My Teacher Mask

 

I’ve been talking with a few other EPIK teachers as of late and some people have told me how hard it can be some days. I’ve heard during orientation that the turnover rate of EPIK teachers was rather high (which is probably why we in Busan get our entrance allowance so late). This led me to think: Am I fit to be a teacher in Korea? Will I be able to persevere living on my own in a country I don’t fully understand?

There are a number of situations we may face in Korea as Native English Teachers, and some of them include a language/culture barrier. I have a decent amount of knowledge of Korea so I may not understand how hard it actually is for those who don’t. I have the benefit of knowing what others around me are saying, whether it’s my students in the classroom or my fellow teachers and staff. But, some other friends have said that it’s been difficult when the teachers speak strictly Korean around each other and that they feel left out and ostracized because of it. Others say that they can tell when other teachers are talking about them and how demeaning it can seem as well.

Some other problems include feeling left out. For one, the teachers at my main school are more distant. They don’t chat with me often other than my main co-teacher, who usually only does so out of necessity, and one new and young social studies teacher I met the other day. I feel intimidated in that kind of atmosphere and sometimes I just don’t know what to do with myself. At my second school, I feel a much more open environment. Teachers are always feeding me and asking me about all sorts of things and even the principal and vice principal attempt to speak with me, even in English if they feel particularly daring that day. They also tell me what they expect me to teach, whereas at my main school I’m kind of just left hanging and not knowing if I did what I was supposed to or not. Even if I ask I don’t get clear answers from them.

It’s been exhausting and stressful, for sure. But there’s one thing that makes me feel as if I want to work harder, to keep trying: the students. The students at both schools, to me, are endearing. They may not listen well, they may not have a perfect attention span of 45 minutes, and they may not know a lick of English. But, I’ll be damned if I don’t try my best for them. They’re what I’m here for. Yes, I want to have fun, play with my friends, and explore Korea. But my first and main goal as a teacher is always the students.

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I’ve heard other people talk about how difficult it is for them to get along with their co-teachers- and I feel them! I think that even I should make more of an effort to get along with them, but coming to Korea has made me realize how incompetent I actually am at real conversational Korean. But it’s made me want to learn. Others have talked about how they are afraid of their lessons bombing or of how students are highly unmotivated. I feel the same fears. Will they see me as a teacher? Will they respect me as a teacher? Will I be able to teach a classroom of students with a low level of English by speaking only English?

All of these worries gnaw at me day to day, but as soon as I enter the school I try to wipe these thoughts from my mind. If I don’t, not only will my students and teachers sense my hesitation and doubt, but I will also fail to make their time worthwhile, to teach them anything worth learning. Yes, a brilliant lesson plan is an excellent foundation for a good lesson, but it means nothing if you haven’t built what I, and many others, call the “teacher persona/mask.”

Ever since learning about putting on a different persona in the school, or “teacher mask,” I’ve felt a lot better about standing at the front of the classroom. All of the problems I’ve mentioned earlier are indeed ones that can make you feel sad and depressed. You may even want to quit and leave. But when I’m in the classroom, I try to see the best in everything and make goals for myself.

  • My lesson bombed? I can reflect on it and think about how to improve it for the next class- a habit I formed from my grad school days.
  • My students were unmotivated? I can invent new activities that will get them engaged in class.
  • My students weren’t listening? I can force myself to create a tighter classroom management plan, and I can force myself to become more confident so that they hear what I have to say.
  • My students seem bored and I think they don’t like me? I bulldoze on with my lesson anyway. I imagine that they’re fully alert and ready to learn and don’t let my fear show. Plus, I feel happy when students run up to me outside of class and say hello, give me hugs, or even smile when I look at them. How they behave in the classroom isn’t their entire being, so I should strive to improve rapport with them both in and out of the classroom.
  • The teachers around me can’t understand me or don’t communicate with me? I can see now that my Korean is not proficient and I can work on improving it. I can force myself to create connections with these teachers by reaching out to them.

