Institute of Life Purpose gears up for recruitment phase of international teaching program


Teach Thailand kids under Service First gather for a picture. Photo by Peter Schultz.

The institute of Life Purpose will start recruiting students to apply for Service First, a program connecting Mercer University graduates to teaching opportunities abroad, during the last week of October.

Service First is an international program that matches Mercer graduates to opportunities to teach English across the globe.

“It is designed to broaden students’ vision, sharpen their life purpose and better prepare them for acceptance and excellence of graduate or professional school or their chosen profession,” according to the Service First website.

The Institute of Life Purpose at Mercer University added two new programs to Service First this year. Students now have the chance to apply for placement in Haiti and the Dominican Republic in addition to the eight other options previously available.

“The Institute of Life Purpose was created for the purpose of helping young adults discover their purpose in a systemized way, to become conscious of concepts that are very important when you’re 18, as far as making huge decisions like vocation,” said Scott Walker, director and senior lecturer of the Institute of Life Purpose.

In the new Haiti program, students can teach English to primary school children and volunteers can work with public health clinics. Volunteers in the Dominican Republic will teach English to primary and secondary school students in collaboration with a local university.

Service First has had the opportunity to send over 130 graduates to 10 different countries throughout the past eight years. Currently, there are 10 students volunteering abroad, with eight volunteering in the Thailand program and two volunteering in the Dominican Republic program.

The program also provides placements in Japan, South Korea, The Philippines, China, Spain and France.

Thailand has been the most popular trip by far, Walker said. Approximately 90 Mercer graduates have taught English as a second language with Teach Thailand over the last nine years.

Walker said Service First alumni have gone on to attend graduate programs, law and medical schools and numerous prestigious institutions, including Oxford University.

Rachel Hollar, a veteran Service First volunteer and Mercer graduate, said the program benefited her in many ways.

“I would absolutely do it all over again and would recommend this program to anyone who is looking for an opportunity to learn and grow as a person before committing to grad school or a career,” she said. “I learned to appreciate other cultures and I learned a lot about myself. I had to be patient, flexible and uncomfortable, but I know it helped me grow as a person.”

Hollar said that instead of rushing into a job or graduate school, Service First allows students to be a part of something greater than themselves. It is a time of self-discovery and awareness.

While getting a new experience, students said they gained life skills by being exposed to cultures they may have never planned to experience before.

“I think it’s so easy to get set on a particular career path and run for the finish line. But being out here, in a culture where community and relationships are the most important, has really encouraged me to take a step back and really evaluate my ambitions,” said Peter Schultz, a Service First volunteer currently in Thailand.

The Institute of Life Purpose will hold a Service First interest meeting Oct. 29, at 4:30 p.m. in Conference Room 1 on the second floor of the Connell Student Center.

Nirund Jivasantikarn, founder and director of Teach Thailand, will speak about the program.

Appointments can be made for a personal conference or interview with Scott Walker at [email protected].