My Final Days

On August 16th, the project I was working on finally bore fruit. That day, the participants finally performed the play  which they had been practicing for a month. Approximately 200 people who came to see the play, which was performed twice that day. They were friends and family of the participants, high school students from theater clubs and other people who were interested in the subject. The play consisted of episodes based on the participants’ own stories. For example, there was an episode about how someone was bullied when he was in elementary and middle school, then he started to bully others in high school.  Another episode was about some of the participants’ experiences with their parents’ divorces, and experiences they had as outcasts.
I was glad that quite a lot of people came to see the play and was especially glad to see that the participants’ friends and family came to see them. Lots of the participants do not have very close relationships with their parents because it can be hard for them to reveal their thoughts and feeling. Many r parents do not really know what the children are doing on a daily basis because they may be busy with work, so it’s hard for them to connect with their children. Even worse, some parents stop caring about their children. I had already known that most of the participants did not tell their parents much about what they were doing in the program, so it was nice to see their parents being pleasantly surprised by the performances. They were surprised by how capable their children are at performing and many of them did not even know about their children’s interest in theater.
I spent my last few weeks coordinating for the next performance. For example, I managed the venue and advertising and more! I was also in charge of finishing the project and documenting the outcomes. Overall, I think it was a very helpful experience for my future career and personal growth. This experience has given me the chance to learn about my strengths as well as weaknesses. Moreover, it taught me what I truly want to do and what the right fit for me might be.
The most important lesson that I learned this summer was the importance of work/life balance, especially when you are passionate and dedicated to what you do. The people where I worked this summer did not have much of a life outside of their work. It is admirable that they are working toward something that they can dedicate their whole lives to, but at times they could be overwhelmed by it. It is especially hard for NGO workers or social workers since they put a lot of energy and emotion into their work. Also, especially since I was working with participants whom I cared about, it was easy for me to get emotionally attached to them. Overall, I am happy to have had this internship experience, and I look forward to what is next to come.
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– Sohyun Shin

Midpoint check in at PlayRock

I spent the first few weeks of my internship finding participants for the theater project. I looked for individuals who were either North Korean refugees or high school dropouts. It has been three weeks since the project has officially started with those participants.  (Learn more about the North Korean refugees and contact them in the US).

During the first week, I was very frustrated when I saw the participants and could not even sleep very well at night because I was thinking about them. It was heartbreaking to see those teenagers, who are desperately in need of help and guidance but could not get themselves anywhere. It was especially frustrating for me since I grew up in an environment where I could access every resource I needed.

I was eager to help them from the very beginning and I tried to do so in my own way. Unfortunately, this did not bring satisfying results and furthermore, this was the reason why my first few days with them were disappointing. I tried my best and did everything I could that seemed beneficial for the participants. Regardless of my effort, the participants did not welcome or appreciate my work. At that time I felt as if all the things I did to help them were rejected and I could not understand their self-destructive behavior. I could not figure out why everything was not working as well as I had imagined, so I started to blame myself, thinking that my actions were the direct cause of those behaviors. However, as time went on, they opened their minds to me and I got to know and understand them better.

Now I know that I was impatient to judge those behaviors as due to my actions. More importantly, now I realize that neither their behavior, which is a result of their upbringing and past traumatic experiences, can be changed in a day, like a miracle, nor can I be their savior. I also learned that it is absolutely important to connect with the participants, but at the same time I should not be emotionally attached to them. I learned that not only might that lead to me making biased judgments, but also it is not good for my mental health. I also learned is that the participants do not need my pity. Every one of them has their own story, which I will not mention for their privacy, and after listening to their story it is easy to pity them. However, pitying implies that I perceive the participants as if they are inferior and this kind of perception will change the dynamic of my relationship with the participants.

During my internship this summer, I wanted to learn how to engage with underprivileged people and I believe I achieved it through trial and error. The way in which I engage them which is different, but also similar to how I would interact with my family or friends. Moreover, by working with underprivileged people, I learned how to communicate with and understand people from different backgrounds; now I am more understanding and I try to put myself in other people’s shoes. However, as I mentioned before, not everything I did was successful. I have to admit that I made a lot of mistakes at the beginning and I still make them now. However, by keeping track of my actions and the results of my actions, and by having a designated time to reflect on them with my supervisor who taught me what I did correctly and incorrectly, I found ways to do better the next time. I believe this habit of reflecting on myself will be of great help no matter what I do in the future. Furthermore, being able to make mistakes was a precious experience; I will be a better person in the future through those experiences.

– Sohyun Shin ’15

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My First Week at PlayRock

This summer I am working as an intern for PlayRock in Seoul, South Korea.  PlayRock is a theater that aims to increase awareness of discrimination in society through the art of theater and seeks to utilize the therapeutic value of theater. Through theater, PlayRockbrings attention to marginalized groups in society, and effectively brings the public’s attention to these groups and helps those marginalized people by means of drama therapy. Amongst marginalized groups, PlayRock mainly works with marginalized teenagers and also teaches theater classes for alternative schools. With these students, PlayRock produced a children’s play called “A Star and Us” which encouraged children to accept each others’ differences.

Since PlayRock works with marginalized people, PlayRock tries to be as accessible as possible for people who do not usually go to a theater. For example, PlayRock has performed on the street, at town halls and at local public schools. In this way PlayRock has lowered the barriers for local residents so that they can enjoy theater. In addition to this, every summer PlayRock tours and performs a play in rural towns where there are no cultural facilities such as a theater or museum. This summer PlayRock will tour Gangwon province, which shares a border with North Korea, with the teenage North Korean refugees.

At PlayRock I am working on the North Korean refugee theater project. I recruit participants, organize meetings with the organizations, conduct research regarding drama therapy programs, and most importantly, assist in the counseling sessions for North Korean refugees. Right now, I am focusing on contacting North Korean refugee organizations, schools, religious organizations and social workers that work with North Korean refugees to get advice on what I should keep in mind when I work with North Korean refugees. I have had great opportunities to meet North Korean refugees and have learned a lot about their experiences in South Korea. Many refugees have told me how much they hate it when people ask their opinion about political issues regarding North Korea and when people treat them as if they do not know anything just because they are refugees.

Besides recruiting, I am talking with refugees in order to tailor the program to their needs and interests. North Korean refugees do not usually have an opportunity to get an art education since all the educational programs for them are focused on vocation or standardized college entrance exams. While discussing this issue, I learned about refugees’ school life and, by understanding them better, I have started to build relationships with them. During this summer, I hope to build solid relationships, learn how to better understand marginalized people from different backgrounds, and also how to build trust with them.

Overall, I am truly enjoying my time at PlayRock and am grateful that I have the chance to work with great people. My supervisor has thoroughly trained me in communicating with marginalized people and how to prepare for counseling sessions. I also met interesting people outside of PlayRock by attending meetings for NPOs and NGOs in Seoul with my supervisor. Meeting various people who are working for civil society inspired me a lot and has helped me in building a network. I hope the connections I am building now will lead to greater conversations about my future career.

– Sohyun Shin ’15