Now, all of this is a lot easier said than done, I know. But just having this mindset, and just putting on this “mask” as soon as I enter the school, really helps me in creating a stronger mental fortitude. Yes, teaching is hard. But there’s no way I’m giving up now. Just look at how many areas I can improve upon! Imagine what I can become if I fulfill all the objectives I make after some self-reflection. It may sound like I have the mental strength of a warrior when I type this, but God only knows that I have my own share of personal problems. The only difference is that I’m not going to give up. Look at what I’ve given up to come here! Three entire years, a whole lot of money, and more.

I know that I won’t be able to accomplish all of the goals I’ve made. But if you’re wondering about coming to Korea, think back to all of the problems I’ve mentioned. If you feel threatened, if you think teaching is too hard, then maybe this job isn’t for you. And maybe I’m just sounding self-righteous when I say this, but if you can’t endure and you instead focus on everything bad happening, then of course you feel like giving up. So ask yourself this: Is there really nothing good about teaching in Korea? Is there nothing worthwhile?

Gandhi once said, “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” So, TLDR: I have doubts and fears about teaching. But once I’m in standing in front of the students I suddenly feel happy, even if this is an emotion I force upon myself. I feel even hypocritical when I type this because even now, I have that deep, inner fear of not being a good teacher. But the die have been cast. I’m here. The students are here. What else is there to do but endure and give my very best for them?

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I want to add onto something my friend said: Find a support network. It’s so important to find a group of people so that you can help each other during particularly difficult times. Even if you’ve had a bad week, being with your friends is a great way to blow off some steam. I found a group of friends during orientation, so I recommend you find those few people you can rely on to be with you. There are also plenty social meetups that my friends have gone to and they’ve even made some Korean friends!

On another note, when all’s been said and done, and you’ve given your best but you feel like teaching in Korea just isn’t for you and you eventually decide to give up: I’m not going to say that it’s wrong or that it’s not wrong. That’s not for me to say. Everyone’s paths and abilities are different and the final decision ultimately lies with you. BUT, whether it’s a mistake or not depends on what you do upon deciding to quit. If you decide to regret and mope around about what happened, then maybe you should have tried harder. If you dust yourself off and find something else to challenge, and you keep on at it, then maybe this experience, though halted in its progress, was a mere stepping stone for you in life. So what I’m saying is just this: Don’t quit halfway if you aren’t prepared for what lies beyond. Do your best and I’m sure you’ll be okay.

My Typical Day

I haven’t written in so long, sorry!

So, although each day is (obviously) different, there are some aspects that are typically the same from day to day so I thought I’d share my “typical” day.

I usually wake up a little after 7 am…rather late, I know. I eat breakfast half of the time, and it’s either fruit, usually a banana, grilled cheese, or cereal. If I’m running late, I starve hahaha. I’m out of my door by 7:30 and take the subway Line 2 to my school. On Thursdays and Fridays, I wait by an intersection for a teacher to pick me up at around 8 am.

Upon reaching school, I change into my indoor shoes and head to the teacher’s office. First thing I do is greet the Vice Principal. I do this everyday. It still feels super awkward around them even after a month though XD. After that, I sit at my desk and kinda stare off into space. Sometimes there’s food for people to share, and once, I walked to my desk and found a random boiled egg on it. Apparently, it was from the Vice Principal XD. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I go to my morning class and just casually chat in English with the girls Badminton team. After that, I start teaching my other classes with my coteachers. At my main school, I teach only year 1 and 2 but I teach all students at my second school. The first years are adorable and quick to listen to my directions, even if they remain a little distracted from time to time. The second years….are iffy lol. Sometimes I can rarely get them to pay attention. Other times its so quiet and they listen so well that it’s rather unnerving. The third years feel a bit more mature and listen to me pretty well :D.

I eat lunch with other teachers in the teacher’s cafeteria area. The food is buffet style and everyday is different with the exception of rice, kimchi, and a type of soup/stew. I usually walk around outside the school to get some air and sunlight with fellow teachers after eating while chatting with them in English or Korean, depending on the teacher. My students have, even though I’ve told them I can speak Korean, discovered that I indeed do speak Korean and they’re in a frenzy about it. The other day, I walked around the inner courtyard by the pond at our school when I heard, “(my name) TEACHERRRRRRRR” as a group of 1st year girls sprinted towards me and gave me a hug one at a time. Then they ran off and continued doing whatever it was they were doing before I neared them. So. Cute. AGH.

