How Volunteering Abroad and It’s Impact on Me

(October 16, 20201) Taken from the first volunteering session at The Yongsan-gu Office Medical Center (용산구청)

A Sense of Community

I wanted to write a post dedicated to my experience volunteering abroad so far, as I plan to participate more in the future. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve recognized the crucial impact of local, on-the-ground community involvement. Once more, volunteering as an expatriate in a foreign country gives me an opportunity to meet like-minded people from across the globe, giving me a chance to learn from their experiences and connect on our similarities. I believe wholeheartedly in the amazing ability for people to come together and connect regardless of their nationality and background.

The Seoul Global Center

One of the BEST resources for Foreign Residents in the Seoul Metropolitan Area

The main location of the Seoul Global Center is along Subway Line 1, one of the main subway artery lines directly connected to the heart: Seoul Station. There’s also smaller branch entities scattered throughout the Seoul metropolitan areas called “Villages”: Yeonnam, Yeoksam, Itaewon, Seorae, Ichon, Seongbuk, and Geumcheon.

They offer countless services for foreign residents such as legal counsel, labor rights, real estate, community involvement, language and culture classes, orientations to life in Seoul, and more.

I mention the Seoul Global Center, but this is the short list of foreigner resident resources for other parts of Korea:

The Signifiance of Research

When I arrived for work, one of the first things I researched for was a foreigner service center. One of the most important skills I gained in college was the power of information and the art of research. It was essential for all my writing courses! The internet oversaturates information, and filtering through it all takes practice and precision.

Adequate research is a crucial skill we need to have to some capacity for daily life: from information and resources on jobs, medical, finances (loans, bills, etc.), to personal care and lifestyle advice. Residing in another country presents amazing opportunities and memories, but it also requires even more research than in your home country. Familiarizing yourself with a whole new culture and its systems is a daunting yet rewarding task. We should take advantage of all available resources to better successfully navigate unfamiliar barriers!

My First Volunteer Experience

Another crucial skill I utilized was the importance of networking. Reach out and ask questions: do not fear being told “no”. Only fear not knowing at all. I reached out to the volunteering email of the Seoul Global Center, inquiring further information on their volunteering process despite COVID regulations.

I followed the center’s social media and website alert board for any news regarding volunteering sign-ups. I finally found one for volunteering with the Itaewon Branch Global Center to volunteer at the Yongsan Vaccination Center. All legal and illegal migrants could come to the vaccination center and receive their vaccines. As a volunteer, I helped in completing their paperwork, directing them to necessary checkpoints, and sanitizing seating areas.

Second volunteer session three weeks later for the second dose.

We assisted in translation, as many volunteers spoke multiple languages such as Korean, English, Arabic, Chinese, and more. We all came from the Middle East, Europe, North America, and Southeast Asia. I had the opportunity to practice my Korean with migrants who knew Korean and not English and utilize my knowledge of English to help them fill out their forms accurately.

Not only did I feel good contributing to the world’s health by encouraging fair accessibility to vaccinations, but I also felt incredibly humbled to be in a position where I could aid other foreigners undergoing a challenging process in another country. Everyone I helped was grateful for our help and generous.

A Better Writer; A Better Global Citizen

Why and how has this made me a better writer? Simple: listening to new perspectives and gaining a greater awareness of resources and opportunities.

Someday, I hope my writing can successfully benefit a variety of readers, all with varied backgrounds. Working on the ground with and serving those diverse in age, country, language, and experiences gave me an insightful look into the people I someday hope to reach. A deeper understanding and consideration of your audience’s needs and interests will determine the success of your writing’s goal and message. I still have a long way to go, but the process of learning excites me.

Listening to their stories inspired me to work even harder at accomplishing my goals. I felt in awe once again of the human spirit and its capacity for compassion and perseverance as we make it through this world together. We are not as apart as we seem, and our interdependence does not make us weak. Rather, I feel it’s an innate human characteristic that shows what amazing things we can accomplish through collective action.

Let me know about your experiences with volunteering, especially if you’ve done it abroad. I’ve learned a lot about the more stressful realities of working in another country (for example visas..such a nightmare), and relieving someone of their burdens makes mine feel just a little bit lighter. 🙂

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