Brother Tyler Echols, a Teacher and Counselor in South Korea, is a Mentor for Brothers Back Home in Tennessee

Photos courtesy of Tyler Echols
Tyler Echols, left, and his wife hold their daughter outside the embassy in Melbourne, Australia after they registered her as a United States citizen. She was born in Australia where Echols was teaching at the time.

When Tyler Echols graduated from college in 2006, he knew he wanted to teach kids about the world around them. But he had no idea how much of it he would actually get to see.

Since 2010, he has lived and taught in far away places such as Saudi Arabia, Australia — where his daughter was born — and now South Korea. His wife, who is also a teacher, has been with him every step of the way. Traveling the world is a family affair.

But it is important to Echols that he doesn’t lose touch with his Tennessee roots. He graduated from Sewanee: The University of the South, and since last summer has been helping out with the recent expansion at Vanderbilt University.

“Honestly, I just kind of volunteered,” Echols said via video chat from South Korea. “We go home to Nashville every summer, so I just kind of offered up any way I could help.”

He sent an email to all of the guys in the colony offering to be a mentor. Some of them took him up on his offer.

As a teacher and counselor, mentoring is what he does best. He’s passionate about it, just like he’s passionate about Lambda Chi.

Both passions never faded.

“I worry that people’s connections aren’t as strong. The idea of a formalized social group is not as popular as it once was,” Echols said. “I am a big proponent of social groups. I am passionate because people need to connect and have these great experiences. I get so animated about it because it’s so important to me.”

He credits some of his desire to travel the world and be an active member of the global community to being a brother.

Echols celebrates rushing Lambda Chi his freshman year at Sewanee: The University of the South in Tennessee.

“One of the things I really appreciated about my time in Lambda Chi was that — at least in my chapter — they were really big on being yourself and pushing you to be the best version of yourself,” Echols said. “I was never comfortable getting uncomfortable. So I wanted to go overseas and push myself to try new things. It’s going to make me a better person in the end. I learned that through Lambda Chi.”

He said the experiences he has had so far made him who he is today and truly changed his life.

“The way I view things … the way I talk about friendship and brotherhood and sisterhood … my expectations of people,” he said. “All of that comes from my experience in Lambda Chi.”

But, he said, the reason his family moves around so much is multifaceted.

“The number one reason is the adventure, right?” he said. “You’re just not going to see the world on a teacher’s salary in the states. My wife is a social studies teacher, too, so we have a really strong belief that getting this international perspective and seeing all of this stuff we’re teaching about makes it more personal. It helps us know what we’re talking about. It’s much easier to (teach) about something when you’ve actually seen it.”

Every place they have lived and taught had unique sets of challenges.

Echols wears a traditional Kuwaiti dress for a National Day celebration. He was teaching at a school in Saudi Arabia at the time.

For example, Echols’s wife couldn’t drive in Saudi Arabia, but most people spoke English, which made living there a breeze.

Australia was interesting, he said, because it was familiar and similar to the United States, but a lot of subtle differences made it a strange place to live — everything was just a little off.

South Korea is where they have faced the most communication barriers. But it’s an experience he wouldn’t change for the world.

The advice he gives to undergrads stems from those experiences overseas and his time as a brother.

His greatest piece of advice is simple: Listen.

“When you first come out of college, you’ve just found your voice and you want to express yourself as a young professional. The problem with that is the most important thing for you to do is listen,” Echols said.

“Listen to people who disagree with you, and people who have more experience than you, and even people who have less experience than you.”

If you’re a brother who would like to reach out to Echols for advice or mentorship, he can be reached at echolste@gmail.com.

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