By Kim Gailey-Fitting
First of all, major props to you for taking the leap to simply register for the conference. That takes courage, and the timing of it all is very individual. I have some Korean adoptee (KAD) friends in my life who have zero interest in the conference, and that’s okay. The timing isn’t right for them, but you found KAAN and are making this happen, so that means the timing is right for you.
Go ahead and give yourself a day to settle in before the conference. When you arrive the day of, as I did my first time, you are tired from traveling and are already anxious and nervous about what’s to come. The nerves are inevitable, but giving yourself the time you need is important as the weekend goes very quickly. Get rest, settle in, and allow yourself to be fully present.
The conference is going to push you out of your comfort zone. I highly recommend attending your first KAAN by yourself, even though that may seem scary and daunting. However, being out of your comfort zone will actually become your comfort zone. I know that is a bit of an oxymoron, but trust me, by the end of the weekend, it will all make sense. Embrace the unknown. Embrace the newness. Embrace the uncharted waters that you’re embarking into. There is a lot happening over the weekend, and it will be overwhelming. For me, at first, just being around other Korean adoptees was overwhelming enough, but after a while, I realized I couldn’t get enough of the environment. I felt like I belonged. I felt comfortable. I felt at “home.”
Over the weekend, you are going to meet lots of new people, and while it can be overwhelming, I realized one thing – everyone wanted to be there and also appreciated being there. Coming into the weekend as a first-timer, I was worried about running into cliques of people who had known each other from before, but I found that they really didn’t exist, and even if there were groups who knew each other, they were always welcoming and included me in everything. One thing to remember: Do not forget to exchange information to keep in touch – because you will.
In conclusion, enjoy every moment, embrace the unknown, and allow yourself to feel all the feelings and emotions. Also, it is okay to take breaks and give yourself space. One KAD told me before going to my first KAAN that you should listen to your mind and body and be in tune with what YOU need. Allow yourself to ignore the little voice fueling the FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) syndrome. You don’t need to do anything and everything. That was probably some of the best advice I got – and it was true.
The KAAN conference is a lot. It will change your life. You will make new discoveries about yourself and your identity. You will connect with many people who you may think will move on after the conference and forget about you, but that won’t happen. Once you make connections, you won’t look back. Some, including myself, see the KAAN conference experience as a beginning rather than an end.
You are coming to a good place – a real, good, safe, inclusive space – and your journey may just be getting started.
Kim Da Hye Gailey-Fitting was adopted from Seoul, South Korea on September 8, 1993 at 5 months old. She currently resides in New Freedom, PA. After being homeschooled by her mother almost her entire life, Kim graduated in 2015 from Lebanon Valley College with her bachelor's degree in Early Childhood Education and a minor in Art History. She currently is a 3rd grade teacher in Baltimore, MD and strives to be a role model for her students in and out of the classroom as not only a Korean American but also as a Korean adoptee. Kim currently is working towards her master's degree in Early Childhood Education, as well. In her free time, she runs her own photography business (www.facebook.com/gaileyfittingphotography), enjoys riding horses on her parents' farm, attending concerts, and spending time in the great outdoors. After attending her first KAAN conference in 2022, a newfound passion and determination was ignited, and she cannot wait to become more involved with KAAN, KAD virtual spaces, and local spaces.