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  • Sonja Lembke

Somewhere New – My Arrival in Scotland

Updated: Oct 14, 2020

Soon after I had received the message from Corbenic Camphill Community that I can begin my voluntary social year on the 1st of August as planned, the notice from the Friends of Waldorf Education with the date of the preparatory seminar followed. It took place from 13th to 22nd of July, which made me very happy because it meant that my voluntary year could begin just as planned despite the coronavirus pandemic.


The preparatory seminar from the Friends of Waldorf Education taught me so much, not only in regards to my voluntary social year but also for life. It started with ice-breaker games and opportunities to get to know the other participants. In the evening, we had our first daily get-together by the fire to talk about our expectations of the seminar. My wish for those 10 days was to develop a feeling of safety that goes beyond planning and organizing. The last few months have shown that nothing is safe no matter how well prepared you are. So instead of focusing on exterior aspects, I want to find the serenity within myself to be able to master every task that I am given.


In the following days, I got to know the other participants better and friendships were formed. Every morning, we learned about tools of connection, exercises that help us to be present and connect with the environment. Through different course units, we reconnected with our motivation for the coming year, concluded our schooldays, and learned about different aspects of social work like non-violent communication, forms of disabilities, curative education and social therapy, anthroposophy, discrimination, privileges and identity. In the evening rounds, everyone was encouraged to talk about the things that were on their mind. The last two days were dedicated to saying goodbye, whether that was to the seminar or our previous life.


The seminar made my gap year in Scotland become more real to me, which was scary but also exciting at the same time. I found new friends among the other participants and I am thankful for being a part of this group of such kind and accepting people. The seminar was a life lesson for me rather than just a preparation for the voluntary social year. I really feel like I can overcome anything now, especially with the boosted self-confidence that the people around me gave me.


Between the seminar and my departure was only one week. I still had a lot of packing to do and I wanted to meet my grandparents and my best friends one last time before going to Scotland. Both meetings were very emotional and when I saw my two best friends for the last time, I realized just how much our friendship means to me.


My journey to Scotland began in the morning of the 29th of July. My parents brought me to the airport and my dog accompanied us. As we parted, the feeling to know that I am not going to be able to see my parents for a long time was overwhelming. I flew with KLM from Hamburg airport to Amsterdam, where I had a transfer time of four hours, and from Amsterdam to Edinburgh. At the airport in Edinburgh, someone from the Community was so kind to pick me up. During the car journey, we talked a lot about the work in the Community. When I finally arrived at Corbenic in the evening, I was welcomed very warmly by the co-workers as well as the residents from my house.


Within Corbenic I was assigned to Mullach house, accommodating four residents at the top floor of the main house Drumour Lodge. On my first day, I was allowed to get up late and afterwards the house parent of Mullach showed me around the estate. I joined the pottery workshop after lunch, during which I already received a hug by one of the residents. In the following days, I learned about the aspects of community life by shadowing the other co-workers every shift. I got to know the morning and evening routine of each resident and soon I was allowed to perform the care myself.


On Saturdays, we go somewhere for an outing. Although the options are limited at the moment due to the virus, we were able to go to a café in Meikleour for my first outing and to a parc in Crieff the week after. Sundays are for relaxation and we usually play games or go for a walk with the residents. On my first Sunday, the other volunteer and I wanted to go for a walk on the Corbenic Poetry Path when suddenly one of the residents started screaming and went back inside. I was insecure at first, but the other co-workers told me that I don’t have to worry about it because it is normal behaviour. In order to better understand each resident, I read their folders which provided additional information about how to deal with them.


My first week was very exhausting because I worked every day from morning to night. Thursday and Friday are my days off and I used them to walk the Poetry Path and visit Dunkeld, the nearest city, which are both very beautiful. The landscape in general is amazing: Corbenic is situated just at the foot of the highlands and there is a river, too. During the trips on my days off, I noticed that I like travelling alone because it allows me to explore places at my own pace. My list of places to visit is already very long, but if you have suggestions, I would love to hear them!


All in all, the experiences I gathered in the course of my first two weeks at Corbenic were mostly positive and I am settling in well. Although their behaviour might be challenging sometimes, I get along with the residents. The other volunteers and co-workers are very nice and welcoming and I really enjoy their company. I like the pottery workshop and I even have the opportunity to play the piano (what more could you wish for?). I try to do my best and I am eager to continue learning. I am excited about what the future holds and I will keep you updated about my experience!

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