After lunch, I usually lesson plan (aka desk warm) for the rest of the day at my main school. I teach more classes at my second school. I also make sure to drink coffee after lunch because that’s when I get the sleepiest. There is also an abundance of snacks and I help myself to one treat a day. If some teacher is feeling generous, they sometimes bring fruit and everyone gets to enjoy them. I particularly love when they bring strawberries <3.

So, while I’m at my desk, students come and go to talk with various teachers, always making sure to (sometimes tentatively) say hello to me. Once the clock hits 4:30 pm I get ready to leave. I say goodbye to the teachers and then to the Vice Principal, always making sure to do a 90 degree bow, before I leave. On Mondays-Wednesdays, students are generally walking home at the same time and they always say hello. I get a ride home on Thursday-Friday.

Once I get home, I either go back out after changing bags or stay inside like a hermit crab. If I go out, I usually explore the Deokcheon area and shop for things on an as-needed basis. If I’m feeling particularly tired or in a good mood, I’ll treat myself to a yummy street food. I like to get Hoddeok, which is like a Korean street pancake filled with sugar, cinnamon, and a variety of seeds. It’s only 1000 won so how can I not?!

If I stay home, I prepare making dinner early since cooking rice in a pot takes a long time. I then watch stuff before washing up and chatting with family. I head to bed around 10 pm – 12 am. Aaaand the cycle begins again. This is generally all I do during the weekdays and my weekends are generally always different.

So yeah, pretty normal. How are your day-to-day activities? Please let me know in the comment section below~ 😉

My 1st Full Week of Teaching

Oh wow. I’m exhausted. I just finished my first full week of teaching and I think it can be summed up in one word: exhausting.

I started Monday at my main middle school. I have three classes + 1 badminton class on Mondays and Wednesdays and only 2 classes on Tuesday. The badminton class is just conversations with 8 members of the girl’s badminton team. I don’t actually teach them how to play because God knows I don’t know a thing about it. I have to arrive at school by 8 for the badminton course but I get to leave early at 4. I only teach 1st and 2nd years at my main middle school and can I just say….the 1st years are so cute.

At my secondary middle school I teach 5 classes a day, 4 in a row in the morning and 1 after lunch. The schedule is tough and I’ll admit…I taught my introduction lesson 22 times and it was getting hard to mentally keep up. Once I started teaching my actual English lessons this week though, with different classes and lessons, it became easier.

The students at the girl’s middle school are much more curious about me than at my main school. At one point, before my 101 class, I saw students entering the classroom next to mine. I had the feeling they were supposed to be in my classroom so I tried talking to them. Now, it was my first time meeting them and they were then suddenly all around me, like curious little puppies, asking me who I was, where I came from, why I looked Korean, could I speak Korean- all at once. They were so cute so I asked them if they were class 101 and turns out they were! They were all like, OHHHHHHH and moved all their stuff into my classroom. SO CUTE. They just swarmed me out of nowhere and that was a sight to hold. lakdjflakdfdslkj, so cuteee.

If I had to compare the two schools…both are quite similar. They’re both in an area of lower-class families, students at both have limited English, both school are old, and both have limited technology (although the girl’s middle school has a bit more). But, I do find that it’s easier to teach at the all girl’s middle school. I wonder why? Maybe it’s because the students aren’t as curious about the opposite gender so they have fewer distractions. I did mention this, but the 2nd years at my main school are so distant. They don’t want to learn English. But at the girl’s middle school, it’s so easy to get them excited and raring to learn English. Hmm. All of the students at both school are good though. I haven’t had to worry about anything yet.

As for my coteachers, emphasis on the plural here, they’re all nice. I have coteachers. If you’re at an elementary school, I think you only have 1 coteacher? But I have 7!! I find that they all get confused as to when they’re supposed to teach with me. I ended up teaching one lesson today by myself! I was okay because I know Korean, but I swore to only speak English. I had to get a student who was better at English to translate for the rest of the class. After, my coteacher for that class felt so sorry that she forgot! And also, at my main school, I was still getting used to finding my way around. I went to one class and found that there were no students! Apparently the coteacher for that class decided to change classrooms and went ahead of me without telling me. She was also supposed to take me to that classroom, but she didn’t. I had to rely on another teacher to show me, so when we found the empty classroom we were both very confused.

