Six Months in Korea

This post is a tiny bit late, but better late than never, right? I am officially into the seventh month of my EPIK contract now. Looking back, time went by pretty quickly overall. It is crazy to believe that I have been here for half a year. Since it has been that long, I want to talk about my impressions of living in Korea and working for the EPIK program thus far.

The Good

  1. There is so much available in Korea, especially a large city like Busan. There are many coffee shops, grocery stores, clothing stores, restaurants, etc. For the most part, if you want it, you can find it. A lot of times without even needing a car or public transportation. That is an extra win for me as someone who dislikes driving.
  2. It is easy to get around. Following my first point, I don’t like to drive. I don’t have a car here so I can’t anyway, but a car is mostly unnecessary. Between the subway and buses, there is always a way to get where you need to go. If you are in a rush, taxis are plentiful. If traveling around the country is your preference, there are multiple train options for you to pick from. Even better, these are very easy to navigate.
  3. The opportunity for new experiences. In Korea, I have visited a beautiful temple, seen amazing city views in both the daytime and at night, tried food I never would have in the U.S. (chicken feet, spam, bingsu, etc.), and been to the beach more than I ever have in the whole time I lived in America. All of this and more happened in the first six months, so let’s see what new experiences I have in the following six months.
  4. All of the people I have met. I have made some amazing friends, have fun students, and nice coworkers. I never would have met these people if I didn’t come here (obviously). Having good people around you makes the transition to living in a new place easier, and makes it easier to stay.

The Bad

  1. Sometimes I don’t feel like an adult. It can be frustrating when things that are easy to handle at home are difficult here because of the language barrier. Need a dentist? How do I find one that speaks Engish? What is this notice on my door from the gas company? Need to ask my co-teacher. Banking? Don’t get me started.
  2. Last minute changes and lack of communication. This is something that happens at work. Many times, it is referred to as the “Korean surprise.” It is definitely a surprise. This can make work and planning for classes frustrating. You think you will have a class and all of a sudden it is cancelled. That lesson you planned is not needed. You thought you had a free period? Nope. You are teaching the next two periods this class you have never had before. Can you find a game in 20 minutes? Your after school class should be like this. Five weeks later I’m told the students don’t like it. Make it more fun. What do you want from me?
  3. Some things are expensive. In general, I find the cost of living here quite good. Utilities are cheap, my apartment is free, I don’t need many groceries because I get lunch at school. However, sometimes I want fruit or vegetables but I am not willing to pay 12,000 won for too many grapes that I can’t eat as one person. What a waste. Once I’m back in the States, I definitely want fruit and vegetables. I know, I know. Crazy.
  4. Missing the comforts of home. Korea obviously has everything you need, but some things are a little different from what I’m used to.
    • I want an oven. Cooking is difficult because sometimes I need an oven to make what I want, and I don’t have the kitchen space for a small toaster oven.
    • I want a real shower. I don’t hate Korean bathrooms, but I really miss American bathrooms with a shower stall and counters with cupboard storage.
    • I miss my friends and family (and cats). This one goes without saying. The 12/13 hour time difference can be annoying and Kakao and Skype are not the same as in person interactions.

Overall, I am happy in Korea. There are good days and frustrating days like always, but life here is good. It is still amazing to have the opportunity to experience living away from home and fully immerse in another culture. I am very grateful that I am having this experience and cannot believe it is halfway over.

Here is to the second half.

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Summer Camp

Well, I did it. I have survived the first semester of school and two weeks of summer camp. I am currently sitting at my desk waiting for the clock to change to 4:30 PM so I can officially start my summer vacation.

Summer camp really was okay. It was done by noon, there were smaller class sizes, and I could pick a fun theme for the week. It allowed me to be a little more creative and see the same students everyday. This was a big change from the regular semester.

How summer camp worked for me. I had two weeks of summer camp, 5 days at my main school and 5 days at my second school. I ran the same camp for both schools. There is no point in creating two completely different lesson plans,, especially since both of my schools basically gave me free reign to decide what I wanted to do.

