Myths, Legends, and Truths of the American Spring Break
I was lucky to grow up with parents that cared so much about my education that they would spend money on taking their children to as many cultural events as possible. At a young age, I was lucky to learn about other countries and cultures- even if I didn’t understand how lucky I was at the time.
As I grew up, I got to learn from Mexicans, Germans, Nigerians and French on what they thought about the United States' traditions- be it the food we ate, the music we listened to or the movies we watched. But, as I get older, there is one quintessentially American custom that has intrigued people outside our borders- one that I thoroughly enjoy hearing their opinions on: spring break.
It is that time of year. A time when the ground starts to thaw and birds start to sing. A time for studies to be put on, perhaps too brief, a hold and picked up only after students come back from a seemingly American birthright. Spring break is something that has been around for generations but has almost taken on a life of its own. It is almost a myth of its own making, as stories over the years have shaped the way the world thinks of our little study vacation. (Thanks a lot MTV.)
To those who may be reading from outside the U.S., no, we do not all take part in what you have been told this tradition is all about. We don’t all drive down to Florida, red solo cup in hand, sunscreen applied, and fanny pack attached at the hip. We don’t all run around overcrowded beaches screaming, “SPRING BREAK!” at the top of our lungs like it’s the end of the world and only beer can save us (Although that might happen somewhere, for some people.)
I personally only took two spring breaks in my life. One with my family while I was in high school, and one in college with my dad and a friend. And, though we did go to Vegas, I didn’t “act like the village drunkard in some early Irish novel,” as a certain author might have put it.
Most of my spring breaks were filled with small gatherings of friends or back home with my family. My group of friends typically did not take spring breaks. We had to save as much money as we could before it was time to spend all that money back at school on things that may (or may not) have involved our education.
And though the Weasel (that’s Pauley Shore to the uninitiated) may have painted a uniquely alarming picture of what you could expect from a typical American spring break experience, I am here to assure you that it does not have to be that way.
To my younger brothers and sisters ready to embark on this great American adventure, please hear me. THERE ARE ALTERNATIVES.
I am always inspired by students who take this time to do something culturally engaging or soul-enriching, even if it isn’t "hip"… or whatever word these wacky kids are using these days.
With a quick Google search you can find countless stories of people taking the break to spend with their families on exciting trips to new countries, or to communities that need volunteers to help with challenging charity projects. But, to each their own. I can’t fault a coed for wanting to cut loose and run around a new town with a group of their friends looking for an adventure. I did that in my own way, as I’m sure you have. And we survived.
But to the English citizen who thinks we wake up with cowboy hats on and flip-flops taped to our feet- or to the Italian who thinks beer pong must be taught in grade school in place of world history; I promise you, we are fully aware that we sometimes take things a little too far.
I blame Animal House. Or maybe Revenge of the Nerds. And I am sure a younger reader is assuming I just combined random words together with a new app on my phone. But no. These are the films that introduced the world, ready or not, to a highly stylized and over-exaggerated idea of what the average college student was all about.
And that is what it grew from. As we told more stories about the tradition, the grander the stories became. Until it was the only way an American student could possibly spend their spring break. But, again, it’s just a story.
In closing, no, we don’t all lift weights just to do keg stands or sell our clothes for VIP tickets. The United States is a wonderful place full of beautiful things and our students are equally unique and special.
...But if you happen across a cowboy hat-touting, flip-flop-taped, keg-standing junior, maybe give them a few dollars out of your wallet. They probably need it more than you do.