As we all know, SIWA is Seoul International Women’s Association, but it is so much more than that. Furthermore, we all come to SIWA from different backgrounds and look for different things in SIWA. In my case, I joined SIWA after already having spent 15 years in Korea. Now into my 16th year with the last year of that being a proud member of SIWA, I want to share with you what SIWA means to me. I also hope it will cause you to take a moment to reflect on what SIWA means to you.

Many of us spend our lives growing up within a small number of communities – that of our childhood and our adulthood. We work with a small group of people, socialize with the same friends, and rarely step out of our comfort zones. Then becoming an expat can be quite a shock to the system as our support networks are suddenly gone. On top of that, being a long-term expat means that many friends we make in various places enter and leave our lives. It can be hard to feel we are on stable ground. Just when we feel we have made a friend we can trust and confide in, they (or we) are moving again.

However, to look on the bright side, I have begun to see this as a life of opportunity.

With social media, no one ever truly leaves you, and staying in touch is easier than it has ever been. When I first arrived in Korea in 2003, there was no Facebook with groups to give advice and share problems, and no Skype with which to call home for free when I was homesick. The only contact I had with my family and friends in the UK was by email or purchasing pre-paid phone cards. I certainly have no nostalgia for a return to such times!

Therefore, those we meet these days can be friends for life no matter where we are in the world. The women of SIWA spread a network of friendship and support throughout the city but take it with them to other places, too. 

Joining SIWA was the opportunity to meet a wide range of women that I might otherwise not have been able to meet in Seoul. That’s worth the membership alone! As time passes, I fully expect the meaning of SIWA to evolve for me. At times, it will mean one thing and at other times another. I also hope that I will be able to add to the following list as time goes by.

For me, SIWA has multiple meanings.

  • It means meeting a group of women who are strong, powerful, and admirable in their own ways.
  • It means meeting women I can learn from, look up to, or simply be in awe of.
  • It means being a part of something meaningful where those less fortunate than us are helped and not ignored.
  • It means trying new activities I would not normally be able to try, or even consider trying.
  • It means exploring a new area of Seoul that I have never been to before and finding new ways to appreciate this country.
  • It means being part of a community -something which is so hard to find these days.
  • It means enriching my own life and, by extension, the lives of others.

I think now, more than ever, it is essential that we step out of our comfort zones, do things we have never considered doing, listen to those we might otherwise not hear, share our individual experiences and life stories with others, and most of all support each other. SIWA helps us do all of that and more.

I only wish I had joined SIWA earlier.

 

Please add your comments below and share what SIWA means to you.