Friday, Aug 22, 2014 09:44 am est

Lucky break from NYU’s Alternative Breaks Program

Posted on September 12, 2012 | by Amritpal Singh Bharth

Many of us think about changing the world. As a freshman, I didn’t know how I wanted to change the world. I had no long-term plan. For me, it was just a bit of luck. During my freshman year, my commuter assistant sent me an email one night telling me to apply to Alternative Breaks. Every year, NYU AB sends 200 students to do service in places like Los Angeles, Joplin, Thailand and Morocco. As an individual without any sense of community, I made a might as well decision to sign up. Little did I realize the implications of this decision. Today, I have the privilege of serving as logistics chair on the AB board. More importantly, I have a thousand stories to cherish for a lifetime.

During my first year, I went to Stone Mountain, Ga., to work with refugee students. Our group embodied kaleidoscopic diversity, and thus we respected the storied past of the Deep South. Given this, we were blown away by the warm hospitality with which we were received. Still, we had doubt.

On the trek back to NYU, we stopped at a gas station. The doors of the cars were wide open as we hustled in and out. Someone spotted a Caucasian man eyeing our car. He was incessantly stalking us. Yes, we judged him as a potential threat. But we continued our conversations.

Suddenly, the man was at our car. His arms were over the open door as he peered inside. “I saw your friend there picking up stones,” he said. He reached into his pocket and pulled something out. He presented us with an Amherst rock. The Caucasian man worked in an Amherst mine and couldn’t resist walking over to give us the invaluable stone. The face of the South’s past had confronted us. It smacked me in the head. After a week full of smiles, we had judged this man as a threat before any words even left his mouth. We judged him because he was white, because of his appearance. That was a sobering moment.

We can have endless conversations about the problems that plague society and about bridging the gap between dreams and reality. But it takes courage to commit to your conviction. If we expect to eradicate problems like racism, we must be aware of how we partake in them. If as a South Asian Sikh, I expect not to be judged as a terrorist, then by no logic do I have the freedom to judge a Caucasian man, even in the South. Both he and I should have the opportunity to present our individuality before being judged. AB not only taught me this, but it has also given me opportunities to practice it. Today, I realize the world has changed. I didn’t have a long-term plan. But now I do.

AB transformed me from an unaware member of society to someone conscious of social justice problems. It changed me; thus, the world changed. I am part of its problems and hopefully part of its solutions. Now I am one more person who can recognize social injustice. By recognizing it, there is hope of rectifying it. Thank you, AB, for transforming me into a person I never planned to be. In no way did I deserve or expect to share these experiences. I am not exceptionally smart or passionate. However, I am grateful for that late night email and the experiences that followed. 

Amritpal Singh Bharth is a contributing columnist. Email him at


  • rania

    YAY! love everything about this.

profile portrait
Felipe De La Hoz

Multimedia Editor | Felipe De La Hoz is a Colombian national studying journalism at the College of Arts and Sciences. Having been born in Colombia and raised in the United States, Mexico and Brazil, Felipe is a trilingual travel aficionado and enjoys working in varied and difficult environments. Apart from his photography, Felipe enjoys investigative reporting and interviews, interviewing the likes of Colombian ex-M-19 guerrilla fighters and controversial politician Jimmy McMillan. He has covered everything from governmental conferences to full-blown riots, as well as portraiture shoots and dining photography. Having worked under Brazilian photojournalists for Reuters and AFP, Felipe hopes to one day work on demanding journalistic projects and contribute to the global news cycle.

Ann Schmidt

News Editor | Ann is a liberal studies sophomore who lived in Florence during her freshman year. She plans on double-majoring in journalism and political science and is always busy. She is constantly making lists and she loves to laugh.


Daniel Yeom

Daniel started at the Features desk of WSN last Spring, writing restaurant reviews whilst indulging on free food and consequently getting fat. Last Fall, he was the dining editor, and he this semester he is senior editor. Daniel is in Gallatin (living the dream) studying Food & Travel Narratives, incorporating aspects of Food Studies, Journalism, and Media, Culture, and Communication. He loves food more than life itself.

Hannah Luu

Deputy Multimedia Editor | Hannah Luu is a ridiculously great Deputy Multimedia Editor. She is a sophomore from Northern California. If you think Northern California means San Francisco you might need to closely examine a map. She is passionate about NPR and being half Asian.

  • How to join:

    The Washington Square News holds open weekly budget meetings at its office located at 838 Broadway every Sunday. All are welcome to attend, no matter your background in journalism, writing, or reporting. Specific times for meetings by desk are listed below. If you wish to talk to an editor before you attend, feel free to check out the Staff page.

    5 P.M. 6 P.M. 6 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 7 P.M.

    Applying for an editor position: Applications for editor positions during the fall or spring semesters are available twice each academic year and can be found here when posted. Applications for the Fall 2012 semester are closed, but check back for Spring 2013. Those who wish to apply are urged to publish pieces in the newspaper and contact current editors for shadowing.

    History of the Washington Square News:

    The Washington Square News is the official daily student newspaper of New York University and serves the NYU, Greenwich Village, and East Village communities. Founded as an independent newspaper in 1973, the WSN allows its undergraduate writers and photographers to cover campus and city news and continues to grow its strong body of award-winning journalists and photographers.

  • The WSN has a circulation of about 60,000 and can be found in over a hundred purple bins distributed throughout campus. It is published Monday through Thursday during the fall and spring semesters and online on Friday, with additional special issues published in the summer. The newspaper recently revamped its website during the Fall 2012 semester.

    Like few campus newspapers in the country, the paper is editorially and financially independent from the university and is solely responsible for selling advertisements to fund its production. The WSN, including its senior staff, is run solely by current undergraduate students and the business-division is largely student-operated as well.

    A Board of Directors comprised of alumni, NYU professors and working news media professionals serves as advisors to the paper. Board members have no control in the WSN's editorial policy or newsroom operations. Alumni of the newspaper are established and leading journalists in such news organizations as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, NBC news, ABC news, Fox News, and USA Today.