Sunday, August 28, 2011

Back to School

So where I last left off, I had detailed my first day off of the campus and started living my life in Seoul. Here is a recap of my first full day at school and first weekend out and about. Here goes!

I was told to be at school around 8:20. When I actually start teaching, my first class begins at 8:30, so I'm going to try and get to school by 8:00 at the absolute latest, if not earlier than that. So Friday was my trial run for getting to school and seeing how long it would actually take me. I left my apartment around 7:45 and headed to the subway stop. Now the line that I live near, the green line, is one of the most used subway lines in all of Seoul. It makes a complete circle around inner Seoul, so it is very popular. Well the subway was PACKED! So I squeezed my way on, while being pushed and prodded from behind, and kept my hands and bag to myself. Personal space does not exist on the subway.

I ended up making my stop, which was only 3 stops away with no problem and continued on foot for about 10 more minutes to school. I ended up making the commute in just under 30 minutes, which is not that bad. In talking to some other teachers, they have about the same length of commute as well. Once I got to school, I went to the teacher's lounge and was greeted by Mrs. Kim and some of the other English teachers. I met two other teachers who it turns out are around to help make sure that I feel comfortable and taken care of. If I need anything, I can go to them and they will do their best to help me out. For instance, there is a laptop at school that I am able to use. Only problem was that all of the programs are in Korean. With one simple question, I was able to get them all re-installed in English. This set-up is going to work out just fine!

I spent most of the morning desk warming, but was treated to a surprise around 9:30 in the morning. Two students walked into the teacher's lounge with a big brown box. I didn't think anything of it since students are always coming in and out of the office to talk with various teachers. After the students left, I hear one of the teachers say "MICHAEL! MICHAEL! COME! HAMBURGERS!" At first, I thought it was them trying to be accomodating to my American self. When I reached the little table where the box was placed, I found 15 Whoppers from Burger King sitting on a plate with cans of Coca-Cola accompanying them. I ended up eating my first Whopper ever with some of the English staff, one of the vice-principals, and the Dean of Students. We chowed down and chatted for about 20 minutes.

Following my American morning snack, I was finally taken to my classroom by one of the other English teachers! My room is fantastically awesome! It is huge (probably about twice the size of my apartment) and will house 45 students with no problem. BTW...don't remember if I mentioned this in an earlier post, but my Grade 1 classes (aka Sophomores) will have around 45 students in each class. Therefore I will be working with over 700 students per week! There are 23 tables in the room and two chairs at each table. I also have a SmartBoard look alike (it's pretty much a huge touch screen TV!) and two white boards on either side of the SmartBoard. I also have my own office in the classroom and in the closet I found all 10 Season of Friends! You can only imagine my level of joy upon this discovery! I will definitely be working these DVD's into my lessons!

I spent the rest of the day meeting more staff and putting the finishing touches on my introductory lesson. I start teaching on Monday (tomorrow) and am ready to get going for sure! I ran through my lesson with Mrs. Kim and she absolutely loved it! I also started labeling my desks with numbers. It will be pretty much impossible to learn all of my students names. To try and help with that process, I am going to number each desk with the numbers 1-23. Then each seat will be assigned either A or B. So for example, table one has the numbers 1A in front of one seat, 1B in front of the other and 1 in the middle of the table. This allows me to call on students by addressing them by their seat or table number if I am having a hard time getting participation from the students. Obviously, I am going to try my hardest to learn as many names as possible, but this should work until that time comes.

Around 3:30, Mrs. Kim and I headed over to the Seoul Immigration Office so I could apply for my Alien Registration Card (ARC). This card is equivalent to a Social Security card in the US. Once I have this card, I will be able to get a cell phone and set up on-line banking. Plus it also gives me an identification number while I'm living here. We took the subway and then walked for about 20 minutes until we finally stumbled upon the office. We waited about an hour, during which Mrs. Kim gave me an impromtu Korean lesson. I am actually starting to be able to recognize many of the symbols and make out some words. Granted I have no idea what they mean, but this is a start! We applied for my ARC and then headed back home.

