Day 1: Career Immersion Excursion – New York City

Sunday, March 11

Day 1 of the CIE trip and I am already in a New York State of mind! After a two-hour flight from Chicago to NY, we took a 30-minute shuttle from the airport and got our first glimpse of New York traffic. But amidst all of the taxi cabs, pedestrians cutting through traffic, and nonstop honking, was a city of energy, unbelievable skyscrapers, and people– lots of them.

After settling into our hotel in Manhattan, we attended our first event of the night and got a taste of the famous New York pizza, or should I say “pie.” Now, as a dedicated Chicagoan, I remain fully committed to the one and only Lou Malnatis pizza, but I must say, New York’s pie is tasty– either that, or I was incredibly hungry from a day’s worth of travel. After eating NY pie, we met with our first panel of the evening, the young alumni panel, where we had the opportunity to hear directly from recent IWU grads about how their life has been thus far in the real world.

The five panelists gave us insight into their time at IWU and how it prepared them for the workplace, while they shared with us the challenges and best parts of “adulting.” From the challenges they face in the workplace to living in apartments that are so small they have to put up a fake wall, it was interesting to see how these grads have adjusted from living in Bloomington-Normal to New York. But despite the challenges, these alums have achieved massive success in the workplace, and it was incredibly inspiring to hear their experiences and their journeys to get to where they are today.

It was also extremely beneficial to talk to recent graduates because it gave me a certain sense of reality. I learned that sometimes you might hate your first job and that’s ok. I learned to not be complacent in the workplace, and to make the changes you want to see happen. I learned to take risks but to not be reckless when it comes to decision making. I learned that qualities as simple as kindness that are often overlooked can take you far in the workplace. I learned that GPA and grades are important, but they are not everything. I learned that the real world is not perfect: there is no clear cut path. Instead, it is challenging, at times, confusing and frustrating, but overall, it is extremely rewarding once you end up at the place in the position that best suits you.

As if feeling a new sense of inspiration after this wonderful panel wasn’t enough, after the event we had the opportunity to visit the one and only Empire State Building. Being 102 stories high overlooking the city of New York is an experience that is hard to put into words. There is a sense of peacefulness coupled with awe and inspiration. This city, filled with rich diversity, history and an indescribable energy, is inspiring, so inspiring, you feel as if you can take on any challenge and seize any opportunity. After taking a montage of selfies as we overlooked New York City we headed for the once again, awe-inspiring Times Square.

After visiting Times Square I now know why New York is called the city that never sleeps. It can be 4 o’clock in the morning in Times Square and you would never know it. There are lights everywhere; people everywhere; advertisements and stores and skyscrapers everywhere. There is a sense of energy and life that is hard to describe, and when I first arrived at Times Square this was all so overwhelming yet amazing, that I had to stop several times in the middle of the sidewalk (although that is against New York code) and look around to take it all in.

I was overwhelmed with amazement as I walked into several stores including the M&M store, and stood on the famous steps that Alicia Keys sang on. After experiencing my first day in this land of opportunity, I can attest to Alicia’s Empire State of Mind: there’s nothing you can’t do in New York because it’s a city where dreams our made of, and I cannot wait to hear how people have accomplished their dreams in this concrete jungle in all of tomorrow’s events.

– Vi Kakares ’20

Day 2: Habitat for Humanity Collegiate Build

Sunday, March 11 – How would you describe the day in a few words?

“Adventure, bonding, friendship… for sure” -Brianna Miulli

Today we are Birmingham bound! After sleeping in for a bit this morning, we got a late morning start on the road for what was supposed to be a short trip from Nashville to Birmingham. However, today seemed to throw some curveballs at us. First, the morning started off with one of the ASBers needing to go to Urgent Care; no worries, the condition wasn’t serious, but it did take awhile. While two of the vans were waiting for an hour outside the facility, our van decided to venture out in a neighboring town of Nashville where we found Chill Spot- a little café specializing in bubble tea. Eventually, we got our fill of tapioca boba balls and got the call to start heading on the road towards Alabama. The other two vans were nowhere in sight of us and we were almost out of gas, so we had to “go rogue” as our van called it. Basically, the theme of the day for the eight of us was that we had to figure everything out on our own- an exciting and sometimes frightening experience.

