Well hello Korea. I left my nice and warm comfort of sunny California on the 17th to arrive and cool and chilly environment of Korea on the 18th. I think that my biggest culture shock that I’ve experience so far in my few days that I’m here is the difference in the weather. I honestly don’t know how dress and adapt fast enough in this weather I quickly learned. Here’s the low down of the orientation and my first few days here in Korea.
The departure: The flight here was really choppy. The turbulence flying in kind of bad but bearable. Because my flight took off at 12:30 am I was already ready to sleep, but they gave us food about two hours into the flight, so of course I ate. When I first got on to the plane an other couple had asked if I could switch seats with them so that they could sit next to each other, how can I say no. I ended up moving up a few rows and ended up siting next to a younger couple instead. The air hostess was actually from Thailand, and I don’t know why but it made me excited that I could talk Thai to her when asking for things on the plane. So extra points for that. I was tired on the flight but couldn’t really sleep. Instead I just played movies that I had already watched and had them steam in the background as white noise so that I could sleep. Over than that the flight was like any other 13 hour-ish flight.
The arrival: The plane landed I want to say about 8 am-ish. I carried out my million pounds of carry things (I had three bags total: a carry-on, my back pack, and my laptop bag. Plus my super big jacket and neck pillow.) Of course I would be the one standing in the wrong line for immigration and then tell other people that it’s the correct line. That’s how I found two other EPIK teachers, so good thing right? One of the girls figures out that we’re standing in the wrong line and we make our way to the correct area. Once again with my luck, the sign at the front our out line changes from foreign passport to Korean passport and we have to change lines for the third time. When we finally finish with immigration we make out ways down to the baggage claim and I think that we had to be one of the last people there because our bags were one of the last one there, lucky us. We had about 4 hours to kill until the EPIK booth opened and we could check in. We spent a good about of time walking about the airport looking for the arrival store and for the best rates to exchange some of our money. When it was finally time to check in with EPIK, we were given a sign-in handout with numbers on them, I was number 20, while my new friends were 21 and 22. Already I’ve been separated from the people I already made friends with, but I quickly made some new peeps on my three hour bus ride to our orientation site at Jeonju University. I asked one the girls on the bus ride if she wanted to dorm with me for the orientation and the two of us must be a match made in heaven. Karen has to be on of the most sweetest and chill person that I’ve ever meet. Since it was the first day that everyone for a total of seven countries worldwide arrive the rest of the day was for us to kill and get to know each other. So we decided to explore this little town and ended up at Lotte Mart where we brought to fruit (which is really expensive here for some reason) and a cup of ramen for everyone. Oh plus another native Californian that I met who’s dorming next to us, Angelina came along too. We actually ended up stopping at a Chinese resturant and having jajangmyun and mandoo which was superrrrr yummy.
Orientation beginnings: Even though this was day two of the orientation, this was the first day that everyone was present and started to introduce one another to each other. We were told at one point that our orientation was going to be about 700 people, but it turns out that we’re only about 200 teachers give or take. We’re split into four different classes, and seems like you were put into a class depending where you were assigned. So it’s nice, we get to meet other teachers that will be in the same area. After out breakfast that’s when we met out class group mates for the first time. We took a campus together and was given a introduction of the basics of the first day. During the campus tour, my short attention span or this cold weather really gets the best of me. I kept on bumping into this random guy in front of me every time the group would stop because I was paying any attention. Turns out that is guy, Peter, is another Californian. Yea, I picked them all out on the first day. Once again super nice guy, I’m just lucky that I’ve met such amazing people so early on. After the campus tour we has a lunch break and headed to the opening ceremony for the orientation, very nice. The university’s taekwondo team had put together a performance for us which was the highlight, it was crazyyyyyy. Later on we had a welcoming dinner which just seemed like a fancier lunch, but still nice. That night we actually came back to our room and watched a Korean horror movie, I can’t remember the name. If you do you me, and I hope that you do, I’m such a weenie when it comes to scary movies. But I wasn’t the biggest weenie in the room that night, Great memories.
Medical check-up and noraebang: Even though I got my official green light okay from doctor back home I still get an official okay that I can teach/work in Korea because I will a government teacher. The entire test process felt long than it should had, but they cover every little corner that they should cover. Everything from getting our hearing check and to getting x-rays. Later on in the evening was a little more interesting. This was the first night that the majority of the teachers got a chance to leave the campus and go out for drinks and noraebang (karaoke). It was one the BEST experience that I’ve ever had. I haven’t had that much fun in such a longgggg time. Let me remind you I’ve only knew these people at this point for maybe three days, but we acted as if we’ve been friends forever. I love it. We went to the local bar just down the street from the university, with had very marketing signs on their down saying “Welcome EPIK teachers.” It was totally worth every second. And if you know me, and I hope that you do, I don’t drink, like at all. By the way did I mention that we have a curfew, midnight, yea man. My only regret is that I don’t have a lot of pictures of the night, I’ll have to wait for my peeps to upload them and then steal.
All day lectures: Even though we have back to back and more back to back lectures to attend I think that they’re super beneficial to us. It’s a lot of information I’m not going to lie. It makes me super nervous too. I feel like because I lack in teaching experience and because my background isn’t in English or teaching I’m not going to well. However, I’ve made some amazing friends in such a short time that we’ve become each other support system while our year here in Korea. We’ve already talked about traveling together during vacation or meeting up on weekends to catch up. I literally already love these people to the max. After the long day of lecture of course we have no other choice but to go noraebang again. Regardless, we know how to have a good time.
Field trip to Hanok Village: It’s nice that they give us a break from all the lectures. We went to Hanok Village, where we were able to take in all the culture. We started taking a tour of the center, being very touristy taking pictures of just about everything and everyone. Just one thing that felt a tad bit awkward was when we went to the church we actually wanted into a funeral. I felt as if I was disrespecting the family by walking in and taking pictures. Right after there was a wedding, and you guys know that I love weddings. After the tour finished we had bibimbap for lunch and then we had sometime to explore on our own and buy the local cuisine. It was just nice being out and not in the classroom. We actually had traditional Korean workshops that we were able to attend. The first Korean paper craft, where we made pencil boxes. Super cute. It reminds me of the traditional Thai paper that we have but thinner. After we had a session of learning how to play traditional Korean drums and I was super excited about this because of all those years of dontree that I have under my belt. This was different than Thai drums for sure. It’s hit with a stick, not like Thai ones where we use our hands. It was kind of hyped up a little bit too much. Maybe because our class couldn’t figure out the beat or that the song that we were given was hard enough, but it got boring fast. So that was bummer for me. We finished and got back to the dorm maybe 5:30ish and had dinner like right after. We did a casual drinks later on. It was as intense as the two previous nights, so I’ll take that as a win for casual drinking with my group.
Back to more lectures: (I’m finally caught up!) We continued our day with more very informative lectures to help prepare us for our year in Korean. Everything from co-teachers, living in Korea, and to class management. Today’s kind of a bummer day though. Something happened that shouldn’t had happened but I learned how lucky I am to have met such stand up people who will stand by you no matter what happens. We lost one our teachers too and that sucks. I don’t see anyone go, no matter how I feel about you.
Oh, I want to give a special shout out to the AMAZING EPIK staff that have been working super hard for us. AND to our class for teachers MJ and Lydia who have to be some of the most amazing buffers to the Korean world that I’ve had (minus my roomie of course).
side note, I haven’t upload any pictures from my camera so these pictures are from my phone + the ones the stole. I’ll do it soon, pinky promise.
so much more to tell, tell next time