I decided to do a detective camp. I thought it would be fun to solve a crime because I have always liked mysteries. I think that it went well. I used a camp that someone shared online, and while I liked it, I think in hindsight, I would have made it more interactive. I think there was too much sitting and asking questions. Oh well. Live and learn. When it is time to make a winter camp, I will keep that lesson in mind.

All of the students that came were very nice and lovely. There were no problem children like there can be in regular classes, so that made teaching and classroom management much easier.

At my main school, I brought lunch for three days, and then went out for lunch with a friend on the other two. As the school is closed, most teachers and the lunch ladies are on vacation, so this means there is no school provided lunch. That was fine with me. I enjoyed getting a chance to leave the school.

At my second school, though, lunch was a little different. My second school had more classes going on so there were more students around. After all of the classes ended, students and teachers got together to make and eat lunch. This was a nice surprise for me. I was planning on bringing lunch everyday to my second school as well. Instead, I got to eat meals like kimchi fried rice and tteokbokki. Delicious!

The day after camp can feel long as you are still in school until 4:30. There is no leaving early. It is a good chance to start planning second semester lessons, but one can only do that for so long. I should have taken more advantage of the time that I had, but I do have four days of deskwarming coming up, so I will try to be more diligent then. At this point, my brain is very close to vacation mode.

Just 1 hour and 3o minutes more!

A Weekend in Seoul

What is this? Two posts so close to each other after I was silent for a month? I have time and I’m feeling inspired, so why not?

At the end of April, my friends and I went to Seoul for the weekend. It was fun and exciting and not at all enough time.

We left Friday night by KTX. The KTX is a train, and is the fastest way to get around the country. From Busan to Seoul is about 2 hours and 30 minutes. Not bad considering you are traversing a whole country. The KTX was comfortable. We had assigned seats so there was no worrying about where we were sitting. The station was easy to navigate, and we had no problem finding our train. We had the same experience coming home. Despite the size difference between Seoul and Busan Station, the whole process was easy.

The one difficulty (?) we experienced was the time of our trains. For the KTX, you can buy tickets ahead of time online or using the app, or you can buy them at the station. As it was our first time and we were unsure of how everything worked, we decided to buy our tickets together at the station. We had no problems buying tickets. The drawback of this was that we had to wait to take a later train than we wanted due to everything being full. It wasn’t a huge deal, but we had to kill time at both stations. It was much more annoying coming home as we all wanted to be home at a decent time on Sunday so were ready for work on Monday. That, unfortunately, did not happen. Next time, we all agreed to pre-purchasing tickets.

Once we actually got to Seoul, it was late. The only plan for Friday was to get to our accommodation for the night. For this trip, we did not do the typical hotel or hostel route. We stayed at two different jjimjilbangs. For those who don’t know, jjimjilbangs are public bath houses. We paid to spend 12 hours there. They have things like different sauna rooms and massages you can buy. There is a counter where food can be bought. In addition, you can sleep wherever in them. As you walk around, people are sleeping on any available floor space. It was definitely an experience.

Pros and Cons on Jjimjilbangs

  • Pros
  • Cheap
  • Cultural experience
  • Cons
  • Sleep on floor
  • Can only stay 12 hours
    • This meant we had to carry everything we brought with us all weekend

I think the next time I’m in Seoul I would prefer a hotel room with a bed. I’m glad we did it. I can say that I had that experience, but one weekend was enough for me. I did not like not having a place that I could leave my stuff. Even though I packed light, I got tired of always having my backpack on me. In addition, I did not get as good of a sleep on the floor as I would have gotten on a bed. I think this is important when you have plan on touring all day.

However, if you are looking for something super cheap, it is definitely something to look into.

Our first day in Seoul we went to Gyungbokgung Palace. This is a palace from 1395. It was much larger than I was expecting. To enter the palace, you must either buy a ticket or dress up in traditional clothing called hanbok. We decided to dress up and rented our hanbok from a small shop nearby. Seeing so many people dressed in traditional clothing in and around the palace definitely made one feel like they took a step back in time.