This leads to my next topic! So the same coteacher who didn’t tell me she moved rooms is also a new teacher, like me. She’s also around my age, so rather young. I teach two classes of 2nd years with her and I don’t look forward to them. Not because of coteacher though! It’s just that I feel like the students disregard the both of us and we both have a hard time managing them. If anyone has any good classroom management tips, I’m all ears!

Fun in Nampo-dong! And Korea Jjimjimbangs!

Last weekend, I met up with some friends from orientation at Nampo. We met in front of the Krispy Kreme inside the Gwangbok Lotte Department Store. We looked around, but didn’t buy much since you know…department stores in Korea are uber pricey. We did eat chicken and shop at the Uniqlo where I bought 2 cute bell-sleeved shirts, which would be great for work! We looked around the underground shopping area next and I bought a long sweater for like 5000 won. It’s awesome XD

We went to the Jagalchi Fish Market next. It’s Korea’s largest fish market! And, it literally had everything. Octopus, shellfish, fish- anything and everything. The first floor generally has a lot of live seafood on sale and the second floor has dried foods and restaurants. I bought some squid legs to munch on at home and then we all sat down so I could order some live octopus! Well, it’s dead now, but the legs are still moving after it’s served. This was the #1 dish I wanted to try in Korea and finally…the time had come.

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It tasted about how I thought it would. A bit slimy but crunchy, tastes like the sea and like octopus. The lady was super nice and gave us a lot at a discount! Only 20,000 won instead of the usual 30,000. She also gave us a few fish stew after my friend ordered some makkeoli and raw fish. We also got a few side dishes too. One of my friends was a bit terrified of the live octopus but she gathered up enough courage to try a small piece that stopped moving.

After that, we walked around a bit to digest before heading to the jjimjilbang, or the Korean sauna! We went to Songdo Haesoopia, which is pretty close to Nampo. You can get there by bus but we carpooled a taxi there instead.

As with any Korean spa, you take off you shoes and store them in a locker. To stay overnight we paid 12,000 won, which is a great price compared to $40 at the Spa World for 12 hours in the US. You get a uniform for the sauna and can change in the locker room. Don’t forget to take your respective elevators! Men and women have different elevators. The women’s elevators don’t stop at the men’s locker rooms an vice versa. Once you the locker room, BAM! Naked people. Everywhere. Now, if you’re Korean-American like me, you’re (well, at least me) used to this. I’ve been to a common Korean bath area before, and when I go to the gym, it’s the same. Although, I admit that at the gym it’s usually only the Asians who walk around buck naked. White people, I’ve noticed, change in the bathroom.

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Anyways, we changed into our spa outfits and I made everyone sheep ears, which is a must-do at the Korean sauna. We ordered a few drinks and snacks before trying out some of the rooms. There are a variety of rooms, such as the salt room, oxygen room, black rock room (I don’t know the actual name of this room. It was just full of small, black rocks), and more. The black rock room was my favorite. It was a nice, hot temperature and I could stay in there for a while! After trying out some rooms, we ordered jjimjilbang eggs and some shikhye (rice punch). So tasty!

After that, we tried the baths. My non-Korean friends were extremely hesitant to start, but eventually we all, well…we all got to know each other a little better if you know what i mean 😉

The baths were all saltwater baths with some herbs mixed in. You have to shower before entering, so we did. I reaaalllyy needed a nice, hot soak after a long week and this gave me exactly what I needed. There is an area that’s like a jet propulsion out of the wall, and it felt like a nice shoulder massage to me while to others it was just painful!

Forewarning: If you go to Songdo Haesoopia, take an extra towel and all of your toiletries. They do not offer free shampoo/conditioner/body wash. You also only get 2 towels. Men get unlimited which is unfair. I paid a total of 1,900 won for shampoo/conditioner/body wash. After washing up, I bought some milk before we all headed back upstairs to get some sleep.