Luckily, the first leg of the door was a straight shot on the interstate. We met up with the other two vans of ASBers at the Alabama Welcome Center for a picnic of sandwiches, fresh fruit, veggies, chips, and cookies that Elyse, the IWU ASB Coordinator and Chaplain of IWU, set out for us. Although it was a bit overcast, the rain held off long enough for us to enjoy the picnic and the fresh Alabama air. We finally got to experience the Southern warm weather that we’ve been waiting for all semester. A quick photo op with the “Sweet Home Alabama” sign was a must, and then it was on the road for us again (this time rolling out to none other than Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd). Our attempted destination was a forest for a bit of hiking, but the GPS had other plans for us.

Once on the road, the other two vanfuls of ASBers zoomed ahead, and we lost them. Luckily, smartphones came to the rescue with both the GPS and the Spotify jams, but eventually, we got to the backroads of Alabama. These roads were like no other- they twisted and weaved and had significant potholes every few miles. It was one tough situation to try to navigate by ourselves without any service. However, we eventually caught up with the group, but with all of the mis-navigation, it took about two extra hours for all of the ASBers to make it to what we thought was the trailhead. Of course, luck was not on our side today. Turns out, the whole group drove around the periphery of the forest without actually finding a way to enter it, and by the time we arrived at a feasible entrance, it was 4:30 p.m., and we didn’t want to risk being stuck in the dark. So, straight to Birmingham it was! Although all of this sounds bad, the entire group all raved about how much fun they had laughing, getting lost, and jamming out to some throwback tunes that it didn’t even matter that we didn’t end up hiking! Plus, it was impossible to be down today because we finally reached our home in Birmingham.

These Alabama streets are crazy enough for a regular driver, let alone a student driver in a rented IWU van, but Bri, one of the team leaders, miraculously got us to our destination unscathed. The ASBers couldn’t hide their excitement once they set their eyes on the house where we’ll be staying. The house is a one-story home with a spacious basement in the middle of a woodsy neighborhood. The six boys are bunking upstairs in the smaller bedrooms while the 12 girls all bunk together in the basement. It’s a cozy, relaxed vibe, especially with such a kind-hearted group of people. Being in a home with such a large group of people is an incredible blessing. We are able to feel at home with a comfy living room and clean and functional kitchen.

Immediately after we arrived, everyone rushed to choose their favorite bunk. We lounged about for a bit; some ASBers picked up Jenga, while others chatted or took naps (a few even did homework!!). Then, it was time for dinner- takeout from P.F. Changs (yum). The group is already beginning to develop friendships; no surprise, considering each and every person is kind and agreeable. The whole room erupted in chatter as we ate our food and waited for Elyse to give an announcement about our day tomorrow. She said we had to be up and at the bus at 7:30 a.m. tomorrow *gasp*, so the whole house resorted to relaxing or doing homework in order to prep for the early day ahead. Day 2 might have brought us a lot of unexpected twists and turns, but we couldn’t have had more fun if we tried. Although we’re all exhausted, we are chomping at the bit to begin our work on the houses tomorrow!

– Teagan Potter ’19

Day 1: Habitat for Humanity Collegiate Build

Saturday, March 10 – Sleepy Bus Rides and Honky Tonk Dinners

“What are you looking forward to the most about the trip?”
“Bonding” -Maggie Arseneault

Today’s the day! After packing- and in my case, over-packing- up my cheap (and incredibly unflattering) work jeans, some big-box store work boots that are half a size too big because my cheap self refused to pay twice as much for the shoes that fit perfectly, a few old T-shirts, and a metric ton of sunscreen, I figured I was as ready as ever for ASB! Waiting for us outside the Hansen Student Center were three Illinois Wesleyan vans all gassed up and prepared for our long trek to Alabama. There were eight of us in the van I picked, and to get the trip rolling, we plugged the Rocky Theme Song in the aux cord; just like that, we were on our way.

Although we were off to a great start with loud, fun music and lots of snacks (I ate an entire bag of Goldfish before we even got on the interstate), the mood in our van quickly turned sleepy. Within 30 minutes of hitting the road, the entire van zonked out until lunch which was at a Wendy’s somewhere in southern Illinois. After our frostys and chicken nuggets, it was time to get started on the road again. The second time in the van didn’t go much differently than the first- everyone passed out within minutes for a very quiet and peaceful drive to our final destination of the day: Nashville.

The second we pulled into the city with flashing lights on every corner, live music, and the smell of southern cooking, everyone in the van immediately perked up. We were in awe of the vivacity and beauty of the city. After our long drive, we finally nestled into our restaurant for dinner: Nashville Underground. Here, the ASBers ordered the restaurant’s famous barbecue and delicious mac n’ cheese. With our dinners, we were treated with live music from a Nashville cover band… I like it, I love it, I want some more of it… Needless to say, each and every one of us left the restaurant happy and full.

