Korean student volunteers with Vietnamese refugees

My name is JuEun An. I am Korean, a social work major from KangNam University in YongIn, South Korea. I am now at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, as an exchange student for a year. To meet a course requirement, I volunteered with the Vietnamese refugees fall semester for 40 hours.

Bus orientation group
JuEun An (third from left) leads a bus orientation for recently arrived Vietnamese refugees.  The group's destination this particular day was the G Super Mart, an Asian foods store in Greensboro.  Phuong Pham (right), a refugee from Vietnam who resettled with her parents to Greensboro this fall, serves as an interpreter.
Photo courtesy JuEun An

My name is JuEun An.  I am Korean, a social work major from KangNam University in YongIn, South Korea.  I am now at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, as an exchange student for a year.  To meet a course requirement, I volunteered with the Vietnamese refugees fall semester for 40 hours.

Why the refugees?  When I was 6, I moved to a new country with a culture and history different from my own – China, where my father is a missionary.  I graduated high school there and moved back to Korea by myself to start college.

As a TCK (Third-Culture Kid), I was always interested in other cultures.  Church World Service works with the Vietnamese, Burmese and other refugees from many countries.  I thought that since I went through what they are going through now, I might understand their difficulties and help them according to their needs.

My project was weekly bus orientation.  At first, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to pull it off since I also was a newcomer in Greensboro and didn’t know how to get to places with the public transportation!  

It turned out that was one of the reasons the refugees got comfortable with me.  The first few times, when I wasn’t sure where the exact destination was, we would find a way together.  They were patient with me getting lost and figuring things out together with them.

The first few times I would go to the bus stop in front of their homes to meet them, then drop them off at the same stop.  After a while, I asked them if they could take the bus home themselves from the depot.  They were okay with it, and it was a good way to see that they really understood the bus system.

This project would never have been a part of my life if it wasn’t for the opportunity Church World Service provided.  The project let me help the refugees get comfortable with their new atmosphere.  It also gave me the chance to get familiar with the city and the public transportation.  I am very grateful that CWS trusted me with my project.

 

 

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