Let Us Introduce You: Theresa Martin

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Student taught Tibetan monks English, traveled world

Freshman Theresa Martin has been around the world and back. After high school, she made the decision to take a gap year to spend time living in India, Germany and Ethiopia. LUIY

“I loved traveling and wanted to learn about other cultures and really invest in an extended amount of time doing service work,” Martin said.

She first traveled to India, in part to do service, but also because she was fascinated by the culture.

“I had also taken a world religions class in high school and really wanted to study Eastern spirituality,” Martin said.

While there, she volunteered with the Mother Theresa of Calcutta House and also spent her time teaching English to Tibetan refugee monks.

“It was really neat,” Martin said. “In northern India, there is a town where a lot of Tibetan refugees are, so the monks will escape there. They have some really incredible stories.”

One of the most fascinating stories she heard during her time there was of a monk who made his way into India by holding onto the bottom of a moving truck for several hours.

“I loved the culture in India,” Martin said. “It’s a crazy, chaotic, awesome place. It’s always interesting being able to study so many different religions. I loved the food and loved the people I met.”

When Martin returned from India, however, she did not know what she was going to do for the rest of the year. She decided to return to her roots as a Catholic and join in a Christian program in Germany called Youth with a Mission.

“It was a six and a half month program, with three months of spiritual formation,” Martin said. “It was also an art school, and I focused on God in art. I was in the music track, so I was writing and recording music and performing a bit.”

Next, Martin made her way to Ethiopia. While her time in Germany was spirituality-focused, her time in Ethiopia was entirely dedicated to service work.

“I worked with an organization called Women At Risk. They get women out of prostitution and teach them the skills to get jobs,” Martin said. “I also worked in a village and started a soap-making project. I began a sort of counseling program with them, but it was just sitting and drinking coffee with them and hearing their stories.”

The women Martin worked with were squatters on government land, meaning they lacked a legal identity and property. Many  were also HIV-positive and single mothers who had lost husbands in war.

“I was really invested in the village and fell in love with the people,” Martin said. “Working with those women was the most powerful experience I had.”

Martin found her way to Saint Louis University in part because she has family in St. Louis and in part because she wanted to attend a Jesuit university outside her home of San Francisco.

Martin is involved in a lot of campus ministry activities at SLU. She is a part of the Upper Room worship band, the women’s prayer group on campus, the Micah program and League of Laughter, SLU’s improv comedy group.

In everything she does, however, Martin said that her faith is a major part of her decisions and her life.

“My faith is the most important part of anything I do,” Martin said. “It was the reason I traveled in the first place.