Article Type

Reflection Article/Manuscript


In this essay I explore the efficacy and value of short-term service trips by reflecting on a short-term service trip I took to Appalachia through my university. I consider how this trip impacted the way I think and feel about Appalachia. I argue that gaining feelings and knowledge from these trips is a necessary, yet insufficient, part of making them successful. These trips should also provide communities with service that benefits them and result in lasting structural change for them. However, as I experienced, students often encounter great challenges to doing social justice work both during and after their trips. During the trip, the service students do and knowledge they acquire might not benefit the host community much. I found that post-trip challenges to social justice largely stem from a lack of intentionality on the behalf of students to continue the social justice work they began in their host communities. This problem is greatly compounded by a lack of social support available to students after their service trips that would facilitate continued social justice efforts. I conclude that the university can assist students and social justice causes by adding greater structure to the transition from the short-term service trip to life after it.