Another forewarning: Save a spot. It’s hard to find a spot to sleep in. Luckily, we found the women’s sleeping area and grabbed a few blankets before settling down.

Last forewarning: It’s hot. Well, duh, yeah, it’s a sauna. But the sleeping area and general area are all very warm, much warmer than room temperature, and on top of that the floor is heated. I felt so hot I couldn’t get proper sleep. I think I woke up nearly every 15 minutes because I was so uncomfortably hot, not to mention that hard floors aren’t exactly luxurious sleeping material. Also, people are still talking, children still running around, and as a bonus: people snore. Loudly. So if you decide to sleep at Haesoopia, be prepared for this. At the Spa World in America, I slept like a baby. They have mats on top of the hard floors and the general area is at room temperature. Songdo Haesoopia was a disturbing realization that I liked Spa World better to sleep in even if it was pricier. The sauna and baths were better at Haesoopia though.

Overall, Songdo Haesoopia: Loved the sauna and baths, but would never sleep there again!

When we woke up the next morning, we explored the Seomyun area. We went underground and looked around after we had some street food. For lunch we had chicken again and watched Logan at the theater before parting ways.

Overall, I had a great weekend. This weekend we plan on hitting Gwangali beach, so please look forward to my next post!

1st Day of School!

So, 1st day of school! So exciting! Right? Yeah…so, I was told to take a taxi to my first day. I teach at two middle schools, my main school from Monday-Wednesday (2-3 classes per day, 2 morning conversational classes with the girl’s badminton team), the other from Thursday-Friday (5 classes per day). On Thursday, March 2nd, I went to my second middle school. It’s an all girl’s school up in the mountains. It’s rather old, but nice and quaint as it’s surrounded by greenery and you can see the Busan landscape and river below.

I didn’t do any teaching on my first day since it was just a day of assemblies and figuring out where to go. I did desk warming and started planning for classes after my initial introduction lesson.

The next day was my actual first day of teaching, which was…interesting. I co-teach with 3 different teachers at this school, which is basically one for each grade. The students were also all curious about me since they heard they’d have a “foreign teacher” and instead saw someone who looked Korean.

I started by greeting my students at the door before beginning my introductions. The students have a general understanding of directions but need extra help from my CT. My lessons revolved around introducing myself using pictures and having students make their own name tag based on my model. Here are some snippets of the highlights of my day!

These girls just crack me up sometimes. Anyways, after that I had about 10 minutes left so I used that time for them to ask me questions. Here are the many questions I received based on frequency:

  1. How old are you?
  2.  Do you have a boyfriend?
  3. Can you speak Korean?
  4. Why did you come to Korea?
  5. When did you come to Korea?
  6. Are you/your parents Korean?
  7. Tell us about your first love/kiss!
  8. How tall are you?
  9. When is your birthday?
  10. Do you have any siblings?
  11. Is your curly hair natural? (For those curious, the answer is yes)

Needless to say, I expected most of these questions hahaha. I think the only one that really surprised me is when they asked about my hair lol

I also received two nice water bottles from my vice principal! Now I’m at my desk planning my next lesson as I write this.

I went to my main middle school the following Monday. This school is within the city but on a hill. It’s not too small and the students are cute. The first year’s in particular are tiny and adorable. Hyper little pups! The second years are kind of dry and nihilistic…I almost wonder what happens to them from Year 1 to Year 2 that makes them change??

I was a bit nervous about teaching and now that I’m done with my first few days I feel a bit better. I do wish the students listened to my directions as well as they do to my CT’s directions, but I think that will change with time.

Some miscellaneous info about Korean schools: The main halls have no heating/cooling. It’s freezing in the hallways right now. The halls and classrooms are nice and warm. Also, you’ll need a pair of indoor shoes. I’ve seen people wear anything from bathroom slippers, crocs, sneakers, and even heels. I’m using a cheap 3,000 won pair of bathroom slippers and I’m a bit embarrassed by them after my CT laughed at them >_>. The lunches are buffet style and I’m relying on them for nutrients by stuffing myself with vegetables and then eating whatever is lying around my apartment for dinner (which is usually either rice or ramen). The school bell is a short song. I was a bit taken back by this because I’m too used to the boring monotone bells in America. There are always snacks and free coffee, which I indulge myself in as well. My school has no smartboards, just TV screens and projectors.

