I am interested in knowing how did those of you who went to a seminary knew that was your calling? I was thinking eventually to attend an Orthodox Seminary for personal spiritual and educational gain without planning to become a priest. Is it still typical that people attend a seminary primarily to become priests? Has a number of those like me increased perhaps? ...You don't have to share just personal stories, but also those of others...I wasn't able to find many testimonies online...
Most people who go to seminary full-time are preparing for the priesthood. But there are also some people who are preparing for various forms of lay ministry or further study. There are very, very few who are there merely for "personal spiritual and educational gain." That's a very bad reason to enroll in a full-time degree program of any kind. If you are going to quit your job, move to a new place, and spend two, three, or four years in a degree program, you better have a real vocational end in mind. In the case of seminary, that typically means one of three things: (1) becoming an ordained clergyman, (2) finding full-time work in lay ministry, or (3) entering academia. The third option should only be entertained if you are extremely gifted in languages and otherwise a worthless egghead.
As for personal study in the here and now, do what the Church Fathers did:
(1) Attend church services. A lot.
(2) Learn the classical languages well.
(3) Read the Bible. A lot.
(4) Memorize the Psalms.
(5) Read a whole bunch of literature, poetry, and philosophy. All kinds.
In other words, be a Christian and a civilized human being. Then you can start studying theology.