From Korea to Lexington — and Everywhere in Between: Resident Spotlight on Sangmie Schellstede

September 7, 2018

Before moving to Kendal at Lexington in December of 2016, Sangmie Schellstede lived all over the world. Born and raised in Korea, she came to America as a young professional to attend graduate school. She went on to complete two masters degrees — in East Asian studies from Harvard and in International Education from NYU.

It was Sangmie’s Harvard degree that eventually facilitated the first meeting with her future husband, William “Bill” Schellstede. Bill was working in Korea when the two met at the annual meeting of the Harvard Club of Seoul. Today, the couple has been married more than 50 years.

However, if you ask Sangmie about how they ended up at Kendal, she’ll tell you, “It’s a very long story.” With Bill working in international health, the couple found themselves frequently moving from country to country. First India, then Costa Rica, then Liberia, Belize and Sri Lanka, followed by a brief move back to America in the New York area, then abroad again to spend four years in Bangladesh.

“My professional life was very difficult during those years,” Sangmie remembers. “Except I did have a teaching position in Bangladesh.” She taught English as a Second Language at the American International School in Dhaka and raised their two children.

Finally, in 1984, they returned to America for good — at which point, Sangmie says it felt like her career officially started. “I taught Korean at the State Department School of Languages, and at Duke and Harvard I worked as a freelance interpreter for international visitors and dignitaries,” she says. “I had three assignments at the White House as a Korean/English interpreter for the presidents of Korea and the first ladies.”

After years of world travel and an impressive professional life, it’s no surprise that Sangmie and Bill had a difficult time deciding where to spend their retirement years. They searched for the right community for about two years, touring facilities in D.C., Virginia and North Carolina before deciding on Kendal at Lexington.

“It’s a beautiful setting,” Sangmie says. “I love all the mountains all around and the flowers and butterflies everywhere when I take walks.”

With her own interesting backstory, Sangmie also says she values the diversity at Kendal and the Quaker tradition. “There are lots and lots of interesting people with interesting backgrounds and they’re all very friendly and very helpful, including the staff.” she says. “I like the other residents here very much.”

Plus, even for someone who has traveled the world, she’s yet to be bored at Kendal. “There are all kinds of concerts, lectures, dance performances and interesting programs for all the residents to enjoy. There is also transportation to nearby concerts and museums,” she says. While she hasn’t yet taken advantage of the opportunity to audit a class at one of the two nearby colleges, Sangmie says she hopes to one day. “It’s just a very peaceful and quiet place.”

One thing’s for sure: after a lifetime of moving around, the Schellstedes are officially home.