It was also very interesting to see the setting of Gyungbokgung. It is such an old, traditional structure surrounded by a very modern city in Seoul. While you can see that juxtaposition in Busan, I feel like it was much more pronounced in Seoul.

Seoul vs. Busan

I am not going to say which one is better or worse or which one I prefer. I don’t have an answer for that. First, Busan is where I live and I was just in Seoul for not even 2 proper days. That is not a fair comparison. In addition, Seoul was a trip, a mini vacation. I do want to talk about my observations of Seoul, though. There were definitely some differences.

Subway

Seoul is the largest city in Korea with Busan being the second largest. Still though, the discrepancy is large. This can be seen just by looking at a subway map. Both cities have great public transportation in terms of the subway. You can get pretty much anywhere. The extensiveness of Seoul’s system, though, is hard to comprehend.

Busan has 6 subway lines with 149 stations. Seoul has 22 lines and 716 stations. Yeah. That is a big difference. The Seoul subway was still easy to use. It is still well labeled, it just requires you to pay more attention. Because there are so many lines and stations, it is easy to go the wrong way or misread a map.

In addition to having more lines and stations, there is also more space. The trains were wider allowing for more people to ride at one time. It was always busy and we were always standing. Don’t expect to get a seat when you are on the Seoul subway.

I also found that we were transferring a lot more. It could have partially been due to where we happened to be going, but every time we got on the subway, we had to transfer to a different line. Luckily it is free, so money is not a concern. However, it does take time. To get from one line to another required a lot of walking and either stairs or escalators. Transferring in Busan is not such a process, and it does not have to be done nearly as often.

One last thing to not about the subway, my Cashbee card that I use in Busan did work in Seoul. I do not know if TMoney cards from Seoul work in Busan, though.

People

Besides there just being a lot more people in Seoul than Busan, there is also a much wider range of people. Of course you see foreigners in Busan, but obviously not near the rate you see Koreans. In Seoul, it seemed like everywhere I looked there were foreigners. I heard so many languages just walking the streets and sitting in cafes and restaurants.

It made me realize how used I was to seeing mainly Korean people. Coming from the United States and working on a college campus, I was used to a diversity in people and languages. I lost that moving to Busan. Now I only hear Korean. Seoul definitely presented more of that diversity I was used to, but on an even larger scale it seemed. It was almost startling to not hear Korean as I have become so accustomed to it. I was always surprised when I heard someone talking and I could understand them.

The City Itself

The last thing I want to talk about is Seoul itself. Busan is a large city. It has many tall buildings and busy areas. It has nothing on Seoul. We only saw a tiny portion of Seoul so much of the city could have a different feel, but where we were was always busy, there was always something to look at.

There were so many people, so many buildings, so many lights and sounds. I cannot really compare Seoul to another place that I have been. My friends and I can’t explain the difference between Seoul and Busan either. They just both are their own places with their own feels and vibes. Busan is comfortable for me. I live there, so the places I frequent, I know. All of Seoul felt new and exciting. I hope to go back again and again to see if the feel of the city changes as it becomes more familiar.

Overall, I enjoyed my time in Seoul. It went by too quickly. One weekend is not at all enough time to even scratch the surface. I am glad that I was able to go and experience it already. It is a trip to look forward to again in the future.

3 Months in Korea

Well, it has been awhile since I have written. Honestly, I was at a loss for what to write about. You would think that would not be the case as I am living in another country surrounded by a new culture, new people, new food, and new experiences. While that is all true, it is also true that life continues on wherever you are living. Maybe things are done a little differently, but the same things that I had to worry about in the U.S. I have to worry about in Korea.

The first month or so, my friends and I really got out a lot on the weekends and saw various sights around Busan. It was exciting and new and there was so much to take in. Slowly, some of that newness begins to fade. Not all at once, and not for good, of course, but enough that you don’t feel the need to constantly be doing something in the free time that you have.

We still do things, but maybe not as frequently or as big as we were. There are always places to see, but sometimes you just want to have a chill night in eating snacks and playing games. Sometimes it is more appealing to hang out and talk at a cafe than go to another tourist destination. This is, after all, where we live. We have time to be tourists. Sometimes, you want to be a resident, and sometimes you have to be.