So yeah, more info about school life coming later!!

 

Meeting Your Co-Teacher! Aaaand Living Alone.

When you’re picked up by your CT, there are a variety of things that can happen. They can either take you to your apartment, to the shopping center, to the immigration office, or they can take you to your school to meet your principal and vice principal. In my case, almost all of the above!

First, we dropped off my luggage at my apartment, which is a tiny one-room apartment. There’s a small bathroom/shower near the entryway. Cross the door and you enter my living space! There’s a small kitchen area, a small dining area, and then my bed/desk area. I have no patio or anything. Just literally one room and a bathroom. It’s small and cramped but I think I’ll live 😉

I was then taken to meet my principal and vice principal. I met the vice principal and did a 90 degree bow while saying, “안녕하새요, 만나서 반갑습니다” which just literally translates to, “Hello, nice to meet you” in a very formal manner. He was shocked that I could speak Korean haha. All of the teachers were, actually. They said it was comfortable since they wouldn’t be at a loss for words with me. Then I met the principal. My heart skipped a beat (many beats probably) when she said in Korean, “Where is the foreigner? Why is the native English teacher a Korean person?” My CT then had to explain in depth how I was born in the US but my parents were Korean which is why I could understand Korean, and whatnot. But seriously, this was the worst case scenario I imagined and it was taking place right in front of my eyes. My principal was wary of me already because I looked too “Korean” to be a native English teacher (more about this in a separate post) even though I’m literally licensed (with a Master’s, even!) to teach Secondary English. I’ve mentioned this in another post before. So, for a minute I thought she’d send me away and ask for another teacher, but then she said a long speech about how I should enjoy life, and how life is about its ups and downs, and that teaching at this middle school will be extremely difficult but that I should remember it as a good experience. Good talk. >_>

After that we went shopping since apart from furniture, my apartment had nothing else in it. I bought blankets, pots, utensils, and a kettle. I parted ways with my CT before going shopping again on my own for some more things I needed. I basically have to buy EVERYTHING you could possibly need to live alone, and it’s whittling away at what little funds I have left. I thought we were supposed to get a 300,000 won settlement allowance but when I asked my CT about it she had no idea what it was. She said she’d look into it and get back to me next week.

My CT then told me that I had to go to school again the next morning to meet the Head English teacher, so I did. I met everyone for the second time, but my cold worsened and I was pretty visibly sick. The teachers said I should go to the hospital and I was like ?????? In America I never went to the hospital except to get vaccines and stuff. Not to mention US healthcare is pretty shitty and pricey. So, I kept saying to them, “It’s ok, I can just take medicine and sleep it off!” which is what I always do when I get sick (seriously though, I’ll never understand people who go to the hospital for just a simple cold). They kept fussing over me and although it was nice to see them care about me, it also felt awkward because I didn’t want to feel like a burden to them.

After that I still had to buy stuff for my apartment. Luckily, I live near a huge traditional market as well as a young life shopping district. I’ll detail my findings in another post!

The End of Orientation and the Start of a New Chapter!

I really planned on writing a lot sooner, but I’ve been extremely busy with moving into my new apartment and starting to teach at school.

So, after the field trip is just 2 more full days of classes all day. In my spare time I met up with my group members to fill out our lesson plan. The last full day of orientation was just our lesson demonstration. Heads up: In practice, your lesson demo may meet the 15 minute requirement, but once you actually give it and do activities with your class, it takes a lot longer. Our group ended up not being able to do all of the activities we had planned.

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We met with our MOE/POE afterwards and finally found out out placements! I was placed at two middle schools: Gu Nam Middle School and Yang Deok Girl’s Middle School. Even though I dread teaching middle school, this is actually a boon for me. My license is in Secondary English Education so this experience will definitely help me out when I return home.