Once I left Mrs. Kim on the subway and made it back to my place, I made plans with a friend of mine, Steve, to meet up and try to do some exploring of Seoul. I also was able to get ahold of another friend of mine, Lauralea, and decided to meet up with her near Seoul Station. Unfortunately, Steve and I were never able to meet up, but I was able to see Lauralea. It was great to see a familiar face! We ended up eating at little bakery at the station and catching up on the events of the past few days! I made it back to my apartment around 11:15 and turned in for the night.

The next day, Lauralea and I decided to meet up at the Olympic Park to check out the sights and sounds from the 1988 site of the Summer Olympics. The park itself was neat. There are so many sculptures thoroughout the park that are modeled off of various countries that participated in the games that year. We ate at a traditional Korean restaurant for lunch and it was absolutely delicious! I had some dumplings stuffed with pork and green onion.

Following lunch, we continued our way through the park and came across the Olympic Hall. Outside, there was a group of people setting things up for a K-Pop concert. Now K-Pop stands for Korean Pop and it equates to the craze that swept America during the 1990's with groups such as Backstreet Boys, N'Sync, and 98 Degrees. The group performing later in the day was 2NE1 and the scene was maddness! There were girls milling around wearing masks of their favorite singer. Venders were handing out free juice, lollipops, and cotton candy. Lauralea and I ended up getting our pictures taken with some cutouts of the band members. It was quite a scene and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves!

Overwhelmed by all of the excitement at the Olympic Hall, we decided to  go check out Myeong-dong, one of the most popular shopping districts in all of Seoul. It was crawling with people and had pretty much any store that you could ever want. There were street venders everywhere and other random people trying to push their products on the shoppers. It was quite the scene, and I'll be heading back in the near future to do some more investigating.

Around 4:15 I headed back to my place to get ready for dinner. I was planning on meeting up with Steve (try #2), Amy (a girl from my orientation class and lesson group), and Belva (a girl that I went to college with at UNI). I once again failed to find Steve, so Amy, Belva, and I all headed to a small restaurant near the Daerim subway line, where I had bibmibap, and Amy and Belva had kimbap. Both meals were delicious and very filling. So far, I have been very impressed by the Korean food. Even though some of it has been spicy, I have been able to adjust. My spice level has increased, which has been a pleasant surprise. After dinner, we headed to Hongdae to meet up with some other people that we met at orientation.

We arrived at the Hongik University subway station and met up with about 25 other SMOE teachers. It was so great to see so many familiar faces and find out how everyone's set up was. We shared stories about our apartments, co-teachers, and schools and headed out into the craziness that is Hongdae. There were so many people and so many things to do. We ended up splitting up into two groups, with one group heading to go find food and the other group heading to go have a drink or two. I joined the latter group. We ended up at a bar called 6.9% Plaza and had an enjoyable time continuing to share stories and each other's company.

A couple of hours later, we headed back out onto the streets to try and meet up with the rest of our group. In the process, not only did we find the rest of our group, we also ran into about 15-20 other people from orientation. It was a large cluster of Westerners just standing in the middle of the street, trying to figure out what to do. We eventually split up and the group I was with ended up at a Belgian bar. Sadly, the metro in Seoul stops running around midnight and I really didn't want to take a taxi back to my place, which was on the other side of the river. So I headed out with a couple other people around 11:15 to make sure that I got home in time. I have since found other people that live near me, so I will be able to stay out later as long as I am with them and able to split a cab with them.

Today started out with me being able to really sleep in for the first time since I got here. It was glorious! I just lounged around my apartment for a while. I met up with Steve (finally!), Julia (from Australia) and Farhan (from London) for some food. It was very good. We ended up eating at a restaurant that was very exotic and meant for romantic couples. Obviously we weren't on a group date, but we had a great time just talking and sharing stories about our schools as well. Following dinner, Steve and I took the subway back to his place. He apartment is roughly the same size as mine, just slightly bigger. We watched CNN and got caught up on the latest regarding Hurricane Irene on the east coast, then headed out, looking to get a drink somewhere. Here's where the real fun begins...