On weekends, I have laundry to do and an apartment to clean. I have monthly bills that need to be paid. I get home from work and I am tired after having put in an eight hour day. These parts of being an adult do not go away when you move to the other side of the world. They are still there, and sometimes they are even more annoying. Until you know how to pay your bills, something that should be easy can be a pain in the neck. Until you remember you don’t have a dryer and really should have started that first load of laundry earlier, doing laundry will be annoying.

Now that the weather is getting nicer and it feels like summer is forcing its way in, I do want to get out more again. There is still so much to see and explore. I need to properly spend time on the beach, and I still want to take in those great views of the city from high above. These things will happen though. I still have time.

Sometimes, though, it can feel like there isn’t enough time. Three months are gone already. I both can and cannot believe it. Sometimes it does not feel like I have been here that long. I feel like I just stepped off of the plane tired and confused. Other times, on a rough day or when I am too tired, it feels like I have been here for too long. I constantly feel a sense of I am getting the hang of this and what the heck am I doing.

I feel successful because I figured out how to pay my electricity bill, but then I feel the overwhelming frustration when I can’t transfer money at the ATM and don’t know how to fix it. I am proud because I better understand things being spoken around me, but then I realize that I am not near as far in my Korean studies as I want to be despite living in the country.

So yes, living in Korea is great and amazing and fun, but it is also tiring and frustrating and annoying. It has its own charms and problems that it presents, just like any other country. I have enjoyed learning about and experiencing what Korea has to offer, and I know there will be much more in the coming months. Just like this post, I will go with the flow and follow where things take me.

Places to See in Busan

I have now been in Busan for two months. I am definitely more comfortable here now. I have a better idea of where things are and how they work. So, now that I have my bearings, I can talk about some places that I have been thus far. Of course, there are many more places I still need to experience, so that will be a future post.

Shinsegae Centum City Department Store

My first weekend in Busan, my friends and I visited the Shinsegae Centum City Department Store. It is the largest shopping complex in the world, and that was pretty easy to see. As my friend and I were trying to meet up with the rest of our group, we might have gotten turned around once or twice. There are multiple buildings and even more floors in both buildings. There are various stores that carry many different items at a wide range of prices. Even if you don’t like shopping, I recommend going. It is very cool to see.

Looking down from a few floors up.

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple

This was an incredibly beautiful temple located on a cliff overlooking the ocean. Walking up to the temple, you first walk through a path that encourages the buying of street food and little trinkets. Before the actual temple, there are statues of the different Chinese zodiac animals among other things. After that, there are many stairs and paths that lead you to different places in the temple. All the while, there is beautiful architecture and a breathtaking view to enjoy.

The temple

The one drawback to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is the amount of people. It is understandable that is is busy as it is a very popular spot, but be aware before you go. There are people everywhere!

The view

Gamcheon Culture Village

Another very cool and interesting place is Gamcheon Culture Village. This is an old village that came about during the Korean War for refugees. In 2009 artists decided to paint the village. Now it is a very distinct place in Busan for its history, set up on a mountain, and art covering most of it. And that art is very fun to look at. It is incredibly colorful and unlike anything I have seen in Korea thus far.

All of the houses on the mountain

While there are still residents that live their daily lives there, it definitely has a touristy appeal as well. Part of the area is lined with souvenir shops and stands to buy different foods.

Some of the artwork

More Places to See

There are definitely more places to explore in Busan but also in the rest of Korea. I can’t wait to spend the rest of my time here exploring all of them. For now, I think I have done okay finding these places.

One Month Down of Teaching in Korea – What Have I Learned?

It took time to adjust to a standard 40 hour work week.

This might sound crazy, but I had to adjust to a standard 40 hour work week. Before I came to Korea, I was a special lecturer at a 4-year public university in the United States. Due to the nature of an adjunct position, I wasn’t always working for 40 hours a week. My teaching hours varied by semester, and depending on the class I was teaching, so did my prep hours.

