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!

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EPIK Apartment Tour

Woo! I’m on a roll. Thanks three day weekend! Here is just a quick video of my apartment. It is not well shot and definitely not edited, but it should give you an idea of my housing situation.

If you have any questions, let me know in the comments!

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.

My Placement

I finally got my placement!  Almost two months to the day after my documents were approved by my EPIK coordinator, he emailed me with my placement results.  People weren’t lying when they said this was “The Big Wait.”

Well, drumroll please…

I am officially moving to Busan!

While my initial preference was Seoul, as it is for many, I am happy with Busan.  I really wanted to be in a larger metropolitan area, and Busan is the second largest city in Korea after Seoul.  Applying to EPIK, you can truly end up anywhere, even in rural areas.  I don’t particularly enjoy rural settings, so I am beyond thrilled to be where I am.  Korea is a small country with great transportation, so I know that I will be able to visit Seoul on many occasions.  In addition, Busan has so much to offer on its own.  I can’t wait to explore and learn.

I kind of thought that if I was not placed in Seoul there would be a good chance I landed in Busan.  Busan has slightly higher requirements than other cities and provinces.  They require that you are either a certified teacher in your home country or took a TEFL course that had a 50 hour in-class component.  I am not a certified teacher, but I have my master’s in linguistics with a specialization in TESOL.  Due to this, I have a ridiculous amount of in-class hours.

I am so relieved to know that I am one step closer to officially being in Korea.  I cannot wait to arrive in Busan and start experiencing the city properly.  Maybe I will even learn to like seafood!

A picture for reference:

EPIK Spring 2019 Timeline

I know there are a ton of these out there, but I figure one more timeline can’t hurt.  The following is a timeline of roughly the dates that I completed the necessary paperwork.  I also included what everything cost me since it can add up pretty quickly, especially if you are paying to have all of your documents expedited.

I started pretty early because I knew that I was going to apply for the Spring 2019 term and because I had time in May and June to worry about all of the paperwork.

May 10: Got copies of diplomas (Bachelors and Masters) notarized (free at my public library)

May 11: Sent notarized diplomas to Secretary of State for apostille ($1 for each apostille plus return postage)

May 22: Asked two recommenders for letters of recommendation

May 31: Received first LOR

June 11: Received second LOR

Sometime in June: Requested sealed transcripts from both universities (free from both universities)

July (don’t remember the date): When Spring 2019 Application was available, began filling it out

July 31 (August 1 in Korea): Submitted application direct to EPIK at midnight Korean time

August 2: Received email from EPIK that application was received

August 24: Got fingerprinted at the police station and mailed out fingerprints to the FBI ($15 for fingerprints, $18 for online CBC application directly through FBI)

August 30/31 (I can’t remember): Received email saying my application was approved and to schedule my Skype interview

September 3: Skype interview with EPIK at 9:05 PM EST

September 5: Received CBC PDF via email.  Emailed CBC to Monument Visa to be apostilled ($87.75 for apostille and Priority Mail)

September 10: Received email saying I passed my interview

September 11: Received apostilled CBC via mail.

September 14: Received letter from program coordinator about in-class hours for TESOL specialization

September 17: Mailed documents to EPIK via UPS ($97.55)

September 21: Documents received by EPIK office in Korea

October 8: Received email from EPIK coordinator that documents were in order and in line for recommendation

Now, I’m hopefully nearing the end of The Big Wait.  I am just patiently (not so patiently) awaiting news of my placement.  Hopefully sooner rather than later.

 

Welcome to My Adventure

This blog is for me to document my time spent in South Korea as an EPIK teacher.  I want to be able to look back at this point in my life and remember what I was thinking and feeling.  I don’t want to forget anything about my time abroad or the process leading up to it.

Beyond this blog being for myself, it is also for my friends and family to keep up with my life in South Korea.  I hope that this blog will help them feel close to me even though I am on the other side of the world.  I want to bring everyone along with me for the ride.  In addition, hopefully this blog can be informative to anyone who stumbles across it.

Let the adventure begin!