I open my eyes and cringe as I try to adjust to the light. Another one’s been murdered… As I gaze around at the circle of players, I search for that guilty murderous look. Someone’s been murdered and someone did it. But who? Accusations begin filling the room and soon after, a town meeting with all of the contestants vote out who we think is the murderer. This continues until only three people remain, even though we usually would have guessed who the murderer was by this point. For the last time, the lights go out and the host says, “murderer, please wake up.” My unsuspecting eyes dart wide open and a grin grows on my face as I choose my last victim.

Playing Mafia was just part of my Spring Break adventure this year. The contestants (my victims) and I were all students at the University of Virginia participating in a Habitat for Humanity trip in Fort Lauderdale. We stayed in cabins at a state park for the week, and even though I forgot to bring a blanket and ended up using a wet towel (I know) instead, it was nice to be emerged in the middle of the woods with large trees bird chirps to wake up to each morning. We woke up at 6:30 AM every day and worked until noon on the Habitat for Humanity houses. It was such a rewarding experience to be able to do something productive and meaningful at such an early hour. The future homeowners were there too so it was nice to be able to see the smiles on their faces from witnessing students willing to devote their spring breaks helping to build their homes.

After noon each day, we were free to explore the city and relax on the beach. As a founder of the Monkey Club (a climbing group with two of my friends that we created when we were six), I was most eager to climb the palm trees and drink from the coconuts. It was such a strange feeling to be laying on a beach getting a tan while snow lay on the grounds at UVA.

The best part about the trip was that I was with a group of UVA students that I didn’t know, but by the end of the week, we had become a family- a true testament that any sample of college students could get together and find successful ways to connect. My advice to any college students or incoming college students who might steer away from these kinds of alternative spring break trips is to just sign up for one without worrying. There’s no way of predicting how much fun you are going to have because its often the time spent without plans that become the most memorable ones. The idea of spending a week with a bunch of strangers doesn’t sound that appealing, but you can’t think about it like that. If everyone is a stranger, than everyone is in the same boat and will figure it out together one step at a time. It’s just like the best strategy in Mafia; you can’t plan too far ahead, but rather take it one round at a time- thinking and appreciating the present.