, we got an overview of our schedule for the week. It was a good mix of education and learning about the Tibetan struggle for independence with some service. We then spent the rest of the night at the Tibetan monastery and talking to two Tibetan monks. They were ecstatic to have us there for the week and more than eager to spend time with us.

yummy yummy food!

The week was a whirlwind of events. On a typical day we would wake up, make breakfast, hustle over to the youth congress, and go through a series of lectures on various topics, such as Buddhism, Tibetan medicine, etc. We would then eat lunch, and either attend more lectures or help with various projects, such as cleaning and tutoring students in grade school. One unique thing we did was protest in downtown Minneapolis. It was freezing, but it was a great experience and I got out of my comfort zone!

Our signs from the protest

Another note-worthy moment was the day we spent at the University of Minnesota. We attended a series of workshops hosted by Students for a Free Tibet (SFT), an active student organization on their campus. The students there taught us more about the Tibetan struggle and led us through a series of activities to promote and strengthen activism skills. I enjoyed getting to interact with students from another college campus. And did I mention Minneapolis is beautiful?!

A t-shirt that SFT gave me

Minneapolis at sunset

When we weren’t doing service, we were bonding at the church. This is the third alternative break I have been on, and it still surprises me so much how twelve students who are completely different end up becoming great friends by the end of the week. I loved everyone in the group, and I can’t wait to spend time with them next semester. In addition, we got to spend a free day at the Mall of America! Overall, AWB was one of the AWBest decisions I have made at Vanderbilt!

Deya and I at the Mall of America!

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