After dinner, we had some free time before heading to our hotel for the night. The group I went with wandered around on one of the main bridges overlooking the Cumberland River just taking in all of the bright lights and the strumming of guitars. Although today was mostly consumed with driving, the ASBers managed to make every situation more positive, funny, and memorable. As for tonight, we are using the extra comfort of the hotel to catch up on our sleep for the week ahead- and I think we’ll need it considering tonight, the clocks spring forward an hour, leaving us with one less hour of precious sleep.

– Teagan Potter ’19

Intro: Career Immersion Excursion – New York City

Hi everyone and greetings from New York City! My name is Vi Kakares and I am a sophomore at Illinois Wesleyan University majoring in English-Writing with minors in Spanish and economics.

This spring break, I have the wonderful opportunity to go to New York City on a networking trip through the IWU Career Immersion Excursion (CIE). A part of IWU’s Hart Career Center, the CIE is designed to connect current IWU students with alumni working in different cities across the U.S. In past CIE trips, students have had the opportunity to connect to alumni in Chicago and Washington D.C., and this year, New York!

Over the next four days I, along with 19 other IWU students will be connecting with alumni that work in New York City, primarily in the finance, banking, and technology industry. Amidst our networking, we will also be exploring the city, including places such as the Empire State Building, the Federal Reserve Bank, and the New York Stock Exchange. I am beyond excited to gain exposure to a variety of different industries, connect with IWU alumni and learn about all of the wonderful things they have accomplished, gain insight into the NY work life, and explore the city!

A Chicago native myself, this is my first time going to New York, so I am interested in comparing these two cities that are full of life, people, culture, and no doubt, lots of traffic. Is the pizza better in NY or Chicago? Will I sleep in the city that never sleeps? Will I get lost on the subway, or will I lose myself in this wonderful city? Stay tuned to hear about all of my adventures to come–I am so excited to share this amazing experience with all of you!

– Vi Kakares ’20

Intro: First-Year Humanities Fellows Immersion – Chicago

Greetings and salutations! I’m Rachel McCarthy, a first-year English writing major hailing from Riverside, Illinois. I’m also a First-Year Humanities Fellow, a brand-new program here at IWU that brings together a dynamic group of students with a love for anything humanities-related, such as English, anthropology, theater, or political science. Throughout the year, we’ve been participating in a series of interdisciplinary events, talking with guest presenters and faculty members who work in the humanities, going off-campus to events such as the Chicago Humanities Festival, and reflecting as a group on the real-world value of a liberal arts education. Best of all, since this is a new program for Illinois Wesleyan, our input has been pivotal in shaping how it will grow in the coming years. It’s pretty neat, to say the least.

Our trip to Chicago will be our group’s biggest humanities experience, consisting of a five-day trip to Chicago, where we will be travelling to main cultural icons around the city. We’ll be visiting places such as the Harold Washington Library, the Jane Addams Hull House, and Chicago History Museum, accompanied by outside reading and class discussion. We’ll also see performances at Second City, The Goodman Theater, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In addition, we’ll have the opportunity to meet with several alums who graduated from IWU with degrees in the humanities and are now enjoying successful, gratifying careers. All of this is in preparation for a presentation about the importance of the humanities on an interdisciplinary level, which we’ll give at an undergraduate research conference at the end of the year.

What gets me excited about this trip in particular is the opportunity for in-depth, thought-provoking discussions with my classmates in a setting that’s more liberating than a traditional classroom. We’re a very cohesive group, and sparks are always going off in our discussions. I really couldn’t ask for a group of more insightful individuals to share in this kind of engaging learning experience. I hope that as we further explore topics surrounding race, art, and history in the context of the city of Chicago, you’ll discover something new to appreciate about the humanities, too!

– Rachel McCarthy ’21

Intro: Habitat for Humanity Collegiate Build

Hi Titans! My name is Teagan Potter. Here at IWU, I’m a junior who is double majoring in English Literature and International Studies and minoring in Hispanic Studies. I’m from Edwardsville, Illinois (about a half hour out of St. Louis), and this is my very first Alternative Spring Break trip. I couldn’t be more excited to start this upcoming week!

When you think of Spring Break in college, you probably think a week of soaking up the sun on a packed beach in Florida, but Alternative Spring Break could not be more different. Although the ASBers (Alternative Spring Breakers) are composed of all college students plus a few neat supervisors, their experience is geared more toward service. ASBers dedicate their week off from stressful classes to working with the Habitat for Humanity community to help build homes in a certain area. This year, the trip is headed to Birmingham, Alabama!