Now though, I am expected to be in school from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm Monday through Friday. I don’t mind being there and I don’t want it to sound like I am complaining, but it was an adjustment. Not just the amount of hours I am actually in school, but also the time, the makeup of my students, and the content were all things I needed to adjust to.

Time and Time Management

As I previously mentioned, my work day starts at 8:30 am. That is when I am expected to be in school at my desk. Classes start at my main school at 8:50 am and at my second school, classes start at 9:00 am. My schedule is different everyday.

  • Monday (second school): four 45 minute classes (2nd graders) and one 90 minute after school class (1st-3rd graders)
  • Tuesday (second school): two 45 minute classes (2nd graders)
  • Wednesday (main school): four 45 minute classes (1st graders and 2nd graders) and one 60 minute after school class (1st-3rd graders)
  • Thursday (main school): five 45 minute classes (1st and 2nd graders)
  • Friday (main school): one 45 minute class (2nd graders) and one 40 minute after school class (2nd graders)

This can make days and weeks go by fast or slow depending on the lessons I am teaching and the students’ behavior.

When I am not teaching, I am doing what is known as deskwarming. This is time when you are meant to be at your desk lesson planning for future classes or camps. However, I don’t find that it takes all that long to come up with lesson plans. Some can be more time consuming than others, but in general, I do not use that much time to lesson plan. As of right now, I am at least one month ahead for both my first and second graders.

When I’m not lesson planning, I try to keep busy with something (like writing this blog post). I am going to start picking up studying Korean again during deskwarming. My Korean lessons have fallen by the wayside in the month that I moved. I was too busy and too tired to give language learning the attention needed. Now that I feel more comfortable in my routine and in my place in both of my schools as well as Korea as a whole, I am ready to focus again.

On the other hand, when I was teaching in America, for a semester, I had a consistent schedule. Whatever class or classes I was teaching, they were at the same time with the same students Monday through Friday. I always knew what my day was going to look like and what lesson I was going to teach. When I wasn’t teaching, I could choose to work in the ESL instructors’ office, or I could go home and work there. There was more flexibility in terms of how and where I put my hours in.

If I knew I really needed to focus and get something done, I would go into the office because it was an environment that I strictly associated with work. If something wasn’t as pressing or I just really wanted to work at home, then I chose that option. Either way, I always made sure to get done what was needed.

Besides the consistent schedule, my start time varied semester to semester. I had classes that started as early as 8:00 am, but I also had classes that didn’t start until 1:20 pm. My last few semesters, I didn’t teach until the afternoon, so consistently waking up in the morning was difficult at first.

Knowing My Students

This leads me to the next thing I have had to adjust to: knowing my students. I mentioned previously that in America I had the same classes and the same students everyday. I do not have that in Korea. In fact, I only see each class once a week. It is impossible to really know and connect with my students. I do not know their names, and I can’t have any long conversation with them due to lack of time.

Some students just naturally opened up more than others back in the U.S., but there was still a chance to interact everyday and have a better understanding of the kind of student they were and what lessons and activities they responded to and what ones they didn’t. I was able to ask for their input and adjust things as we got deeper into the semester because I knew their strengths and weaknesses.

Here, some students are more willing to talk, but because I only see them once a week, there are not many opportunities to expand upon what I learn. This makes lesson planning more difficult as I don’t really get a chance to learn about my students or individual classes. It is too difficult to get a solid feel on a class when I only see them 45 minutes a week.

Middle School Students vs. University Students

I’m sure this is obvious, but there are glaring differences between middle school students and university students. Of course, there are similarities, but the differences are what I needed to adjust to.

Middle schoolers have energy, a lot of energy. They are loud, they are crazy, and they just want to talk to their friends. It doesn’t matter if it is in the middle of class, they want to talk. It is even worse in the 10 minutes between classes. Students are running and jumping and screaming in their classrooms and down the halls. It was so unexpected for me. Even in American middle schools students aren’t that loud and out of control.

Obviously, university students talk in class too, but not like Korean middle school students do. University students are generally calmer. They can sit at their desk for the entire class period and focus. They do not need to constantly be told to “be quiet.”

