Spring break – two tiny, little, monosyllabic words with so much meaning behind them. Separately, they designate a time when sun dresses and skanky tops are once again acceptable attire, and an officially sanctioned week off from the hectic schedules that characterize most college students’ lives, respectively.

Taken as a whole, they conjure up images of beaches, babes, and booze. Sleeping in is mandatory, the copious consumption of alcohol is expected, and wet T-shirt contest participation is optional. So, what makes spring break different from a normal weekend in Isla Vista? Well, it’s longer. And it generally involves getting out of town and as far away from I.V. as possible.

Spring break is an escape – a chance to take a week off from school, work, bills and the same few thousand people you see every day in the tiny town of I.V. It’s about relaxing, rebooting, and regenerating. It’s a time when sleeping on the beach all day is encouraged, and worrying about what you’re going to do about all those pesky bills piling up on your desk seems like a silly waste of the spring sunshine.

It’s also the only time during the year – save winter and summer vacation – when there’s plenty of parking, no people, and not a single party to be found in all of I.V.

People’s plans for spring break tend to vary according to a number of factors – financial means, personal taste, degree of desire for downtime versus debauchery, and the like. Personally, I plan on spending the break with my family and friends, taking in a play, getting my hair cut, running around L.A., sleeping on the beach, and hopefully going on a camping and hiking trip in the gorgeous mountains around Santa Barbara.

Sleeping in and catching up on the many back issues of Vogue that have been piling up on me are my paramount priorities, and seeing family and friends who I don’t get to spend time with on a regular basis is my basic break itinerary.

During the past few weeks, “What are your plans for break?” has become like the new “What’s your major?” A sort of catchall ice breaker that is not only appropriate for every situation, but also manages to serve as a pretty good pickup line at parties as well. It makes sense. You can tell a lot about people from their break plans – people’s priorities tend to get highlighted in clear relief when they’re given a week with which to do whatever they please and no school or work obligations to slow them down.

Whether partying is someone’s paramount priority – those are the people you’ll find spending break by a big pool in Mexico, Florida, or some similarly sunny and semitropical destination – or they’re avoiding their family by spending the break isolated in deserted I.V., spring break plans speak volumes about the people putting them together.

That’s why I think it’s important to highlight a particular group of UCSB students who are spending their break doing something entirely altruistic – no beaches, bikini-clad babes, or booze involved. Instead of spending the break sipping tropical drinks on a beach or taking in a wet T-shirt contest or two, these students are spending the break working in New Orleans. Heading out there with the help of Hillel (pictured), these students will be helping to repair and rebuild homes and they’re even spending their own hard-earned cash on plane tickets to get there.

If spring break plans tell a lot about people, then the Alternative Spring Break participants are some of the most admirable and awesome students S.B. has to offer. Not to mention the kind of people who make the rest of us feel like slackers. Fortunately for those of us who do feel the need for a week of rest, relaxation, and Vogue-reading rather than the need to repaint, rebuild and renovate, the Alternative Spring Breakers have promised me that there will be plenty of opportunities for UCSB students to donate to the rebuilding cause even after the break is done.

Check the column for more information about those events in the future. And, in the meantime, you can spend some of your spring break time perusing the group’s Facebook page – Hillel Katrina Alternative Spring Break – and checking out the names, faces, and profiles of the people who are willing to donate their time, effort, and break to something that is, indeed, the definition of the proverbial “good cause.” Get to know them well – they’re some of the best people in I.V., and when they come back, I say they deserve all the beer and party invites those of us who are spending our breaks kicking back in comfort can offer them. Wet T-shirt contest invites are optional.


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