My experiences attending heritage events over the years have helped me build friendships that I still hold dear today.
I always enjoy interacting with peers of the same background and have created relationships that have a special connection. I grew up attending Dillon International’s Korea Heritage Camp and developed a close bond with others who also attend every year. Our families always stay at the same hotel and always go out to eat together at least once during the stay. At our hotel, we always swim at the pool with our friends. And at camp, we always looked forward to meeting our new counselors and to the new activities at camp, and of course, the cooking classes and the traditional Korean lunch on the last day.
I even showed my cooking teacher at my middle school how to make the Korean cookies that I learned how to make at Korea Camp. Though as little kids, we disliked—and sometimes even dreaded—the language classes, we all LOVED Taekwondo. Some of my favorite camp memories involve yelling while trying to do simple Taekwondo kicks and punches.
Some of the results from attending Korea camp have been life changing. These camps have given me friends that I will have my whole life, and I make new friends every year. The camp classes and activities have taught me SO much about Korean culture and history.
This past summer I had the opportunity to view Korea Heritage Camp from a different perspective by volunteering as a camp counselor, and I really enjoyed it. There was plenty of time to simply relax and hang out with my fellow camp counselors and activities that allowed us to make new friends, and interact with the campers. Because we kept busy helping campers in their classes, there was not as much time to see old friends, but it gave me a greater opportunity to meet new people and make new friends while joining in learning about Korean culture and arts: making Korean crafts, eating Korean food, and learning basic Korean language phrases. As counselors, we also gained valuable experience in learning how to teach children and maintain a learning environment.
This summer I also attended Discovery Days, Dillon International’s camp for internationally adopted teens. Those 2 ½ days are spent outdoors, not inside, and we participated in many group activities that build our character and teamwork skills.
Basketball was arguably the most popular activity. This is what most of the male campers, including myself, played throughout the camp. We played large full court games with some of the counselors and campers. We learned to work together and even became more physically fit. We all would sweat a lot during those games!
We also had teamwork exercises throughout the camp’s duration. Some of them included a Lego building competition that had one person telling a relay man how to build the Lego project. The relay man then had to explain to builders how to build it. Another activity we participated in was building towers with bricks to see which group would get it the highest. The last one was a race to see how fast a group can get water into a bucket with only a sponge in a relay race style competition. These activities were great at the beginning of the camp because it forced some us to become social and helped grow relationships between people.
We also did a lot of character activities and sharing about problems we might be having and talking about problems that we face, such as bullying or racism. It was an opportunity to share problems and discuss how to confront them.
We also had a great time with water activities, including swimming and a super-fun Slip n’ Slide.
The best thing about Discovery Days was the diversity of the campers. There are campers from India, China and Korea. This gave us the ability to learn about different cultures and our different experiences growing up.
Discovery Days also offered some valuable lessons. We talked and discussed issues that we face, and for some, it may have lifted a huge burden off their shoulders. For others, it was simply a great place to bond and have fun with their peers. That’s how it was for me: I enjoyed this year, made a lot of new friends, and am looking forward to next year.
About the Author: David Martin lives in St. Louis Missouri and has a sister, Sarah, who is also a Korea adoptee. He regularly attends Dillon heritage events with his family and is having fun being a teenager.
Dillon International is an experienced Hague-accredited adoption agency with an excellent reputation at home and abroad. Headquartered in Tulsa, Okla., Dillon has regional offices in Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, Texas, and California. Families in all 50 states can be served.