This has taken a lot of adjustment from me. In fact, I don’t think I am used to it still. It still shocks me how loud they get between classes, especially if I have two periods off in a row and have been sitting in the quiet. That 10 minute break and the noise that is sure to accompany it come out of nowhere.

It is not all bad. I am glad that they are still able to be kids and have fun with their friends. I am glad that they can find enjoyment during the long school day. I am just tired when I go home. I will never be able to match the energy of middle schoolers.

The Length of Class

This has been an adjustment, but not necessarily a difficult one. It has made me think a little bit more in terms of my lesson planning, but I don’t hate it. I also don’t love it. It depends on the day.

In Korea, elementary classes last 40 minutes, middle school classes last 45 minutes, and high school classes last 50 minutes. I teach classes for 45 minutes as I teach in a middle school. Duh. This is a stark difference to class times I am used to. At the university I taught at, I had classes range from 80 minutes to 100 minutes. I am used to planning long lessons and covering a lot of content. This is the nature of teaching in an intensive English program.

Thinking of lessons and activities for 45 minutes is something I am still working on. Sometimes my lessons are still too short and I find myself thinking on the spot what I can add or trying to extend an activity, and other times, I try to do too much in my allotted time. Lesson planning and teaching is always such a fine balance.

Motivation

It might not be fair to compare the motivation of middle school students to university students, but it something that I have to deal with. Motivation definitely changes the composition of the class.

My former university students, in general, were motivated to learn English. There are always going to be exceptions, but they usually tried and were in class because they wanted to be. They had a desire to learn the language so they came armed with questions and a willingness to learn.

Middle school students, on the contrary, are forced to be in school. They did not choose to go to school, nor did they choose to study English. Therefore, the motivation level of the class is wildly inconsistent. Some want to learn. They have a desire to speak English. Others see it as a complete waste of time. How do you capture the attention of a student who has no interest in the subject matter? You make it fun. How do you make it fun? Games.

Games in Class

In Korea, classes with the Guest English Teacher are meant to be fun. It is an opportunity for students to interact with a native speaker and be exposed to a new culture. Sometimes, I think I struggle with fun.

I do not have a huge library of games and fun activities to draw on yet. I have gathered some that look promising, but I have not tried them. Sometimes I tried to incorporate fun activities into my university classes, but that was rare.

In Korea, I teach conversation. This makes it possible to play games. In America, I mostly taught writing. Games were harder to incorporate. On top of that, there were objectives that I needed to meet. If students were not performing at the appropriate level at the end of the semester, they could not move on to the next class. This left little time for games.

Here, though, the only way to keep their attention is with something fun. And even then, some students are still face down sleeping on their desks. I feel like this adjustment is taking me the longest time. How do I make class fun? How do I keep their attention? I feel like I learn a little more after every class. Some things that work and others that don’t. However, some activities can be great with one class and bomb with another. It is a constant learning curve that I am on.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I enjoy both teaching jobs. They each present their own challenges and learning opportunities. Sometimes I want back the calm of my university classroom, but other times I see the excitement on the faces as they truly enjoy an activity we are doing in class. I think, in the end, a teaching job is the best when you feel like the students are enjoying themselves and learning. I have seen that in The United States, and I have seen that in Korea. For now, that makes adjusting to the differences a little easier.

My First Two Weeks

Well, I have officially completed my first two weeks as an EPIK teacher. What did those first two weeks look like? What are my thoughts on it? Oh, how can I organize them on this blog? Let’s try.

The first week was a combination of going into work nervous and confused and learning how each of my schools operated. I had to meet many of my co-workers that I had not met before the first day of school and desperately trying to remember their name and what they teach (I don’t have everyone down yet. I’m sorry. There are too many new people for me to remember.) Another important, maybe even more important, thing was meeting my students.

The first week had a lot of confusion on everyone’s part as the beginning of the school year tends to do that to most people. Schedules were changed and classes were cancelled. I met some of my students but not all of them. I was constantly being told about what classes I had that day and to ignore this schedule and follow that one. I just went along with it and did what I was told.

