Spring break alternatives abound in NYC, LI

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Are you forgoing the beach and suntan lotion this spring break? There's good reason to do so, among them freeing up time for more personally ambitious activities.

"I think a lot of people have this vision of spring break -- a hedonistic, drunkard scene on a bad beach -- but how do you make it bigger than that?" said Robert Reid, the United States travel editor at Lonely Planet, who has written extensively on travel trends. "From my perspective, there's so many ways to do it."

From taking an educational trip to volunteering, there are many ways to use your off-time wisely. Doing so can be a boon to your resume, will give you a feeling of accomplishment and will further prepare you for a professional career.

That may sound dull in comparison, but alternative spring break doesn't have to be a buzz kill. You can even still take that trip to Mexico. Instead of just going to Cancun and hitting the beaches and parties, opt for a home-stay or a cultural exchange program. You will work on your Spanish, and learn about the culture.

"Use your week and do something productive," said Reid, who offers up other ideas for educational trips at lonelyplanet.com.

One volunteering option that is popular with college students is Habitat for Humanity. While the deadline has passed to sign up for the Collegiate Challenge, in which you travel to a Habitat site around the country, and stay for a week, often with a partner family, there are opportunities all the time to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity in New York City.

In the coming weeks, there are two projects that need volunteers: One is helping to revitalize a senior center in East Harlem by painting and helping with murals. The other is painting a newly built home in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Volunteers can sign up anytime, either as individuals or in small groups, said Carly Blatt, communications manager of Habitat in New York City.

"It's a nice way to give back to the community, and in this case, help a family move into their house," she said.

The volunteer organization Junior Achievement of New York is another option for college students looking to make a difference this spring break.

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The nonprofit brings volunteers (both college students and working adults) into New York City and Long Island schools to teach students about financial literacy.

According to Reid, these experiences will make you more appealing to employers later, too.

"Think of it as a resume builder," he said. "It shows a lot of initiative to go out and get your fingernails dirty."

Junior Achievement of New York president Joseph Peri agreed.

"There's no doubt these kinds of experiences are important for young people," he said.

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