Making a lasting impact: Mercerians in the Peace Corps and Fulbright

Sarah+Grace+Hall+in+front+of+a+graffiti+mural+in+the+Czech+Republic.+Photo+courtesy+of+Sarah+Grace+Hall
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Making a lasting impact: Mercerians in the Peace Corps and Fulbright

Sarah Grace Hall in front of a graffiti mural in the Czech Republic. Photo courtesy of Sarah Grace Hall

Sarah Grace Hall in front of a graffiti mural in the Czech Republic. Photo courtesy of Sarah Grace Hall

Sarah Grace Hall in front of a graffiti mural in the Czech Republic. Photo courtesy of Sarah Grace Hall

Sarah Grace Hall in front of a graffiti mural in the Czech Republic. Photo courtesy of Sarah Grace Hall

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Every year, Mercer University sends out emails with study abroad opportunities that students can apply for. For Mercer seniors, the Peace Corps and the Fulbright program are two of the more well-known postgraduate international opportunities. 

The Peace Corps

According to the Peace Corps’ official website,“the Peace Corps is a service opportunity for motivated changemakers to immerse themselves in a community abroad, working side by side with local leaders to tackle the most pressing challenges of our generation.”

With over 230,000 Peace Corps volunteers worldwide, the program has opportunities in 141 countries.

Peace Corps admission guidelines are displayed specifically on Mercer’s website under the international page

Mercer has a four-year plan on the international page that outlines all the requirements necessary to volunteer with the Peace Corps, and was approved by the Peace Corps to maintain a Peace Corps Prep Program. 

According to Mercer’s website, “the Mercer experience is defined by the integration of student leadership, academic research and service to others, the Peace Corps Prep Program is an ideal partnership that aligns with Mercer’s core values and mission.” 

Mercer’s Peace Corps Prep Program requires prospective applicants to look into the needs of areas both at home and abroad through 50 hours of required volunteer service.

Recent Mercer graduate Kaitlyn Koontz currently works in the Peace Corps in Ethiopia. Before she left, she told The Cluster in Sept. 2017 about her excitement to live and work with people from another community for an extended period of time.

“The two-year timeline is much more useful when it comes to volunteer missions than short-term trips. You’re able to get to know the community a bit more, and invest in a long-term project that can be continued after you leave,” she said. 

Fulbright Scholar Program

Another prestigious international program for graduates is the Fulbright Scholar Program, which places people from the United States with specific host countries through teaching or research positions. 

According to the Fulbright’s official site, the U.S. Fulbright Scholar Program offers nearly 470 teaching, research or combination teaching and research awards in over 125 countries. Mercer offers application help for students hoping to get involved. 

One of those students is Sarah Grace Hall, a Holistic Child major who graduated from Mercer in 2019. Hall is currently an English Teaching Assistant (ETA) in the Czech Republic. 

“I learned about the Fulbright program my freshman year, so I had plenty of time to decide if this was an opportunity I wanted to pursue and how to better prepare myself for the opportunity,” Hall said in an email. 

Hall said that professor David Davis, Mercer’s director of fellowships and scholarships, encouraged her to pursue the Fulbright ETA Grant throughout her years at Mercer.

She said she credits Davis’ help, along with her interest in international studies and traveling, as the key factors that persuaded her to become a Fulbright Scholar. She also recounted a story that made her decide to choose the position of an ETA. 

“I really recognized the necessity of understanding and speaking English to live in America. On one incident, a man named Darian, who served for U.S. troops in Afghanistan, asked a lady at Walmart for a specific lotion for his wife,” she said. “This was all done in broken English. The lady answered Darian very rudely and then when she found out I was a native speaker, she turned towards me, completely ignoring Darian. It made me frustrated that he was humiliated in that way simply because his English was not that good. Thus, I knew I wanted to learn how to teach English to others in the best way.”

Hall will continue to teach English abroad until June 2020. 

“Fulbright for me is a culmination of my goals of teaching and dreams of traveling and working abroad. It is definitely not for the faint of heart as I have already had some nights where I miss home … but I know this is something I have always wanted to do. I’m proud to be a Fulbright Scholar and can’t wait to see what this year will bring!” Hall said. 

Anyone interested in applying to the Peace Corps should see the international programs page of Mercer’s official website for more information. Questions pertaining to Fulbright can be directed to Mercer’s Fulbright Program Advisor, Edward Weintraut, at weintraut_ej@mercer.edu

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