Freely you have received, freely you give

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Visiting a dam near Llangadog on my first outing with friends.
Photo courtesy of Soon Ju Lee.

My gap year was really a one and a half-year break from school. During that time I worked in Wales for 8 months, taking care of people with special needs, and visited over 18 countries.

I worked at Camphill, which offers opportunities for people with learning disabilities, mental health problems, and other special needs. They’re located in many countries like Germany, the United States, India, Africa, and the United Kingdom. I stayed in a small community called Glasallt Fawr, which is located in the village of Llangadog, Honestly, there are lots more sheep than people. While I was there, we had 4 volunteers including myself, over 20 workers, and 30 lovely residents, which is what Camphill calls the special needs people staying there.

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Farmer James showed me how to give milk to baby lambs during a farming workshop.
Photo: Soon Ju Lee.

The aim of Camphill is to provide a good quality of life for all residents while remembering they are all individuals with individual needs, likes, and dislikes. The residents are encouraged to take part in workshops and leisure activities. They also have free time to relax and perhaps just listen to music in their own rooms. One of my favorite workshops was Farming and Gardening. We used various tools to tend plants and animals with the residents.

My time there wasn’t always easy. I experienced racial discrimination, mostly by those under 15 years old. They threw coins at me and imitated a monkey in front of me every single day when I passed by them in the hallway. Moreover, it was hard to get used to the Welsh food and accent when I first got to the UK.

I never gave up, however, and learned to settle in. Time went by, and I was able to overcome my fears, take courage, adapt to my new environment, get along with co-workers, and make friends no matter what people thought about me.

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Making some Korean comfort food kimbab at the community center.
Photo: Soon Ju Lee.

Since I left Korea I’ve made over 30 friends. We shared our cultures, history, comfort food, costumes, greetings, and hobbies with each other. I also visited over 18 countries on my own. Morocco was my favorite! Honestly, I’ll never forget this beautiful time in my life. I can definitely say this gap year was a turning point in my life. I experienced so many things on my own, I now think I can do anything.

One of my favorite lyrics is from “Love on Top” by Beyoncé in which she says, “Nothing’s perfect, but it’s worth it.” Whatever you want to do, whether it’s volunteer, work, or just travel abroad, I urge all of you to just go out and do it. Don’t hesitate. Life will solve itself somehow. I guarantee you’ll learn lessons you’d never be able to just staying where you are.

Soon Jun Lee

I'm currently a senior majoring in social welfare and education. I'd like to take care of people with disabilities. I'm into playing the ukulele when I have free time. Moreover, I love traveling and hanging out with friends from other countries. I always do my best to make my dream a reality.

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