Tech Alumna contributes service and compassion in 11-nation World Race.
Christina Eichler was homeschooled until college. At Tech, she studied abroad twice, was a College of Business ambassador, a student orientation adviser and participated in dozens of professional development events.
Upon graduation, she was offered a full-time job in logistics with a 401(k) and benefits, rather than the internship she applied for at Ficosa International.
She walked away from it all in January to go on the adventure of a lifetime.
Eichler, economics and finance ’12, is roughing it through an 11-month, 11-nation mission trip called the World Race.
“I came from a small background. To be someone who’s reaching to get 30 countries before I’m 30 is amazing,” she said. “All the things I didn’t know were possible were possible. All I needed to do was ask for it.”
Eichler grew up in Lebanon, Tenn. She is tall and slender with slightly wavy, chin-length blonde hair that she frequently tucks behind her ear. When animated, her brown eyes and wide smile take up most of her face.
She came back to Tech last fall to talk to a first-year experience course in the College of Business, to tell freshmen about how she adjusted to life at Tech and what she’s been up to since graduating.
There, she counseled students to take advantage of opportunities and told them it is OK to be nervous. She told them that when she enrolled in 2007, her biology course had more people in it than she knew, and since she didn’t know what she wanted to do, she did everything she could.
“The first time I met Christina she said, ‘Put me in everything. I’m homeschooled and it’s all new to me,’” said Amy Jo Carpenter, manager of the College of Business Student to Career program and instructor of the business first-year experience course Eichler spoke with.
“Making the right impression for the right reasons, she’s the poster child for that,” Carpenter said.
Before she left, Eichler lived in a small white house north of campus with two cats and a dog, several mismatched couches and a whiteboard with a warning to put the bread away to keep the cats from eating it. She and her roommate advanced their house calendar so they could celebrate Christmas together.
On the World Race, Eichler and her team of six other young women will work with impoverished people, HIV/ AIDS patients, orphans and widows, prostitutes, refugees, migrants and at-risk youth. She will use her business degree, managing the team’s finances across Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, South Africa, Mozambique, Swaziland, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia and the Philippines.
When she returns from the World Race in November, she will have been to 27 countries. But that’s not why she wanted to go.
“It’s not learning to live out of a backpack. It’s not going around the world. It’s the message of pure, unadulterated love,” she said. “It’s telling people, ‘You don’t have to walk through life feeling alone.’
“It’s not about theology and different religions. It’s something people are desperate to experience – this acceptance and love that we can share.”
Eichler felt that love at training camp – a weeklong preparation for the World Race. Most nights, racers sat around campfires talking about their lives, good and bad. Eichler compared it to thousands of dollars worth of therapy sessions at once.
“There was so much acceptance and so much compassion,” she said. “We experienced a kind of love at training camp that people spend their entire lives looking for.”
After camp, a coworker said Eichler would not like him if she knew more about him. They talked about their lives after work for two hours.
“That’s when it clicked. I don’t have to go around the world to share this message of love, I can do this anywhere,” she said. “You hear all the time that ‘God is love,’ but finally understanding that is like living your life in a black and white movie and then getting to live your life in color.”
Overseen by the non-profit Adventures in Missions, the World Race is a program where young adults travel in small groups to do charity work and spread their Christian faith. Since the program started in 2006, thousands have participated.
“I’m not going on this trip to mark off the countries on my list,” she said. “When I signed up, I kept telling people, ‘Yeah, I’m going to 11 countries and I’m going to live out of a backpack.’ It’s so much more.”
In her backpack, she will have a pair of jeans and a T-shirt; a pair of pink Chaco sandals; a sleeping bag, liner and pads; a tent; a small computer; a headlamp and her Bible. All racers must carry malaria medicine and anti-nausea pills. She refuses to leave her mascara and eyeliner.
Her green, two-person tent has five small mesh pockets – “shelves” – two zipper “doors,” and “reading material” – the warning label. She called it her house and joked about needing photos for the walls.
“It’s everything you need,” she said. “Not necessarily everything you want, but it’s sheltered from the rain.”
It will be a very different life, and a very different home, from what she had in Tennessee.