After that was the closing ceremony, which included a dance and song from the KPop class. My friend was in it so I made cute signs for her! She was really happy so I was happy too. After that was the closing dinner, which was generally the same stuff from the opening dinner. And again, I stuffed myself silly. We joked around that EPIK was feeding us like crazy since once we leave orientation we’ll likely survive off of cup noodles every day! Afterwards, I went out with my friends again that night for some noraebang we had a ton of fun. I sang lots of KPop and Disney songs and I really wish that curfew on the last night was either extended or dropped entirely.

The next day was the day we would meet our co-teachers! You actually have a lot of time to pack if you don’t leave it to the last minute. I finished packing about two nights before the end of orientation and headed down to the dorm lobby before 8:30 to beat the rush of people trying to use the elevator. I checked out and when it hit about 9:15, I took what luggage I had to the bus stop area before going to pick up the rest of my luggage. I recommend doing this instead of taking all your luggage at once because it’s hard to carry them around campus.

The cars picking up people in Busan started lining up around 9:45 and people started leaving. My CT came around 10:15 and, if you guys remember, I have 3 big suitcases, 1 backpack, and 1 carry-on. I was hoping my CT came in a big car. Some people had CTs come in a taxi and even by bus! Be prepared for this type of situation! My CT came in a standard 4-door car- not big, not too small. But she came with her husband. We were somehow able to stuff all my things in, and off we go! The rest of my story will be in a separate post~

Orientation Cont’d! And Field Trip Time!

I’ll discuss days 3-4 of orientation in this post, which includes lots of classes and of course, a field trip to Haeundae beach and the UNMCK.

Day 3 was just filled with straight up lectures ranging from TEFL in the elementary classroom, storytelling, the history of Hangul, and cooperative learning. They were all very informative and helped reinforce the teaching skills I learned in grad school. It was also rainy all day and downright gloomy. I didn’t go out that night because I was too tired and wanted to update this blog. I did, however, explore the convenience store in the basement level of the dorm and bought myself some snacks for the bus tomorrow as well as a travel card and umbrella.

Now on to the exciting topic: the field trip!!!!

Our first stop was the APEC House, which is where the G20 summit meeting was held. After that was Haeundae beach. Luckily, the weather was bright and sunny and the beach view was absolutely stunning. We had about 1.5 hours of free time so a couple of friends and I decided to try and go shopping. We couldn’t find anything for a while but finally stumbled upon a nice little shopping street. We went inside a Daiso (Like a Dollar Tree) and splurged (well, at least I did!) on some cute stuff.

After that was lunch at BEXCO. I had gomtang/곰탕 and it was delicious. I wiped my bowls clean!

We went to the UNMCK (United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Korea) afterwards. We watched a short video and were allowed to roam the grounds as we pleased. There was a guided tour a bit later, but it was optional so my friends and I decided to just wait near the area where we watched the video. But I do have a small warning for you guys here: Be polite. I get that everyone is excited that they’re in Korea and with a group of new friends, but this is a cemetery. Don’t speak/laugh loudly in a disrespectful manner. Also, my friend told me that two girls who sat next to her during the video were all like, “OMG Can we like, not watch this?” …..Seriously? Why are you even here? This is not your country. This is Korea. You know, the place you’re going to live in for the next year or so? Maybe you should, I dunno, take the time to honor its history and culture? But like seriously? WHY. ARE. YOU. HERE. If you want to come to Korea to look around, come during your vacation. EPIK is meant for people who go to Korea to work. Not play. Get it straight.

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Once we got back to BUFS, we had free time for the rest of the day. It’s technically called, “networking” but it’s actually just free time. My friends and I headed to the Busan University area by subway and did some shopping, which was uber fun. We ate a lot of street food, such as oden and spicy rice cakes/떡뽁기. I then bought some essentials like shampoo/conditioner and also some cosmetics from Etude House. We took a taxi back and I ended up leaving my bag of Etude House goods in the taxi T-T Worth about $50 and I’ll never see them again sigh. So another warning! There is a driver profile in the taxi. Take a pic or memo of it so that if something like this happens, you’re prepared. One of my friends also left her name tag and room key (which costs 50,000 won to replace!) in a shop! Luckily, the shop owner called EPIK since there were phone numbers on the back of the name tag. We went out the next day during lunch to retrieve it, thank goodness! So lesson of the day: Don’t be an ignorant jerk in Korea, but do remember to keep your belongings with you! And have fun! You’re mainly here to work, but enjoy it. Just not, you know, in a bad way.

