Spring Break can include more than partying

(MCT) – As final exams loom and gusting winds send snow flitting through the sky, college students are preparing for the inevitable: Spring Break.

Throughout March and early April, college students will make a mad dash to the beaches, bars and parties that Connie Francis’ Ft. Lauderdale made famous 47 years ago. The destinations, however, are changing. Again.

Places like Cancun, South Padre Island and Amsterdam are still popular, says Michael Palmer, executive director of the Michigan-based Student & Youth Travel Association. But many students are forgoing the drunken revelry associated with Spring Break in search of new, uncharted locales.

Student travel overall grew 5 percent in 2006 from the previous year, according to the SYTA.

“They’re going everywhere,” Palmer says of college students. “There are less people going to Mexico and more going to Europe or Central America. You have a whole generation who have been there, did it and are looking for a whole new experience that their older brothers and sisters didn’t do.”

In other words: Those MTV-fueled days of hedonism are gone. In fact, today’s college student is a more conservative vacationer, Palmer says.

These students are more likely to travel as a group of friends looking to do something constructive, Palmer says.

Other students may travel to interview for summer internships and post-collegiate jobs.

Many will take service trips to New Orleans and assist in the rebuilding efforts following Hurricane Katrina’s destruction. But that doesn’t mean they won’t down a couple of hurricanes on Bourbon Street after a day of hard work, Palmer says.

They’re saying, “I’m just not going down there for work,” he adds.

Many are also staying in the States, preferring to spend Spring Break visiting friends or family.

Evan Smola, 23, a law student at DePaul University, plans on heading to Boston for Spring Break.

There, he’ll spend St. Patrick’s Day hanging out with friends. There may be an occasional sip of Guinness that day.

“It’s probably as cold as Chicago,” Smola says, “but the good Irish population makes St. Patrick’s Day fun.”

Laura Green, 21, also plans on taking a less-traveled road for Spring Break. Green, a Roosevelt University senior studying musical theater, wants to jump into a car with her boyfriend and drive to New Mexico.

Apparently there are alfalfa farms in the Land of Enchantment, and lots of cows, she says, barely able to keep a straight face.

And while it may not be skiing the slopes or sunbathing on a beach, Green says she hasn’t found anyone else planning such a vacation. Plus, she’ll actually remember the trip.

“My best friends, they’re taking this cruise together and they’re gonna get drunk,” she says. “If I’m going to travel, I want to be conscious for that.”