The very first day, I was at my second school which I had only spent maybe 5 minutes in the previous week. I knew no one, didn’t know what was expected of me, and had only been told to show up at 8:25 am. While this last minute information is the norm in Korea, for me, coming from America, was a change. This was even more nerve-wracking since I was in a completely new country starting a new job with new people I have never talked to. Starting anew job already creates a mess of emotions, so I was feeling those compounded by 100.

Despite all of this, my first day was fine. My co-teacher was very nice and helpful along with others on the staff. No one left me alone to flounder. I was introduced to the staff along with the other new teachers in the teacher’s room. Then I was introduced to the second and third graders on stage (I just had to bow when my name was announced, very easy. Some of my friends did have to say something, though).

Classes were spent giving an introduction lesson so my students could learn about me. In addition, we played a game so I could learn a bit about them and hear them speak in English so I could start assessing the English skills of both the class as a whole and as students individually.

Once I moved to my main school on Wednesday, it was more of the same. I did not have to go through opening ceremonies and introductions, but I did give my introduction lesson. By the end of the week, I was sick of myself honestly.

While deskwarming, I worked on lesson plans for future classes. At my main school I teach first and second grade middle schoolers, and at my second school I teach second graders. I am lucky that both schools use the same book, especially since it is a newer one. In addition, both of my schools pretty much let me run my classes as I want. I have control for the full 45 minutes. I use the book as a guide for topics and have four weeks to cover one lesson. Thus far, lesson planning has not been too much of a strain at all. However, it is an adjustment to plan a 45 minute lesson for middle schoolers as opposed to the 1 hour and 20 minute college level lessons I was planning back home!

The second week of classes saw the start of proper lessons. With the exception of a few classes that I did not have the first week (they got the into lesson), I started with my first lesson based on the book. I think they went okay. I am still learning about my students and their skills so there is still an adjustment period. My main goal is to expose them to English while trying to make it fun. I do not want them to dread my class or the thought of language learning. I think it is so important to have exposure to other languages and cultures, so I am making that my main goal for the year.

I also have two after school classes, one at each school. I had the first class at my main school and will start the after school class at my second school next week. They are more opportunities for the students to interact in English and have different experiences than in the classroom during the regular school day.

Beyond talking about teaching, I am provided lunch everyday. It is a great way to try a multitude of Korean food and form bonds with your co-workers.

So far, I really don’t have too much to complain about. I feel like everyday I gain a better understanding of what is expected of me. That is really all I need to feel more comfortable and secure in my role. Let us see what the remaining weeks bring!

EPIK Spring Orientation 2019 Field Trip

About halfway through EPIK orientation, we were taken on a field trip. This was an opportunity to learn more about Korea and Korean culture. In addition, we were FINALLY able to leave campus for a bit. That was very exciting as it was getting tiring just going to lectures on campus.

For our field trip, we went to the Chungju Marina. Here, we were able to partake in various activities, and we came away with many things to bring home.

Everyone’s schedule was different to accommodate for 350 people, but here is what my class’ schedule was.

First, we learned how to traditionally dye a handkerchief. There were Korean Masters there to help us out and show us what to do. They were able to show us how to create one of the patterns that they had displayed in the room, but we were also allowed to free hand it and do whatever we wanted. It was similar to tie dyeing. However, they used a kind of grass/plant in order to dye the handkerchiefs. Everyone took turns mixing the handkerchiefs with the dye and water. It was not a pleasant smell at all. After everything was sufficiently mixed, the Master in charge of our group took the handkerchiefs and ran them under cool water. We were then asked to remove the rubber bands we had used to create our patterns. After that, we had to shake them. We all thought it was to dry them, but apparently it was to help the color set. Everyone’s turned out very cool. The Masters chose someone’s who they thought was the best and gave them a dyed handkerchief as a prize.

Our second stop was to learn how to make traditional Korean snacks. After an introduction, we watched a demonstration on how to make the snack (which I cannot remember the name of. I’m sorry!) and were able to try samples. Then it was our chance to decorate using seeds, seaweed, and small apple slices. This was fun and easy to do. We also got a snack which is a bonus!