We found a place that we thought was a bar, but it actually ended up being a Korean BBQ place. Not just any Korean BBQ place, but a traditional Korean BBQ, where you take off your shoes and sit on the ground. It was more than we were looking for, but ended up staying to for the experience. We had to order food and neither of us were really hungry, so we got the smallest plate of food that we could. The staff at the restaurant were so nice and came up (since we were sitting upstairs) quite frequently to make sure that we were doing ok and just to chat with us. We found out that the restaurant was owned by a family and had just opened 10 days ago.

The food that we ordered ended up being eel and it was very good. The waitress that was helping us out actually cut the eel up for us and coated it in the sauce. She did this for all 10 pieces that were included on the plate. It was surprisingly good. Even the tails. Steve and I ended up just sitting around for a while and chatting. Bad move. Our waitress ended up bringing us a bowl of free soup. Only problem was that we didn't really want to soup because neither of us were still hungry. We tried a little bit and then decided that we needed to make it look like we had tried it since they had brought it to us. So we started dishing the broth out into various bowls on the table and sticking the seaweed and onions inside some bigger pieces of seaweed that had been given to us earlier in the meal. Some may see this as rude...we saw it as being a necessity. We then made our way back to the subway, where we parted ways.

Tomorrow, I start teaching. My lesson is all ready to go and I am ready to hit the ground running. I plan on keeping a list of the interesting things that my students say and posting them frequently. here's to hoping that they keep me entertained and on my feet!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

All Settled In...

So it has been a while since my last post, with good reason...
Things have been insanely busy lately and I am going to do my best to recap it all...
This will be a lengthy post...

Thursday morning was the final day at Hyung Yee University. Everyone loaded up their suitcases and other luggage onto their respective bus. We all said our final goodbyes and made plans to see each other soon, then boarded our buses. My bus was headed to the Kang Nam district, which is one of the richer districts in all of Seoul. After getting lost a few times and having to ask directions about 5 times (by stopping our charter bus in the middle of the busy street and then backing up into multiple intersections), we made it to the district office.

I was met by my lead teacher, Mrs. Kim. We gathered my luggage and headed over to the school. Mrs. Kim is so nice and really sweet and we had a great conversation on the way to the school. I found out that the high school is an all boys school and, as she put it, "the number 1 high school in all of Seoul." There are about 2,000 students, grades 10-12. Now here in Korea, they do their grade systems a bit differently. They have three levels of schooling - primary (grades K-6), middle (grades 7-9), and secondary (grades 10-12). Within each level, there are various grades. So, for example, an 8th grader is a Middle 2nd Grader here in Korea. Sophomores are Secondary 1st Graders. So when Mrs. Kim told me that I would be mainly working with the 1st graders, I was very confused at first until she explained the system to me. Culture shock #1.

We arrived at the school (which is huge by the way - pictures coming soon) and I was immediately taken to meet the principal. I ended up having iced tea with both him and one of the vice-principals for about 20 minutes. The principal was super concerned that I was not going to like Korean food and kept telling my lead teacher to let me know that if I wanted more food to just ask one of the teachers to get me a sandwich and they would. I don't think he realized that I had been in Korea for a week and really enjoy Korean food, but his sentiment was well received.

Following meeting the principal, Mrs. Kim took me to the teacher's office and showed me my desk that I will be using for the year. There are about 25 other teachers that share this room, including the other 8 teachers in the English department. Also in this office is the other vice-principal, who is very nice but speaks little English. The other teachers in the office are really sweet and so far I get along with all of them.

The next stop was lunch in the school cafeteria. One of the nice things about working in a public school is that lunch is provided everyday for the teachers for free! I enjoy this aspect of the job very much. The teachers have their own cafeteria and when I walked in, all of the teachers that were already eating bowed. It was interesting walking into a room and seeing 18 adults bowing their heads as a sign of greeting and respect. I'm finding it hard to not wave at people, but I'm sure that within a few weeks, bowing will just become second nature. Culture shock #2.

