T-16 Days

I bought my flight ticket a little while ago…I will arrive in Korea on February 15th. I would stay with some relatives until the 18th/19th before taking a train down to Busan for orientation on the 19th. I will say I regret buying a flight ticket so early because I’m anxious about staying with a relative I feel like I’ve only ever met twice (though it’s probably a lot more than that, I just don’t remember). I feel like I would just be a burden and plan to get out and explore Seoul so they can rest without having to take care of me, a 25 year old adult niece they barely know from the US. Problem is that I don’t really know what I would do. I’ve already explored many areas of Seoul a few years ago. I guess I could explore Gangnam area again, as well as Myeong-Dong or some markets. But other than that, I don’t want to burden my uncle and his family. Maybe I’ll reach out to other EPIK teachers who arrive in Seoul early and hang with them, but I’m also shy…

I’m also feeling nervous and anxious in general. This is my 4th time applying to EPIK and I can’t help but feel that somehow I won’t be able to go. This dread hangs over me like a persistent little rain cloud that just drenches my whole day. Every day. Whether it’s the fear that somehow my visa is rejected, or EPIK says “Oops, we didn’t mean to place you, our mistake lolz,” or I fail the health exam. And quite frankly, the last one is my biggest concern. My family has a long history of illnesses (stomach cancer, high cholesterol & pressure, diabetes) and I’m scared that they’ll decline me for any reason. I’ve read stories of people whose tests showed false positives for various things, but they were able to get re-tested and stay with EPIK. I’m scared that I won’t be able to pass, even though I personally never use drugs, prescribed or not, and have no medical history of anything except some simple anemia. I guess it’s just that the health exam is the last hurdle before I’m “officially” accepted into EPIK and it’s worrying.

Other than those worries, I’ve been busy packing. On top of that, my family hopes to move houses this summer, but I won’t be here. This means I have to pack up all of my belongings. I mean, I want my family to move. Our current house is much too small for the 4 of us. So, I’m packing up my entire room along with packing for EPIK. It doesn’t help that since I’m large-bodied (putting it nicely), I have to take lots of clothes with me because Korea doesn’t sell anything that would fit me.

FYI: Korea in general doesn’t sell anything for people above a size medium here. Even then you will find clothing sizes are much smaller in Korea as well. Good luck also if you are tall and need bigger shoes. Most shoes in Korea don’t go above a size 8 ish. Just be prepared to bring a lot of clothes if you don’t match Korea’s “standards.”

Getting back on topic: I hope I can fit everything I need into my 2 large suitcases, 1 backpack, 1 carry on suitcase, and small purse. I finished one bag but it feel way over 50 lbs T-T

Post on my packing list coming soon!

F-4 Visa Application Process

Let me start off by saying this: Most people will apply to EPIK with the intent of acquiring an E-2 visa. However, those of Korean descent may qualify for an F-4 visa, which is valid for 5 years and allows for a maximum cumulative stay in Korea of 2 years. But, it is recommended to get the E-2 visa because it is easier to obtain. I opted for the F-4 and will describe the process. Getting an E-2 is rather simple and can be easily explained in a file that EPIK sends once you receive placement. The F-4 is another story.

First of all, only those born with a parent/grandparent who was a Korean citizen at the time of their birth are eligible, which includes second generation citizens (like me) or adoptees. This does not include those born in Korea. For the application, you must first make sure that you are not considered a dual citizen of Korea. You are considered a dual citizen if you were born after 1987 and, like stated earlier, you had a parent/grandparent of Korean citizenship at the time of your birth, but they must now be citizens of the U.S. For me, this was my dad. He was a Korean citizen when I was born but he is now legally a U.S. citizen.

Now, I was born and raised in the U.S. but am still “technically” a Korean citizen by default. You must have either claimed or denied the citizenship by age 18 or you will automatically gain dual citizenship, but I was completely unaware of this. EPIK requires that Korean-Americans make their citizenship status clear before applying. This means either giving up the dual citizenship of Korea and going on an E-2/F-4 visa, or claiming the dual citizenship and going to Korea on a Korean passport, no visa required. I chose the former because going on a Korean passport meant that I may not get the same treatment in Korea had I went with a Korean passport, such as benefits from employment, etc.