After learning about traditional Korean snacks, we had a chance to write wishes. We were taken to a room where we were asked to make a wish for the upcoming year. Once this was done, we took them to a spot out side where we were able to hang them. It was a very pretty spot and our first really nice day, so it was quite enjoyable to spend some time outside in the sun. Especially since I had just come from an Arctic freeze.

My class then was able to try the rowing machines. We were taught by a woman who was on the Korean National Team. She took her job very seriously, but she was also fun. After we were taught the correct form, we had a rowing relay. With teams of four, we were competing to see who could come in first. The top teams each won a prize. My team was one of the top, so we won something that I think is meant to be sit on. Especially if you are sitting on the ground.

We had a quick trip back to campus for lunch as there was nowhere that could feed all of us, and then it was back out!

Once we returned, we were given free time after we took a class photo. We took photos in front of a pagoda that is in the center or Korea. There was also a museum right there along with a park where you could walk along the water. It was a beautiful area and a good chance to just relax, take things in, and talk to friends.

After we had a chance to hang out, it was back to campus for dinner and Korean class. All in all, it was a fun day. We were able to get out and see a part of Korea we may or may not return to. We got to meet people who are dedicated to and love their craft, and we just had a chance to make some memories. The field trip is definitely a highlight of orientation I think.

EPIK Spring Orientation 2019

Hello! It’s been awhile, but I am finally kind of settled in. I just completed orientation and am now sitting in my apartment in Busan. This past week was crazy busy with a lot of information, so I am going to use this post to inform others, but also process everything for myself.

This year, EPIK orientation lasted eight days with the first and last day focused on arriving and leaving.

The first day we needed to be on the EPIK shuttle by 2:00 PM to reach the university where orientation was being held. Orientation was broken into two teams (1 and 2) with Team 1 starting on the 19th and Team 2 starting on the 20th. However, even though we were broken into two teams, all of us were going to Konkuk University Glocal Campus. This meant almost 700 EPIK teachers on one smallish campus. Ugh.

When we (Team 1) arrived on campus, we registered, received the key to our dorm room (roommates were chosen by randomly picking keys), and attended a class meeting. There were ten classes and they were broken down into placement. For example, there was a class for people going to Daejeon, four (?) classes for people going to Busan, etc.

Starting from day 2, we had lectures. These lectures covered various topics from Lesson Planing, Korean History & Culture, to Storytelling, and Learning Taekkyeon. These lectures (along with others) were attended on days 2-4 and 6. In the morning on day 3 we had the medical exam, day 5 we had a field trip (which I will make another post about), day 7 we presented our lesson plan demos and met with our MOE/POE, and on day 8 we left to meet our co-teachers and find our apartments and schools.

Overall the lectures were interesting and helpful. I think they found very personable lecturers which made what they were talking about more fun. My main complaint was that there were many lectures and they were back to back everyday. this made for long days. Our longest break during the day was for lunch.

The medical exam wasn’t a big deal. We were not allowed to eat after 10 PM the night before and no drinking after midnight. My class (because we were Class 2) had our exam early in the morning (7:10!). They check your height and weight, vision, blood pressure, hearing, blood, urine, and take an x-ray.

They provided breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and they provided a lot of food for each meal. I never felt hungry, even if there was one thing i was not a huge fan of. It usually ended up being a side dish. It was a great way to try different Korean foods and get a sense of what we like and dislike.

Our lesson demo presentation was done in pairs, and in some cases, groups of three. You had 15 minutes to present a 40 minute lesson to a group of your peers and a lecturer. It was not as stressful as some were making it out to be, I think. It was a good opportunity to get feedback from someone who knows what they are doing.

Overall, I enjoyed orientation. I met so many people and made friends with others going to Busan so I knew I would not be alone. It was a good way to ease into being in a new country. While we were thrown into things, we were not thrown into working. It felt like a quicker version of college with classes and dorm living again. Sometimes it went by too fast and sometimes it dragged, but I do think it was an amazing experience and I am thankful for the people I met and the EPIK staff for putting it on.