To be honest, ASB wasn’t even on my radar as a way to spend my Spring Break because I hadn’t heard anything about it, but when the time came for applications, my roommate told me about her experiences freshman year and said that I “had to sign up.” She told me that she not only spent her time doing good for other people but also learned way more than she thought possible about construction and Habitat for Humanity. Within five minutes, she managed to convince me to join the ASB trip!

– Teagan Potter ’19

ASB students making news

Check out this article in the Morris paper!  

It is a wonderful story about Erica Jensen and her ASB experience.  She tells 

how she is committed to being an “active citizen” for the rest of her 

life.  What a wonderful impact the ASB program had on her!

Way to go Erica!  🙂 

A Prayer for New Orleans from ASB ’08

Written and presented by Corey McCord for the ASB Chapel Hour in Evelyn Chapel on Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Katrina Victims have seen more than the loss of a home

While we are camping in hope

They make their tents in camp despair

They simply long for an ear

Men and women who lived, breathed and spoke New Orleans

Now bask in loneliness

Their neighbors who they once played cards with, ate dinner with and shared in existence

Now converse with them in complete silence

Many say silence brings solace

Yet, it only reminds them of what they lost

Bodies covered in blankets on a bridge served as a makeshift cemetery

No amount of money can assuage the pain of lost

Babies drowned in extreme poverty from the lack of

Food, clean water and communal care from the nation as a whole

Furniture and ordinary slabs of wood became life boats

As the Justice League and the Teen Titans

Could be seen along the ravaging sea fighting with soap

They were eager to clean away the plague of social negligence

In order to preserve their loved ones from undue pestilence-

an unsympathetic government

Aid did not come from the national commonwealth

Aid came from the hearts of ordinary citizens like you and me.

If patriotism does not exist

In the passion of the steadfastness and commitment to duty we exhibited;

We bear no nationality

Except that which the Divine has coined

God’s children.

We reach out beyond ourselves to grasp those who’ve slipped

To catch them before they reach the pavement

We reach out and grasp those who are high on death

To bring them back to earth’s firmament

When the divine coined the term Angel,

Guardian Angel:

Who would have thought that the Divine would be speaking of us.

We rolled up our selves to gut houses

We walked the 9th ward with a stethoscope and a purpose

We painted over the dark black and grey hues of downtrodden New Orleans

Renewing the city with the color of sunshine

As Angels we walk with a purpose.

Each and everyone of us

Who took time the time out to become apart

Of the history and existence of New Orleans

Have transformed from strangers to family.

We have to remember:

Family does not abandon,

Family does not make excuses for not being there;

Family cares.

Our hearts and souls will will be forever connected to New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish.

For the victims of Katrina, moreover- the victims of social negligence

We pray for your health as your existence is something we eternally cherish

As a community of God’s children

We need to continue to reach out to New Orleans

So they can know someone is caring.

April 2, 2008


It is interesting to see how much of a change someone can go through as 

a result of one experience. When we decided to go on this trip to New 

Orleans, no one had a clue about what was in store for us, and what we 

would be getting ourselves into. When we arrived at Camp Hope, some of 

us were more optimistic than others. However, as the days went on, and 

after reflecting upon all of our experiences at different sites, we 

began to gain a new understanding of why we were here. Devastation, 

death, and destruction are present everywhere in New Orleans, and we 

got to witness that first hand, and it was worse than any of us could 

have imagined. However, the most amazing aspect of it all is that the 

people of New Orleans still have optimism, hope, and faith that their 

city will be rebuilt — that their families and communities will be 


This trip has caused us to reevaluate what we stand for and how we 

choose to live our lives.  However, we can all agree that what we have 

taken out of this trip is appreciating the smaller things that life has 

to offer, and that the simplest act of kindness can make a world of 

difference to someone else. — The Honey Bees

Back in Bloomington

We have returned safe and sound! 

Back in Bloomington after an exhausting and illuminating trip to New Orleans, the students, faculty and staff of the 2008 ASB trip unloaded the bus and went our various ways some driving home for Easter, others back to dorms, all with hope of a nice hot shower and warm comfortable bed.

 Keep checking out these posts because in the next week more student reflections and a photographic reflection of our week will be posted.  If you are in town, join us for Chapel Hour on Wednesday, April 2 at 11:00 a.m. at Evelyn Chapel where the ASB group will share with all who are present what was seen and experienced on the trip and what we bring home with us to the Bloomington-Normal community.  It will be a Chapel Hour about hope.