So, I decided to give up dual citizenship through a long, arduous process. You have to go to your local Korean embassy, preferably with someone who speaks Korean & English very well. You must then obtain 2 documents: 기본증면서 (Gi-Bon-Jeung-Myun-Seo) which is your individual record &가족증면 서 (Ga-Jok-Jeung-Myun-Seo) which is your family record. You can order these at the embassy for a small fee. With those documents and the application form to give up dual citizenship, you’re all set. This can take anywhere from 1-3 months to process, so take action early! Warning: this process was easier for me because I was already registered on my Korean family registry because I had lived in Korea when I was 4 and my parents did it. This may not be the case for everyone, especially adoptees. Unfortunately, I am not well-informed of what to do in this situation and it is best to ask the embassy workers (also be prepared to be faced with incompetent workers. Not all of them, but some of them don’t seem to know what they’re doing).

Once that’s done, you can apply for the F-4. You can complete the application at the embassy because they provide hard copies. You will need:

  • the same 2 documents from before (기본증면서 (Gi-Bon-Jeung-Myun-Seo) &가족증면 서 (Ga-Jok-Jeung-Myun-Seo))
  • $45 in cash
  • passport photo
  • passport
  • copy of your passport
  • copy of your birth certificate
  • copy of your parent/grandparent’s proof of naturalization (for me, this was my dad’s citizenship certificate)
  • proof of employment with EPIK (which can be as simple as the email indicating placement or a copy of the official document you get a bit later).

Submit these either by mail or by walk-in to your local Korean embassy and you should get your F-4 in about a week.

I feel like what I described is very confusing, and I admit, this process itself is very confusing. If you have any further questions, please feel free to comment below. 🙂

Documents

The part of the process I hate the most- collecting documents. EPIK requires a number of documents from you and the sooner you send it all in the better. Now, I have a Masters in Education so I don’t need to complete TEFL training. But the rest of the documents I need are those required in the U.S.

  • Completed Application
  • Apostilled Copy of Diploma(s)
  • Original Sealed Transcripts
  • Apostilled CRC
  • Hard copies of Letters of Recommendation
  • Copy of Passport photo page
  • Copy of my Teacher License
  • Copies of everything

Apostilled Diplomas: When I first collected my documents, I was able to get it done at my local bank. When I tried doing that this time, they told me their policy changed and that I couldn’t get it done there anymore. I had to therefore first get my diploma COPY notarized- not the original! Please do not do anything to the original! Scan and copy it and then do everything else. I got my diplomas (BA and M.Ed) notarized at the UPS store for 5 bucks each. Then I sent mine via mail to get apostilled at the state level. The office locations and requirements vary by state- easily google searchable. Include check, self-addressed and stamped envelope, and notarized diplomas and just wait to get them back in the mail. Mine took a little over a week to get back. Total: $20

Transcripts: Get these from your university portal. Some schools require payment, some don’t. Get at least two sealed transcripts because some people like to change provinces after one year and it’s easier to have a sealed transcript on hand so you don’t have to have someone mail it to you from wherever you live. Total: $30

Apostilled CRC: First, get your fingerprints taken at your local police station. You need just one set of fingerprints, but it’s recommended to get two just in case. You can use these forms. I had to pay $15 for two sets. Afterwards, there are two routes you can go. The long and cheap way or the short and expensive way. The long/cheap way is done through the FBI and costs only $18. Fill out their application form, payment form, and send it all with one set of your fingerprints to:

FBI CJIS Division – Summary Request
1000 Custer Hollow Road
Clarksburg, WV 26306

Then you have to wait anywhere from 12-14 weeks to get your results. The second method, which I prefer, is much faster but is quite costly. This site does an excellent job of explaining everything. It costs $50 and you are required to have 2 sets of fingerprints, but you only wait one week. Your choice!

Once you have your CRC in hand, it’s time to get it apostilled. This must be done at the US Office of Authentications. If you live somewhat near D.C., it’s easy to go in person, but if not, mailing in your CRC is also an option. For in person, go to:

Office of Authentications
U.S. Department of State
600 19th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006

Now, they are only open for one hour: 8am-9am from Monday-Friday. Plan accordingly! After getting through security and getting your ticket, wait to be called and just hand the person working their your CRC and authentication application form. You will have to pay $8. In person you can pay with card. cash, or check. After dropping it off, the person will tell you what date to come back to pick up your apostilled CRC. For mail-in, complete the form (link above) and a check of $8 payable to: U.S. Department of State. Send your CRC, completed form, payment, and a self-addressed and stamped envelope to:

Office of Authentications
U.S. Department of State
CA/PPT/S/TO/AUT
44132 Mercure Cir, P.O. Box 1206
Sterling, VA  20166-1206

The authentication should take anywhere from 1-2 weeks to get back to you. And that’s it for the CRC! Yay! Total: $73

Letters of Recommendation: Hopefully when you asked the people you asked LoRs from, you asked them to give you a physical, hard copy with their signatures in ink. Make sure they are the original copies with the ink signature! You need only one copy with an ink signature.