After lunch, Mrs. Kim and another English teacher, Miss Choo, took me around the campus. The school complex is huge! There are six different buildings that make up the school. There are two main buildings that house all of the classrooms, each four stories tall. The gym, auditorium, library, and cafeteria are also their own seperate buildings. Surrounding the school are 5 tennis courts, 4 baseball fields, 6 soccer fields, and 3 basketball courts. Inside the gym is a driving range and a room filled with ping-pong tables. One of the gym teachers is one of the best amateur tennis players in the entire country and he offered to give me tennis lessons if I wanted them. I'm thinking about taking him up on his offer.

Mrs. Kim had to teach two classes in the afternoon, so I was relegated to what is commonly known around here as "desk warming." I pretty much just sat at my desk in the teacher's lounge and surfed the Internet for about 3 hours. We had to wait that long while my apartment was being cleaned. Once Mrs. Kim finished with her classes around 4:30, we left school and headed out to my apartment. My apartment is about the size of a college dorm room. It has a small kitchen, washing machine, bed, television, closet, desk, and a small bathroom. I like it and don't really plan on spending copious amounts of time here. I almost gave my land lady a heart attack because I walked into the main area with my shoes on, which is a definite No-No! I just wanted to drop my bags off! Culture shock #3.

The next activity on the schedule was to go and find the nearest supermarket, buy some bedding for my bed, grab some food, and figure out how to get to school. The supermarket turns out to be about 3 blocks away from my aparment, which is fantastic! I bought myself some basic food items and then headed to a bedding store. Mrs. Kim and the accountant from the school haggled with the store owner and eventually ended up purchasing myself a pillow, two pillow cases and a really nice blanket. Come winter time I will be also getting a conforter. Love this school!

With food and bedding in hand, we headed back to my apartment and dropped everything off. After storing everything, Mrs. Kim treated me out to eat. I live right behind a 15 story shopping mall, so we headed over there and ate at a really nice buffet place called Ashley's. It was delicious and had a nice mix of Korean and American food. Little taste of home, while continuing to try new Korean cuisines. Mrs. Kim and I had a great conversation and continued to get to know each other. She's super easy to talk to and I can joke around with her, which is a huge plus!

Last activity of the evening was to figure out how I will be getting to school every day. I can either take the subway or bus, so we decided to try out both. There is a subway stop about 1 block from my apartment. I ride the subway for 4 stops, get off and then walk about 10 minutes to school. Not too bad of a deal. The bus takes a little bit longer just because of traffic, so as long as the weather is nice, I'll be taking the subway. Mrs. Kim also bought me a T-Money card, which is used for the subway fare. It's super cheap to ride the subway (about $1.00 per ride), so I'm really excited to get to know this system better and become a expert subway rider!

Upon returning back to my apartment, I finally had a chance to relax and start to unpack. Or so I thought...

I went to go and plug in power strip and blew fuse. All of my lights went out and I was left in the complete dark. Great. Now what? In the basement of my building, my landlady and her son run a billiards hall. She told me that if I ever needed anything, I could just go down there and find her. Her son speaks a little bit of English, so I would have to communicate with him. Only problem is that when I went down there, they were no where to be found. I luckily found someone who spoke a bit of English and did my best to explain to him through large gestures and simple phrases what happened. He informed me that the landlady would not be back for about 2 more hours! Perfect.

I remembered that when I moved in the landlady told me that there was another native English speaker on my floor, so I decided to go and introduce myself and try to figure out where my fuse box was. Luckily he was home and showed me where the box was in the apartment. I went back to my apartment and switched my power back on. Thank goodness! I got all unpacked and hit the sack, exhausted from my full and eventful day.

I know this has been an extremely long post, so I'm going to wrap this one up. But I will write another one detailing my first full day at the school and first weekend in Seoul. Below are some pictures of my apartment! Enjoy!

View from the front door (off to the right is my kitchen and washing machine)

My bed and desk and closet

The bathroom (notice the showerhead in between the sink and toilet - feels like I'm showering in an alleyway!)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Korean Folk Village

Orientation is almost over...thank goodness! It has been a long and exhausting week of lectures upon lectures. The information has been very helpful and useful, so it hasn't been a comoplete waste of time. However, trying to get back into college mode has taken its toll on many of us. But it's not all classes and no play here. On Sunday, we took an EPIK field trip to the Korean Folk Village.

