As a full-time staff member, I was looking forward to the two weeks off for winter break but for a different reason than most. I had the great opportunity to be a team leader for the USC Volunteer Center’s Alternative Winter Break to India. I feel like I’ll be digesting the impact the trip had on me for a while but in short – it was eye-opening (as expected) and really taught me a lot about the importance of compassion and understanding what I’m capable of coming from a position of privilege. Our group went in with these lofty goals about teaching microfinance to women, but quickly learned that this community faced a much bigger societal problem rooted in gender, alcoholism, and the caste system. Instead, in the two weeks, our group learned how to listen, learn from others, and started with the fundamentals of education. My hope is that what we left behind is sustainable with the help of the nonprofit organization, and that we provided some sort of educational accessibility. Themes from my favorite PASA class – the Politics of Difference – came to mind as I helped lead discussions and reflections about our privilege and draw parallels between the slum we volunteered in, and our Los Angeles community. These discussions helped us all to realize, that our learning experience did not end in India, and that we didn’t even need to travel across the world to make a difference. We all have the unique ability to help similar communities here in Los Angeles and are looking forward to volunteering together again soon!
As a result of this life-changing trip, I was invited to lunch with the USC Board of Trustees. We discussed the impact the Alternative Break program had on our lives and our community, the importance of service-learning programs on USC’s campus, and how the Board can help support such initiatives in the future. It was a great feeling to be affirmed for the hard work we put into planning the trip, but more than that, it really confirmed my passion for student affairs and service-learning programs. The students I worked with continue to inspire me every day and I am truly blessed to have those opportunities here at USC.
Breanne Tcheng is a 2nd year PASA student and graduate of the University of California San Diego. During her time here at USC and Rossier, Breanne has been active in the PASA Network as a First-Year Liaison and currently serves as the PASA Network President. She has worked with the USC Alternative Breaks Program, San Diego State University’s Office of Student Life and Leadership, and is now working full-time as an Admissions Counselor at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy. Her favorite things about the PASA program thus far has been the endless opportunities for professional development, the supportive network from her friends and professors, and the unique chance to do her fieldwork in Seoul, South Korea. When she’s not immersed in the student affairs world, she loves to try new recipes and restaurants with fellow foodie friends, practice photography, and go on adventures around the city.