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  • Writer's pictureSonja Lembke

Settling In – Between Homesickness and Excitement

Updated: Oct 14, 2020

It has already been two months since I arrived in the Corbenic Camphill Community in Scotland for my voluntary year. Through completing the shadowing shifts in my first week, I earned the basic knowledge to perform care and work independently. I could enhance my skills during the following weeks and after two months now, I feel quite confident with the routines of the Community life.

In addition to the practical introduction to the work at Corbenic, I completed an online training, consisting of multiple courses about food hygiene, allergy training, adult support and safety, and safe administration of medication. I was shown the individual medication plan of each resident and allowed to administer their medicine soon afterwards. Finally, I will continue to gather more knowledge through practice. The emotional aspect of settling in, however, was not that consistent, for there were many ups and downs.

I have already encountered many challenges during my first two months. Barely two weeks in, there was a fire alarm at 2.30 in the morning. I was alone with the residents because the only other volunteer in the house went on a holiday. The residents cooperated well and I had no trouble getting everyone to the fire assembly point safely. Luckily, it was only a false alarm. After this very stressful night, I thought I had already mastered the newbie-trial. How very wrong I was. On a Saturday morning shift with another volunteer, a resident went missing. While the other volunteer stayed with the remaining residents, I searched the whole Corbenic grounds. I turned every stone but I still could not find her. I felt so bad, already panicking about any legal consequences I might face. When I eventually came back to Mullach, my co-worker informed me that the resident was back. Apparently, she had left the estate and had been found by people from outside Corbenic. I was so relieved, but the tenseness and guilt did not pass until a few days. There have been other minor incidents that created stressful situations. Apart from that, I had difficulty with one of the residents accepting me. I could literally say the exact same thing as my co-workers but she would only listen and talk to them. I consulted my co-workers and they said that they had had the same experience when they had been new. That calmed me and over the course of the last few weeks, the situation has improved.

It was during and after those challenging situations that the homesickness used to creep in the most. Especially during the first month, after the excitement of new impressions had subsided, I missed my family and friends a lot. I was really sad on my mum’s birthday at the end of August because I could not celebrate witch my family. I notice, however, that the intervals in which the homesickness occurs get bigger. Music-wise, I released my very first EP “Ways” on the 20th of August. Despite this big step as a singer/songwriter, I was not able to sing in the Community until recently. I did not want to bother the people around me and I was very anxious about residents coming into the room, because that was what they did when I was only playing the piano. The more time passed, the unhappier I got because singing is an important emotional outlet for me. After seven weeks, I finally plucked up the courage to sing freely (locking the room helped). After being a little rusty, I can hear improvement in my voice and I aim to fit regular singing into my schedule.

I could already participate in some Community activities. Since we cannot visit the Dunkeld Cathedral for the weekly worship due to the coronavirus restrictions, we sometimes hold our own offering service. We listen to bible verses, sing, and receive a blessing while maintaining a safe social distance. One day, Corbenic hosted a performance of the Adventure Circus, a circus group that showcased acrobatics and comedy. It was a nice diversion from everyday life and the residents loved it. We also had “The Great Corbenic Bake Off” which was such a big deal that a resident from another house came and spied on our cake. My personal favourite was our own Corbenic Highland Games. Usually, the Community would watch the Highland Games taking place in the surrounding area, but since they got cancelled, the staff organised a Highland Games festival solely for Corbenic. The residents and co-workers, patriotically dressed in kilts, tartan hats, and Scotland scarves, could take part in all sorts of mini-games. In different places across the Community, each house could prove themselves in Water Relay, Wheelbarrow Race, Can Skittles, Tug O’War, Sack Race, Poetry, and Welly Potato Game.

Since I arrived here, we got two new volunteers for Mullach so that our house is full now. One of them is my new roommate with whom I get along very well. At first, I thought that sharing a room might be a problem for me because I value my own space, but I got used to it rather quickly. I also had the opportunity to get to know people outside of Drumour Lodge through a few gatherings. It is very interesting to meet so many new people from different countries (although a lot of them come from Germany as well).

I spent most of my days off going on outings. Although it is difficult to get a lift to Dunkeld sometimes, I managed to see quite a lot in two months: I walked the Birks of Aberfeldy, completely drenched by the rain; I went to Pitlochry and visited its little shops; I took pictures of the beautiful Loch Tay in Kenmore (one of which is the photo to this blog entry); I went to our Corbenic café and shop in Dunkeld, offering sustainable body care products and organic groceries; I walked the Hermitage and saw its waterfalls; and I have been to Perth multiple times, to set up a Scottish bank account (that alone took three sessions), go to the Black Watch Museum, walk in the North Inch park, buy a Highland dress and eat in a vegan café. Travelling is probably my favourite part about being in Scotland. Until now, I have stuck to the surrounding area, where I can go by bus, but I already got my 16-25 Railcard to travel farther in the future. I hope that I can put all my travel plans into action despite the virus.

After two months of living and working in Corbenic, I feel completely settled in. I am very happy with my house and I enjoy living and working with my fellow co-workers and the residents. There are and will always be challenging situations but I can learn from them and deal with them better in the future. I already became more independent as a person and improving my English brings me joy every day. The homesickness gets better and I am excited to continue travelling!

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