To those who were worried because of the over-hyped news coverage on North-South Korean tensions, I am safely back in dreary Western New York.
The last few weeks have been crazy with finishing projects, preparing to return to New York, and saying goodbye to all the people I’ve met and friends I’ve made. I was able to interview with a group of unwed mothers and participate in a few planning meetings for the 3rd Annual Single Mom’s Day, titled: “Accountability for the Past, Rights for the Future” with representatives from KoRoot, TRACK, Korean Unwed Mothers and Families Association (KUMFA), Korean Single Parent Alliance, and other organizations as part of my final projects and activities related to field work with KUMSN. I also completed the draft of the grant proposal to the Global Fund for Women however this will only be used by KUMSN as an English example of international funding opportunities and will not actually be submitted.
I wrapped up my final activities including the daily journal logs, the resource binder (relevant research, news articles, funding opportunities) and other work I completed during my time as an intern, and of course, evaluations.
I received a really nice official certificate from KUMSN marking the completion of my field placement/internship and had a farewell lunch party with KUMSN staff.
Sadly, my field experience has ended and although both KUMSN and I really wanted to stay until the end of April or early May (before graduation), I was unable to do so because of my current financial status. Being unable to work for almost 3 months while continuing to pay insurance premiums, rent, and other bills in addition to the expenses involved with living abroad has really cost me.
It has been difficult readjusting to what has always been familiar and routine for me. I definitely enjoy having my sense of independence back which I lacked when I was in Korea. Some weird feelings I have had with adjusting to familiar/typical activities after being away for more than 3 months are (1) time of day (jetlagged) (2) using U.S. currency (3) driving my own car and getting around without public transportation, and (4) availability of greasy, fried food in XL portions. I’ve already gotten a parking ticket near my apartment in Buffalo and gained some weight back. These past few days, I’ve been scrambling to get things back in order for school, work, insurances, and finances. And trying to get back into a routine or habit has been more difficult than I had expected.
I wondered if I would have any kind of reverse culture shock, difficulty adjusting back to American culture, or just having a different perspective on things back home and I realized that it may be too early to tell. There are definitely things about daily life in WNY and the U.S. that I can appreciate a lot more (such as using English and better driving – really!) but there are also things that I miss about Korea and wish I could access here (such as certain foods, being less conspicuous in public, and recycling).
Although leaving KUMSN and Korea has been bittersweet, it is not the end of my journey. I definitely plan on going back to Korea someday and for a much longer stay. I would like to live and work there for a year or more and work with unwed mothers, single parents, or adoptee organizations in some capacity. I also have some personal matters to attend to that I was not able to fully process or invest time and effort into while I was focusing on my social work studies and field experience. And now that I have more time to process and reflect on my experiences – I intend to continue using this space, so check back from time to time. I have so much more that I want to say and let people know about.
There are so many people that I want to thank for making this all possible, for continuous support, and who have touched my life. And to those who’ve been reading and following along, thank you for your patience and feedback! Please continue to raise awareness and supporting organizations like KUMSN, unwed mothers, women, and other marginalized groups in Korea.