I am incredibly excited for the coming year. The discernment event was a roller coaster of emotions. For me it was coming in feeling certain about South Korea as my first choice, but finding that decision was not as easy as I thought.
My second choice, and my second interview was to be the Northern Ireland/Scotland site. When I arrived at Ferncliff, I discovered that nearly every single person was interviewing for Northern Ireland/Scotland. Not that that in itself was a reason to reconsider, but I thought perhaps I should at least look at my third option a little more closely – the Philippines. We had informational sessions the first morning to help us with our discernment. Because I came in knowing Kurt and Hyeyoung, the site coordinators for South Korea, and had been following their story over the past two years I got permission to go to the informational sessions for the second and third choices.
While Northern Ireland/Scotland sounded great, the Philippines presented something I could not refuse: public health placements. There were placements to work at a clean water facility or with hurricane Hainan relief efforts. This is the type of work I envision myself doing in the future. It is a topic I feel passionate about and simultaneously lack experience in. My first thought was, “Oh no…” This was no longer an easy choice. I switched my interview from Northern Ireland/Scotland to the Philippines that day.
The next few days I was torn between where my heart wanted me to go and envisioned me being and where my mind said was good for me. The Philippines would be good for my future, and though it was more isolated (I’d be living on an island living with a host family and the closest YAV would be a boat ride away) I knew I would fall in love with the work and I would grow immensely. (Grow immensely is also another way to say I would be really uncomfortable, but learn a lot from it) I’ve had my heart set on South Korea for perhaps less practical reasons. South Korea is where Kurt and his family is, and honestly the one who coaxed me into applying for the YAV program at all. Even at the discernment event I clicked really well with a few of the other people applying for Korea. It was my community versus my future – my heart versus my mind. I knew come decision time it wouldn’t be easy.
I waited until after the labyrinth to submit my ratings. I rated them both as 1’s (I would be happy and excited to go there) and left the decision up to the site coordinators and God. All that was left was to calm down and wait.
The night we all knew we would find out was upon us. There was worship song after worship song. Este momento (the song) came and went, and the moment didn’t come. The site coordinators snuck in. Finally they announced they would be handing out the envelopes. We would have half an hour to open it, call our families, spend time alone – whatever we needed. I sat next to another YAV, Emily who also applied for Korea. I didn’t know what to do with myself. She asked if we could open it together, and I replied, “I don’t know!” still super nervous. What would I do? I felt either way choice would make me cry. I would be happy either way, but not getting Korea would require a mourning period.
Richard, Kurt’s predecessor for the Agape House, and now the one handing me my envelope with my future inside. I asked him to sit beside me. There was a lot of commotion around the room as people opened their envelopes. I flipped the envelope open, and someone passed by “Did you open it yet?” “I opened it but I haven’t looked yet!” My hands were shaking. I think Emily looked at hers already. I pulled the paper out and found my name. I pulled the trifolded paper open and read “Korea.” I felt a kind of gasp of relief before the tears started. I covered my mouth and looked up at Kurt. Emily was going to Korea too! I gave her a hug, and then sat with my emotions for a minute before getting up to give Kurt a hug.
Dessa came over (the site coordinator for the Philippines) and said, “We went with the heart.” I gave her a hug and said thank you. Someone handed me a paper towel for my tears. I blew my nose and it came away red. Embarrassed, I ran to the bathroom. I told Kurt when I came back, and he said, “This will be your story when you are an Alum.” And so it will.
So begins my journey to Daejeon, South Korea. I hope you’ll join me!
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