Korean Folk Village entrance
The village was a very interesting and awesome experience. It was really interesting to see how housing has progressed throughout the years. There were also lots of examples of traditional Kroean forms of entertainment. One of the first things that we did was go to the pottery house and decorate some pots. We didn't get to throw them, but had the opportunity to decorate them. We will be receiving our pots on Wednesday to take home with us.

Carving decorations into my pot
 After we finished up our pots, we made our way to a replica temple to witness a traditional wedding ceremony. While none of us knew what was going on, it was still interesting to see how weddings were conducted back in the day. After the wedding ceremony, we headed over to lunch! We had some seafood bibimbap, which was so good!

Seafood Bibimbap

After lunch, we were treated to a tour of the facility by a licensed tour guide. She had some really interesting insights into the village and how it was constructed. Included in the tour was a visit to their torture area and prison. It was pretty eye opening how the Koreans used to treat their prisoners and what types of torture devices they used.

Following the tour, we were treated to an equestrian show, traditional drum performance, and acrobatic tight rope walking. All three performances were very well done and really helped showcase traditional Korean customs. The equestrian show was probably my favorite solely because of the awesome tricks that the riders did while on the horses. From doing jumping off and back on tricks, to ending up riding the horse backwards, to shooting arrows at a target while on the horse, all of the riders were extremely impressive.

The last thing that we took part in was making a rice cake. We went to the convention center and took turns swinging huge hammers while pounding out the ricey dough that was made into the rice cakes. This was a really awesome stress relieving activity and our instructor was a real hoot to listen to, even though none of us really knew what she was saying. She was just so animated and into it that it made it enjoyable.

Getting ready to pound out the rice cake
Overall it was a really great and fun day. The sun was out for one of the first times since I've been here. It was really interesting seeing everyone's reactions to the "heat." I've heard so many complaints about the humidity, which has been maybe around 50%, if that. So after the miserable summer we had back in Iowa, this has been a great relief. When I tell others of where I'm from and what summers are like, their looks are fantastic and has been one of the highlights of my time here so far.

Yesterday (Monday) we FINALLY received our placements and found out what school we were going to be teaching at. I have been placed in the Kang Nam district of Seoul. I will be teaching at the Seoul High School. This is a huge deal. The Seoul High School is one of the most prestigious high schools in all of Seoul. Plus, Kang Nam has been described as the Beverly Hills section of Seoul. I'm so excited to move off campus and into my apartment and really get settled in. This whole suitcase living situation has run it's course to say the least.

Only one more day until the real fun begins...

Friday, August 19, 2011

Medical Exam...Check

Physicals are a good time...
Being poked and prodded in various areas is just how I want to spend my first full day in Korea...
It's a good thing that my wish was granted...

When we were given our nametags at registration, we were also assigned to various classes (1A-6B). I was assigned to class 5-B, meaning that I had to be at my medical exam at 10:20 am. This was an awesome time as it allowed me to sleep in and start to restart my internal clock.

So 10:20 rolled around and I made my way over to the Multimedia Building, Room 411. There, we signed in and were given an overview of what to expect with the exam.

Pee in a problem
Height and weight...fantastic
Sight and color blindness test...passable
Blood draw...bring it on
X-ray in the back of a janky van...suspicious

So after our overview, we were directed to the restroom, told to fill our cup up to the line, and then proceeded to give our specimen to a guy sitting in the restroom. That has got to be one of the worst jobs - handling other people's pee for about 4 hours straight. Pretty sure he didn't wear gloves, which really bothered me. But hey, at least I didn't have to pour it into the test tube!

Following the drop-off of my sample, I was ushered into another room. Here they took my height, weight, and measured my chest. The height/weight machine was pretty neat - you stood on the green footprints on the base and a little plank came down from the top of the machine, bounced off of your head, and returned to the top.

