If you didn’t already know from my countless posts on social media… I’m in Korea, guys! It’s been three weeks and a bit of a Korean taxi ride. I say that because Korean drivers are CRAZY! (And that’s coming from someone who grew up in Central America).
After a yearlong application process, I’ve made it. I’ll be working for Daegu Department of Education (DMOE) through the English Program in Korea, also known as EPIK. Through this program all selected applications are flown out to live in South Korea and, presumably, teach English for a year in a school of the governments choosing. We do have the ability to request a specific region of the country or even a specific person to be placed near, however these requests are not guaranteed.
This time last year my friend Lauren and I decided we wanted to venture on this journey together, and we began the process of applying for EPIK through a recruiting company called Reach To Teach. If you’re thinking about applying, I strongly urge you to apply through RTT – they were nothing but professional, helpful and astute in helping us fulfill the, often draining, requirements. I’ll explain all about the application process sometime in the future, but with orientation fresh on my mind I want to give you all the updates on this amazing “intro to Korea” that the program provides.
We made it to the airport about 19 hours after departing from our respective homes in the United States. To be honest, the plane ride was much smoother than I imagined it to be. Asiana Airlines was great, despite the fact that they charged me an extra $100 for my 2nd carry on. We tried Bibimbop for the first time, and would soon discover that it’s an endless meal in South Korea. After being greeted at the airport by Reach To Teach, we signed in with the EPIK staff and were swiftly whisked away on a 3-hour bus ride to Jeonju University, the place for Superstars! (I kid you not, that’s their slogan).
The next 9 days were a whirlwind of information. We attended lectures given by Native English Teachers (NET’s, as we are now referred to), and Korean Teachers to help prepare us for the year ahead.
There was one part of this long week of introduction that really stuck with me, and I think will continue to se the tone of my relationship with traveling in general. During our opening ceremony, one of the speakers gave us a rundown of his view of South Korea. He said to us,
“Travel and understanding other cultures helps you better understand your own.”
Being from such a diverse background and growing up amongst so many different cultures, this hit home for me in a bit of a different way than I think it would have for most people. I’ve always struggled with finding the right “fit” for me when it comes to “where I’m from,” as I’ve mentioned before. I’m beginning to see that culture is within all of us, not necessarily within a specific region or area of the world.
We weren’t told our final placement until the very last day of orientation. As we were handed our envelopes disclosing information about each of our schools, I began to grow nervous when I realized mine looked very different than everyone else’s. Others stated their areas of residence: North, West, South, etc… and even what type of school they would be teaching at: elementary, middle, or high. After the assembly room began to empty out, I approached the head of DMOE to inquire about my placement. As it turns out, I won’t be teaching at a regular school at all, and I can pretty much kiss everything I learned at orientation goodbye – which is fine by me. Fittingly enough, I’ll be teaching at the Daegu Global Education Center, specifically the G-Street Station.
In layman’s terms, we teach a field trip “camp” of sorts where all the different elementary schools in Daegu and the surrounding areas come to learn about different cultures. We are divided into four regions: The Americas and Oceania (not sure why these are together), Europe, Africa and Asia. It’s pretty amazing that Korea finds globalization important enough to create an entire hallway for their students to not only speak English, but also learn about other parts of the world while they do it. I’m excited for this new chapter, and I can’t wait to write more about it.
Check out the highlights of orientation, and our little trip to the Jeonju Hanok Village.