Being a Korean American in Korea

This has been a topic that’s long been on my mind, even before I came to Korea, so here I go…

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In America, Korean-Americans are a minority. I never feel that I 100% belong there because of the many micro-aggressions and other acts of racism I experience every now and then. But, what about Korea? Do I belong here? Unfortunately, even here the answer is no. If anything, I feel like a complete foreigner here sometimes.

You’d think that because I look like a “typical” Korean everyone would treat me like another Korean citizen. But, it’s kind of like a double-edged sword. For one, people can tell that I’m from America, that I’m a Korean-American. It’s just like how when I was in America, I could easily pick out who the Korean-Koreans were. Because of that, everyone here expects me to know all the social rules. But I don’t.

What exactly am I supposed to say to my elders? I know I have to bow 90 degrees, but is that every time to everyone? And then when I don’t know, they criticize me for not knowing. Now, if you were a GET who isn’t Korean and didn’t know the rules, they would be kind and understanding since obviously you don’t know. But since I “look like a Korean” they automatically expect me to know everything they do. But I don’t.

Also, I’ll mention this in another post, but because I look “Korean” many think I don’t speak English well. This is even the case sometimes in America. People in America would always ask me, “Where are you from?” When I replied, “Virginia” they would be like, “No, like, where are you really from?” And I would just be completely flabbergasted. Sometimes people are even surprised that I can speak English in America. Even though, you know, I majored in it? I even have a Master’s in Secondary English Education! Just because I’m not white doesn’t mean I can’t speak English, or that I don’t belong in the US.

And then, in Korea, my principal asks my co-teacher, “Where is the foreigner? Why is the native English teacher a Korean person?” And my heart just drops. I mean, in technicality, I am the foreigner. I came to Korea on a US passport for that very reason. I mean, does my English ability just seem like a zero to everyone? Because I look Korean? Even though I have a BA and M.Ed? Just because I can speak both Korean and English does not mean my abilities are any less for it. Just because I look Korean doesn’t mean my qualifications are invalid because of it. Just because I am a Korean-American doesn’t mean I don’t have a place where I belong.

People assume what I can or can’t do because I’m a Korean-American. And this happens both in the US and in Korea. They assume we don’t belong with them. It breaks my heart that many people just can’t seem to understand or accept others like me. But, we Korean-Americans, and even those of other minorities who feel the same way in their respective countries, we all have a place where we belong. It’s wherever we choose to be, whether it’s in America, or in Korea. We can choose to belong in either one or in both, one foot in America, the other foot in another. We can see the best of both worlds no matter what we look like. And no one can take that away from us.

Applying for Your Alien Registration Card on an F4 Visa

Hey Guys!

I applied for my ARC in Korea a few days ago and I thought I’d let you guys know how it went. It’s actually pretty easy! Now, I came to Korea on an F4 visa so for those with an E2, read this post.

First off, you have to go to the Busan Immigration Office, or just an Immigration Office in your district. For those in Busan, I recommend reading this post for directions. My CT made an appointment beforehand so I was able to skip a lot of the waiting process. If not, be prepared to wait a while! I had to take with me:

  1. Passport
  2. 2 Passport photos
  3. 30000 won + 4000 for delivery to my apartment. Pay for this at the bank inside the office. They’ll give you a receipt which you then give to the teller.
  4. Completed application form (can be found at the office)
  5. 기본증면서 (Gi-Bon-Jeung-Myun-Seo) &가족증면 서(Ga-Jok-Jeung-Myun-Seo) (See this post for details on these two)

This process is a lot easier if you order a few copies of the documents in #5 while you’re in America. The documents are in Korean and English, but you may want your CT to watch over you as you fill it out because it can be confusing.

Once you submit everything, you should have your ARC in 7-10 business days!

If you have any other questions, please comment below! 😉