Once those measurements were taken and recorded, the eye test was the next thing on the list. I covered up my right eye first and the nurse had me read some of the smallest letters ever invented! There was one row that I swear they were just dots. It seemed that any number I said was the right one. She gave me the same numbers for my left eye as well. Needless to say I passed with flying colors! It also turns out that I'm not color blind, which is phenomenal!

Next stop was the blood draw room. This was by far the easiest and most pain free blood draw that I have ever been subjected to in my life. I of course didn't look as she was drawing my blood, but I didn't even know that she had put the needle into my arm. These nurses need to teach their technique to the American nurses!

Last stop was the x-ray. We had to go outside to the back of a bus to accomplish this task. Once you got into the x-ray area, the nurse had you spread your legs over a black box and then press your chest up against the x-ray machine. She then proceeded to smash my shoulders flat up against the machine and wrap my arms around the back of the machine. Awkward. Two seconds later, I was free to go.

Around 3:00 we were taken to the Art and Design Hall for the opening ceremonies. We were once again broken up into our classes and enjoyed the entertainment provided by the Moonil High School drumming team. They performed a traditional drum routine called Sa Mul No Ri. It was phenomenal and definitely managed to wake all of us up. We were then welcomed by the EPIK head honchos and the staff that we will be working with this week. After a few more speeches and talks, we were dismissed to go eat and then enjoy the rest of the night. I ended up staying in a falling asleep around 9.

Today we started our lectures. The topics covered today included "Making English Comprehensible", "After School and Vacation Classes", and "Working with a Co-Teacher." Before our first lecture, we were told what level we would be teaching this year. I have been placed in a high school and couldn't be happier! There's also a high probability that I may be moved to a middle school placement around February. The government is trying to remove the English teachers from the high schools because high school students in Korea are so focused on their KSAT (Korean College Entrance Exam). So that could lead to me being moved, which would be interesting as it would give me the chance to see two different systems within the Korean school heirarchy.

Tomorrow's filled with more classes and Sunday we take a trip to the Korean Folk Village, so that should be a fun and interesting time. Pictures will follow that trip...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Safe and Sound

So I made it to Seoul in one piece! I had absolutely no complications flying, which made things so nice. I left Cedar Rapids around 10:15 am (and was surprised by my aunt at the airport - thanks Janet!) and landed in Chicago ahead of schedule (which always helps). We left O'Hare at 12:35 (as promised) and landed in Seoul at 3:55 (as promised). I flew Korean Air from Chicago to Seoul and had one of the best flying experiences of my life! Here's why:

1. There was ample leg room (even for a 6' tall guy like myself!)
2. Almost every hour, the stewardesses came around with a tray of orange juice to help quench your thirst
3. I was fed two very good meals (for airline food that is). Lunch consisted of bibimbap (a dish made up of rice, cucumbers, beef, seaweed, and various other vegetables - delicious!), seaweed soup, and a fruit cup. Dinner was pasta with veggies, a little side salad, a roll, and cake. Both very filling and good! Plus I also got honey roasted peanuts! Extra points...
4. Each seat had their own personal TV with about 80 different movie selections, over 200 albums of music to listen to, games, books to read, and a flight tracker. Needless to say I was thoroughly amused the entire flight.

It also helped that there was no one sitting next to me, so I was able to stretch out even more. We flew over the Arctic Circle and at one point you could see the ice floating in the ocean from the plane. Stellar!

Once we landed in Seoul, I breezed through customs (I don't think the lady even looked at my customs sheet), found my luggage (they came out together!) and exchanged all of my dollars for won. The next step was to meet up with the EPIK representative so that I could get on the bus to Kyung Hee University. This proved to be a bit more of a challenge because I went the wrong way out of the baggage claim doors and ended up having to double up my tracks to correct my mistake. So I missed the bus that was loading and had to wait another 45 minutes for the next one. But this turned out to be a good thing...

While waiting, I met another participant from Iowa. He grew up in Prairie City and was amazed when I asked if he went to PCM. I worked with two people that went to PCM at the Gallagher and he knew them both! What a small world. His name is Scott and he graduated from Iowa State in 2007.