Passport Photo Page: Pretty self-explanatory. Scan a copy (preferably in color). Also, on a related note, do get at least 8 copies though because you will need to use them for various things in Korea, especially if, like me, you are applying for the F-4 visa.

Teacher License (optional): My coordinator said I didn’t need to send it, but I already had copies made so he said I should just send it anyway. Just send copies, not the original, but you DO need to take the original with you to Korea.

Copies of everything: You need just one extra copy of everything and it’s much easier to do it all at once after you have everything at hand. Your coordinator will send you a checklist, which should be at the top of your pile, so make sure to use it to ensure you have everything in order. You will also be send various additional documents, such as the smoking sworn declaration, tattoo/piercing declaration, and more. You need copies of those too.

Once you’ve double-checked you have everything in order, and maybe even more than that, go ahead and send your documents to your coordinator. This is rather costly because it is recommended to send it with a tracking number. I send mine via FedEx and paid almost $80. For me, it was worth it because it safely reached my coordinator in about 3 days. Once you have everything sent and your coordinator says everything looks fine, now it’s time for the “Big Wait” to find out your placement!

When I was first applying it was super stressful because I had to have like, 100+ tabs open just to find everything out. And so, I hope you guys find this information useful! Let me know if you have any other questions in the comments section~

Applying for EPIK

Assuming that you know what EPIK (English Program in Korea) is, I will be describing the application process here. Now, some of this may be different to what you may experience because as I am an American citizen of Korean descent, there were a few additional steps I had to take. I will create a separate post for that…

  • SO you’ve made the decision to apply to EPIK! Congrats! The general website can be found here. Check out their eligibility requirement before applying- EPIK used to accept people with a Bachelor’s in any discipline, but that changed recently. You now need a degree in either education or English. But don’t despair yet! If you get a TEFL certificate, you can qualify for EPIK regardless of your major. Just make sure to keep yourself updated on their requirements.
  • After that, to apply initially you have to fill out a completed application form and send it to EPIK with two letters of recommendation before their deadlines. EPIK has two terms- Spring and Fall- so choose whichever one you like. It is better to send an application as early as possible. For me, the deadline was in December 2016, but I sent in my application in early August.
  • Interview- If you are accepted, you will be invited for an interview via SKYPE. I had my interview in mid-October. Make sure you conduct the interview in a private space- whether it’s at home or a private room in a library- and wear a top that’s fit for business casual. You can wear pj bottoms and your interviewer wouldn’t know 😛 Do wear earphones/headphones and have a copy of your application out in front of you because without them the sound feedback makes for a sloppy interview. This is my second time applying for EPIK and my coordinator was the same guy from then. He recognized me and the process was much faster this time around. I’m sorry to say that I actually can’t remember what questions I was asked the first time though. Just don’t stress about it too much. You will be notified via email whether you were accepted or not within a few weeks.
  • Documents- If you passed the interview stage, now is a good time to prepare your documents. It is actually best to do this as soon as you can, so starting even before the interview process is beneficial. Criminal Record Checks (CRCs) can take anywhere up to 3 months to prepare. Also be prepared to spend a bit of money collecting everything. I will describe this in a separate post. Once you have everything, send it off and now is the “Big Wait” for your placement. Expect to get placement as late as one month before your departure date. I sent my documents in early November and received my placement in early January.
  • Visas- After your placement email arrives, now is time to obtain your visa. Most people will get the E-2, but I got the F-4 bc like I said…I’m of Korean descent. I will describe my visa process in a separate post as well.

After that, not much is left except to buy flight tickets, pack your bags, and get set to go to EPIK! Let me know if you have any other questions 😉

 

 

Beginnings

Hello, this is just a space for me to document my experience with EPIK. I just received my placement for the Spring 2017 term…and I’m going to Busan!!! I’m super excited!!! Although I requested Seoul, I would have been okay going anywhere that was at least suburban, so being placed in Busan is like a dream come true! So, I’ve decided to write down everything I go through because let me tell you…there are not enough posts detailing how to do simple things in many aspects of EPIK and of living in Korea (application process, taxes, health insurance, etc) in general. I hope to find the answers and share them so that it makes all of our lives easier. As such, I’ll go ahead and get started! Please do read my “About” page for more information 🙂