The summer after my freshman year, I traveled to Seoul, South Korea, home to many, but not to me, not anymore. Seventeen years ago I had been adopted from Seoul, and brought to America, into the arms of a loving family that I now call my own. Full of traveling, volunteering, learning, and becoming, it was a summer I would never forget.
As the wheels of the plane touched the ground, my heart sped up. We had arrived at Incheon International Airport in Korea. From the airport we were taken to the Love the Children Hospital, where we would stay and volunteer; the same orphanage where my sister and I had stayed at before we had been adopted. It was a precious place that held monumental value to us.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
After that first night in Korea, we never had a minute of rest, we volunteered and explored, finding greatness in even the smallest of things.
Located two floors below us was the orphanage. We could not stay away. Volunteering with the nurses was one of the very first things that we did! Upon entering, we were given nurses coats and were told to wash our hands. Once we were ready, we entered one of the rooms. They were filled with babies, some only days old. My heart clenched at the sound of cries filling the room. Immediately my mom, sister, and I were each handed an infant. Hours passed as we held and fed babies. Each one I held, I tried to see myself in them. I had been here seventeen years ago. Had someone picked me up and smiled down at me? The fact became reality to me as I looked into the bright and innocent eyes of the infant cradled in my arms. I looked around me and hoped that they too would find families that would love them like mine loved me. Throughout our visit, we volunteered at the orphanage as much as possible.
Although we were residing in Seoul, we traveled to Pyongtaek to visit our sponsor sister, Ji Min! Despite being disabled, Ji Min was bright and cheerful. While visiting her, we also were able to visit the children staying at Eastern Social welfare’s Jacob’s Home. While we were there, the Navy Seals were also there! The seals visited the children whenever they had the chance! When asked why they visited the children so often, they said it was to keep them humble. The sight of grown men building sand castles and playing tag with children without families, warmed my heart and kept me smiling all the way back to Seoul.
Most days we walked the streets of Seoul, finding unique street venues and shopping centers. We didn’t have plans, we were happy to explore and many times our travels led us to places we probably wouldn’t have been able to find even with a map in our hands! In a place as versatile as Seoul, we were always on the go! We visited Deoksugung Palace, walked along the Cheonggye stream, viewed art at the heart of Seoul, climbed Nam Sam Mountain, shopped underground at the Coex Mall, and walked the streets of Myedong District and Insadong. We were truly able to see the beauty and life of Seoul. Before I knew it, it was time to go home. As the plane lifted off the ground, to my surprise, I felt tears in my eyes, yet they did not fall. As the plane carried me up and away, my resolution became clearer: I would find my way back to my Seoul, someday.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.