At the baggage claim door near where we were sitting, there were about 50 professional photographers, 8 police officers, and various bystanders waiting patiently for something. We found out that a Korea actress was to be coming through those doors at any minute and everyone wanted to be ready for her entrance. When she showed up, the cameras flashed non-stop for a good 10 minutes. The odd thing was that no one made any noise. If this had been America, there would've been screaming and yellling. Guess that's just not the Korean way. The real commotion started when she went to go leave. All of the cameramen and bystanders swarmed her like bees to honey. It was a very interesting sight to see.

Finally, it was time for us to board the bus for our hour and a half ride to the university. We hit a little bit of traffic, but nothing too bad. We got to campus and all of the guys unloaded their luggage at the guys dormitory, got back on the bus and were dropped off at the registration site. We recieved a name badge, room key, bottle of water, towels, face towels, training materials, an alarm clock, and were placed in groups for Korean lessons. Obviously, since I know nothing except for hello, I will be put in the lowest level.

That's all that I've got for right now. Before I sign off, I want to leave you with a list of things that I have already experienced/learned at life in Korea:

1. Korean paparazzi is just as vicious as the American paparazzi
2. Catholic churches have a neon cross on top of them, annoucing to the city that they are indeed Catholic
3. Korean truck drivers tend to watch television while driving, usually having a sporting show of some sort on.
4. The dorm rooms here are small. There is no way that I would be able to live comfortably here. Plus the entire bathroom is the shower (there is not tub/stall). Weird.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Home Stretch

The day has finally arrived...
My last full day in the United States...
Today Iowa...Tomorrow Korea

After 4 1/2 long, agonizing months of unrest, it is time to take the next step and begin this next great adventure. Many people have asked me why I am taking this job halfway around the world in a country where I do not read or write the language. I simply tell them "Why not?" Plus there are some nice perks, including...

- 40 hour work week, but only 20 hours spent with students (other 20 spent planning lessons and other "teacher work")
- Government provided apartment that is fully furnished
- Rent free apartment
- Not having to pay income tax
- No car = no gas, maintenance, insurance, registration payments
- Experiencing a culture that is night and day different from the one here in Iowa
- A chance to meet teachers from all over the world (like Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and the United Kingdom)
- The opportunity to travel around Asia and visit countries that very few every visit
- Most importantly, a chance to grow and mature in an environment that is unfamiliar

I look at this as the next step in my life. I'm moving out of my parent's house (after a year) and moving into my very first apartment. Yes, that's right. I have never lived in an apartment prior to this job. I'm excited to have my own space and in charge of providing for myself. The growing up process may be one that many fight (and I'll admit, I've been on that train a couple of times), but if I've learned anything over these past 24 years of life, it's that I can do anything I set my mind to.

Add "moving to a foreign country" to that list.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Korea, Here I Come!

Move over lazy, monotonous summer...
Hello crazy new adventure!

I finally received my contract to teach English in Seoul, South Korea today! I will be heading over to Seoul in a week, leaving from Cedar Rapids, connecting through Chicago, and finally landing in Seoul next Wednesday!

This opportunity came about thanks to the teacher fair at UNI held in March. I've always wanted to go to South Korea and EPIK (English Programs in Korea) had a booth set up at the fair. After wandering around the union ballrooms for what felt like hours upon end with no real job prospects, the EPIK booth caught my attention. The representative was very informative and really sold the program. Being the traveler that I am, my interest was instantly piqued and I decided to further pursue this opportunity.

Over the past few months, I have been filling out applications, making lesson plans, interviewing with EPIK representatives in Korea, getting my criminal background checked on all possible levels (still clean!), and getting more stamps put on documents than I even knew were available. Finally, at the end of June I had all of my documents in line and was able to send them off to my contact person in Chicago, who sent them to Korea to start the contract process.

So, after 4 1/2 months of anxiously waiting to find out what I will be doing in the fall, it has all FINALLY fallen into place.

Peace out America...
An nyoung ha se yo Korea!

PS - I will publish more details about the actual job itself in an upcoming post!