My names Simeon and I go to County College of Morris in NJ. My Real Break experience started at the age of ten; surprising right? No they didn’t let a ten-year-old go on Real Break, but at the age of ten, I sent my oldest brother off on his first Real Break trip to Guatemala. It was the first of many trips to the airport, sending my siblings to exotic locations: Alaska, Mexico, Istanbul, Jerusalem. But it was that first trip when my brother came home that I also wanted to have an amazing experience just like him.
I was excited watching them leave, and I waited in anticipation for their amazing stories and pictures that they would share with me upon their return. They inspired me because I saw their love for Christ and their life experience grow after every trip, and I awaited an opportunity for my own trip.
For the next eight years of my life, I told my parents how excited I was to go to college, not because of the typical reasons, but because I could finally go on my own Real Break trip.
Going into my first Real Break trip I didn’t know what to expect. This was my first time flying by myself, and I had connecting flights. I was both anxious in anticipation of the fun, but also anxious because of the logistics of flying alone. But what I received in the end, in spiritual and global wisdom, I never expected, and it made any stress worth while. The joy in worshiping and working alongside some of the most dedicated college students was, for me, a life-changing experience. The camaraderie with the other students that I experience during the trip was deepened by our deep love for Christ and allowed us all to connect and become friends in a matter of minutes.
For example, on my trip to Alaska, I found myself reflection on how incredible it is to share the amazing beauty that God has blessed us with with my fellow Orthodox Christians. We were constantly surrounded by wonderful white landscapes of snow and witnessed the awe-inspiring expanses of the winter-laden forests. The opportunity to give back to the Alaskan people was uplifting and helped make the trip feel full.
The Alaskan people were appreciative of our service, and we were appreciative of the opportunity to learn more about them and their way of life. We had a lot in common with the cold–me being from New Jersey and all! Not only did we serve the Alaskan people, but we also got to participate in the Lenten services, which was so spiritually fulfilling. I came out of this trip with ten new friends, all of which I know I’ll have for the rest of my life. We all shared in each others struggles and were strengthened when we went on our respective paths.
So you may be sitting here reading my experience thinking, “I’m glad you had a great time on your trip, but my names not Simeon, I don’t go to County College of Morris, and I’m not even from NJ. How can you guarantee I’m going to have just as great an experience?” Well you’re partially right, most likely your name isn’t Simeon, but that’s not what made my trip special. What made my trip special was the people I met, the places I visited, and the opportunity to serve.
You can read any other Real Break story, and you’ll see how much of a fantastic time these trips are. It all starts with you, and a decision you’ll never regret.
My names Simeon Brasowski. I’m a senior at County College of Morris in NJ. I am the 2018-2019 Real Break Student Leader, and I love travelling. My favorite hobbies are hiking, socializing, and photography. If I could, I might just live outside for the rest of my life. For the socializing, I enjoy meeting new people and just talking. My friends think I’m a chatty Cathy, but it’s a hobby for me.
What comes to mind when you hear the word Alaska? If your answer is “cold, cold, snow… or cold,” then we’re on the same page. BUT, hear me out! When I first heard about OCF Real Break, I was extremely excited to participate in one of the trips. When I found out the one offered during my spring break was in Alaska, I was a little confused. Who lives in Alaska?! I wasn’t sure what exactly we’d be doing, and if it was even a good idea to go.
After some encouragement from my friend Alexandra (who also came on the trip!), we were signed up, paid in full, and trying to decide which of our Texas appropriate jackets would keep us warm enough in what is otherwise known as “the Arctic circle.”
From the second we touched down in Anchorage, it was go, go go! I had the opportunity to meet and spend the week with Father John, who was absolutely wonderful. Our small group quickly bonded over mini-hikes, nature visits, pizza, and the few clean-up projects we participated in.
Photo Credit: Victor Lutes
The thing that stood out most to me during this service trip was one particular event we were able to help with. Our group had the opportunity to cook and serve dinner at a local children’s house – where kids were able to come after school for a hot meal and some good old-fashioned bonding time (yes, we played Go Fish, and yes, I lost). I wasn’t sure what to expect at first; the kids were loud and didn’t seem to be interested in talking to us. When we finally sat down and pried our way into their conversations, I was surprised to realize: these kids were AMAZING!
Most of them had just started high school, but a few were about to graduate and already had plans for college. I remember talking to one teen whose dream it was to play college football for a big school. Another just aced his math test. A bubbly middle school girl beat us in every card game we played. Yet another offered to help clean up.
These kids had goals, aspirations, and talents, just like everyone else. I was so happy I could help give them a hot dinner and good conversation, and I am blessed to have known such talented kids with such potential. Our afternoon at that house was what I would call life-changing. Nothing crazy or dramatic happened, but the short few hours we got to spend with those kids was eye opening, and I keep them in my prayers each and every day.
Our afternoon at that house was what I would call life-changing.
I encourage everyone to take your spring break and participate in an OCF Real Break trip. Whether you go somewhere familiar (like Ohio), or somewhere you would have never thought of before (like Romania), GO! You will meet friends that last a lifetime, you will see things that will change you, and you will come home with a renewed interest in your faith. Going to Alaska through Real Break was one of the best decisions I have ever made, and I hope you do the same!
Ana-Maria Frampton is a junior at the University of Texas at Dallas studying Global Business and Marketing. She’s the OCF North Texas District leader, and part of the South Region. She LOVES traveling and has a long bucket list of places she wants to see before she finishes college.
Students think back on their Real Break trips from last spring.
Real Break Alaska 2015
“Through this mission, God revealed to me Orthodox Christians pursuing the Truth in every aspect of life. It filled me with joy to be shown that at every corner of the United States, despite Orthodoxy being an overwhelming minority, God is worshiped in humble obedience to the Apostolic Tradition handed down by the Fathers of the Church.”
–Oliver Filutowski, Alaska
“God works in ways we may not always understand, but He gives us the strength to carry on and make life meaningful through fellowship, faith, friends, and family; I consider my Real Break group to fall under each of those categories.”
–Alexandra Mamangakis, Alaska
“I often think about the beautiful, humble people I met there when I feel alone and discouraged. Their smiles and hugs still warm my soul.”
-Elizabeth Clark, Romania
“We all thought we were going on a trip to give our help to these children, but we were all wrong. They did not really need any help from us. They gave us all so much more than we could’ve given to them. The light of the Holy Spirit radiated from the hearts of these children and poured onto us. Real Break is an experience for which I am eternally grateful.”
–Michaela Connally, Romania
Real Break Guatemala 2015
“Sometimes as an Orthodox young person, I wonder how it is possible to fulfill Jesus’ command to serve others and “love our neighbors as ourselves”. Whether we know it or not, as college students, we are already equipped with the things necessary to allow us to do this: time, energy, enthusiasm, and support of the members of our parishes.”
-Julia Goussetis, Guatemala
“Some of my favorite moments were spent as we explored the City and visited two beautiful Orthodox Churches. I grew so much in my Faith that week through the amazing people I met, which I will always be grateful for.”
–Maria Phyrillas, New Orleans
“Even though there is still such destruction from the hurricane, everyone there radiated such joy and warmth about life. I learned so much about myself and the importance of giving back to people who need it most.”