This summer Sarah Hirschfeld decided to undertake an adventure before buckling down to her studies to become a high school biology teacher.
She joined Bike & Build, a nonprofit that organizes cross-country trips for young people that combine bicycling with building affordable homes. Throughout their trips, the cyclists stop in cities to help build houses for needy families, usually in partnership with Habitat for Humanity.
Hirschfeld’s group left Portland June 16 and arrived in Santa Barbara in late August, a trip of 3,937 miles. After completing her trek, Hirschfeld answered some questions about her summer.
Bowdoin: I think it’s interesting that your organization combines arduous physical exercise and travel with humanitarian work. Were there benefits, or downsides, to this combination?
Sarah Hirschfeld: I honestly can’t think of any downsides to this combination besides the fact that we weren’t able to work in every city because of our tight schedule to make it across the country. We met so many great people working with the organizations, and it was an amazing way to get to know the towns better that we passed through.
Bowdoin: What was the most eye-opening part of your trip?
SH: The affordable housing issues differ greatly across the country, and this was something I wasn’t expecting to see. Some towns have seen large industries move away, leaving the residents of the town with much lower incomes than before, while others have seen exceptional growth with people who are willing to pay higher prices for housing, driving the housing market up and out of reach for many citizens. Each organization we worked with had their own goals and objectives working toward providing affordable housing for all.
Bowdoin: Do you feel the trip has changed you? If so, how?
SH: I’m not sure how you could come away from this trip without being changed! One of the mottos we lived by this summer was, “It’s all a part of the adventure.” Through this I’ve learned to approach all that I do with a new sense of excitement and to welcome any challenge that comes my way.
Bowdoin: What’s next for you this fall? Are you still planning to enroll in the Bowdoin Teacher Scholars program in January?
SH: Before returning to the East Coast, I spent some time with my freshman-year roommate as a way to unwind from a whirlwind adventure of a summer. Next it’s back to Portland to work with Tri-Maine [established by Will Thomas ’03]! After much thought and talking to a lot of different people, I’ve decided to push back getting my teaching certification until a later date. I am excited for all the new adventures to come and can’t wait to be back in Maine!