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International Service on the Path towards an Intentional Life

November 30, 2017

Today’s sponsored post is contributed by IPSL and contributed by Niki Gates – IPSL Arusha, Tanzania Alum (2014) & AmeriCorps NCCC alum, AmeriCorps VISTA Leader


My goal has always been to live an intentional life…. Several years ago, I was following an academic path that at the moment felt right. I was pursuing a degree in International Relations and Political Science, which provided a great learning experience on how the world works, but emphasized public service through the government. GovernmentNOV_FEMAcorps service is great and necessary, but not what I envisioned for my life. When it came time to choose a study abroad program, I already knew I wanted to go to East/Central Africa – that had been a dream of mine since high school. There are many misconceptions about that region of the world; that it is plagued by wars and illnesses and that it’s too dangerous for study abroad programs.  I discovered IPSL does offer programming there, and an opportunity towards the path I was seeking.


I arrived in Arusha, Tanzania, in September 2014. I was in a new country and uncertain of what was to come. My term began and included a service learning componNOV_orphanageent at an orphanage run by a kind and ambitious woman named Mama Safi. She had a big personality and an even bigger heart. I taught English to incredibly sweet and strong-willed children, who taught me the meaning of joy, resiliency, and love. Most importantly, they challenged me to think about my impact in the world– that it doesn’t matter if I’m helping one child or an entire nation, the important part is that I do something.


I returned to the United States with a greater understanding of myself and the type of service I wanted to pursue in a career, but quickly fell back into the monotony of classes and the pressures of what to do after graduation. I knew that I needed to reset my mind and reignite the passion I had for serving others, channeling what had been developed in the IPSL Arusha program. Luckily, a professor knew exactly what I needed – AmeriCorps.


I joined AmeriCorps NCCC FEMA Corps as a Team Leader in Southern Region Class 23A. Our experiences were unprecedented, and I led one of the first teams to spend their full term working on disasters. I was able to serve survivors in their most vulnerable times, support communities in healing after heartbreak, and help my teammates find their paths in life. But I wasn’t done with AmeriCorps at the end of my 11 months – I joined AmeriCorps VISTA, and currently serve as a VISTA Leader in Bellingham, WA. I transitioned from working in disaster zones to an office; from direct service to indirect service. It has been emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausting; it has been inspiring; and it has been life-changing… much like my time with IPSL.


My goal has always been to live an intentional life. I want to be active in NOV_orphanage_coworkerpursuing relationships with those around me, give praise and appreciation where they are needed and deserved, and serve others to my fullest capacity. IPSL taught me this about myself; AmeriCorps reinforced it. Both programs allow participants to find themselves through service – they encourage independence, self-realization, and personal responsibility, with the safety net of a team of professionals to support and guide you through your journey. They allow you to serve a community, while giving you the tools to learn about yourself and building skills that you can use to continue filling your life with service. I am not sure about my next steps after AmeriCorps and how best to utilize my Segal Education awards and build my career. But I do know it will be filled with service!


IPSL short term programs expand your world view and the IPSL grad programs give you the tools to find your personal path working for social justice worldwide. Learn more at



One Comment leave one →
  1. November 30, 2017 4:12 pm

    Awesome post!

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