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My summer 2018 internship in South Korea: Gaining experience and a different perspective

CCD Student Associate Nate Campbell had an amazing summer studying abroad, volunteering and completing research in South Korea. Read about his experience! 

Through funding from Davidson College grants, I was fortunate enough to travel, conduct research, and volunteer in South Korea at HOLT, an orphanage for disabled people. Though I previously visited Korea before, this experience was my first opportunity to academically pursue a potential career choice of mine. Through participation observation and in-person interviews I wanted to discover the sociocultural factors responsible for the decline in transnational adoptions and what effects those changes bring to orphans, biological mothers, adoption agencies, and adoptive parents.

Perhaps the most fulfilling experiences came through working with the disabled children and adults at HOLT. With over two hundred residents and limited housemothers, my volunteer work included taking wheel-chaired residents for walks and helping with activities like puzzles, basketball, coloring books, and any other activity that provided them a space outside of their monotonous everyday lives. The relationships I developed with each resident, especially the younger children truly inspired me through their happiness and pure joy; it gave me a different perspective on love and the meaning of life.

The research portion of my summer allowed me to speak with HOLT staff, some of who have been living there since HOLT’s beginning in 1955, which provided me with their personal stories and opinions on the direction transnational adoption is heading. The South Korean government is cracking down on international adoptions in protection of biological mothers’ and the orphans’ rights and records, but this is putting a strain on the requirements for adoptive parents and lengthening the wait time before orphans are connected with families.

child on bicycle two children  Davidson student and children

Aside from the educational piece of my summer abroad experience, I cannot stress the amazing foods, tourist sights, and cultural immersion I gained from being in South Korea. The new atmospheres, new relationships, and new traditions learned compile a multitude of the beneficial exposures of going abroad!

Korean skyline seafood dish boat on river