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.

Official Start of Orientation

So, Day 1 of orientation will be hectic…well let me rephrase: every day of orientation will be hectic. You’re surrounded by people nearly 24-7 and for introverts like me, I need some me time in order to recharge my social skills, so be prepared to keep your “ON” switch powered for a while.

What I describe about the rest of orientation is just what I experience. I was in class 1 so my schedule can be different from what you may experience. Anyways, I was pleasantly surprised to wake up and find that breakfast was a western meal. There were eggs, potatoes, and even pancakes! After breakfast was class time, where I met the rest of the people in my group. We had introductions, a brief overview of the program, a very short Korean quiz to determine our placement in our Survival Korean class, and then a campus tour.

After that was lunch and then the welcoming ceremony at Mano Hall. We got to see some of our coordinators (well, I did) speak and see the officials of EPIK. After that was a Tae Kwon Do demonstration, which was absolutely stellar. It consisted of mostly a group of men breaking boards and some fruit with their kicks but it almost seemed like they could pull off the impossible. It even felt extra immersive at times because splinters of the board and fruit would fly about and even reach the audience!

After that was a lecture on Korean history. Well, Korea has a history of well over 5000 years so the lecturer had to squeeze what he could into less than 2 hours. It was interesting to hear and I learned a few things that even I wasn’t aware of, such as the fact that the first Korean to win an Olympic medal won it during the Japanese occupation. You’ll hear more about this from the lecturer 😉

 

After that was the welcoming dinner. Word of forewarning: don’t take too much food from the start of the line. There are so many delicious dishes and you’ll want to try a bit of everything, so make sure not to take too much like I did! I still ate everything but I was stuffed! Some interesting dishes they had included raw beef/yukhoe/육회, but they also had dishes I was familiar with, such as fried shrimp/새우튀김, sushi, and more.  After that I went out for some bingsoo, which is Korean shaved ice and is the yummiest dessert in existence. I shared the strawberry one and we devoured it all in like 5 minutes haha. I know I said I ate a lot of dinner, but I have a separate stomach for dessert 😛

Day 2 consisted of the health exam. Since I was in class 1, we went first so I was glad I didn’t really have to wait. You just get your height, weight, vision, blood pressure, hearing, blood, urine, and chest x-ray tested. You’re not allowed to eat/drink the night before the exam so be prepared to be hungry. You do get a snack and water once it’s over, but a lot of people, including me, were completely famished. Also, don’t forget to take the 50000 won to the exam or you’ll have to wait in line all over again!

We had nothing else planned for the morning so I slept until lunchtime. It was nice <3. After that were a few more lectures, one being about rules/regulations and the other about TEFL in Korea. The rules/regulations lecture was more a briefing about the logistical aspect of EPIK, like what your pension pay is, information about the residency form, and more. I found it extremely helpful and had almost all of the questions I had answered. The TEFL in Korea lecture was a brief overview about what it’s like to teach TEFL in Korea. It concluded with the lecturer giving a lesson entirely in Korean to give us a feel of what it’s like to be a Korean student learning a language they cannot completely comprehend. I, however, understood it all and ended up feeling a little bored.

After that was dinner and then Survival Korean class. I was placed in the advanced room in which we’re not allowed to use English. We spent the time introducing ourselves by drawing our hobbies, age, where we’re from, etc on a sheet of paper and presenting it to the class…all in Korean, of course :D. I had a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to my next class.

I went out again that night for some more bingsoo. I had coffee bingsoo (pics above!) this time and I think I liked it better than the strawberry one!

Information of the next few days of orientation will be up soon!

Arrival in Busan and the Checking into Orientation

I meant to write sooner but not only am I tired, but the internet connection here isn’t exactly reliable, which I’ll discuss in a bit.

I took the KTX to Busan from Seoul station and it took about 3 hours. It was pretty nice inside because it had a space for me to store my big suitcase and room overhead to store some carry-on luggage too. Also, just a heads up…KTX is not a bullet train. Those are Japanese and the KTX is just a Korean train line.

Anyways, I met up with another EPIK member and I helped him get a taxi to the orientation site once we arrived at the station in Busan. I was a bit worried about finding a taxi, but once you exit the station, there are some taxi drivers waiting to just escort you to a cab right away. I made sure to have the address of the orientation site on hand to show the driver and he took me there right away after stowing away my luggage. I was also very amused during the ride because many people in Busan, as well as in many other areas, have thick accents. I had a bit of trouble understanding the driver at first, but he was very friendly. And of course, he asked me how old I was and if I was married…which is natural in Korea haha.

Also, just an FYI: if you take a taxi to the orientation site, make sure that the driver drops you off in front of the dorms. I have the driver the dorm address but he dropped me off at a random spot in the university and I was left asking passerby where I was. Luckily, I found my way through the campus.

Another FYI: when you’re packing, separate your items so that everything you’d need for orientation is in one bag, and everything you don’t need immediately in the other. This is because the dorms are small and you will have to leave any unneeded luggage in a separate but secure building. If you forget an item in your suitcase that you need, you can always ask a staff member though.

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Anyways, Busan University of Foreign Studies is a beautiful campus. It’s located in the mountains and has an incredible view, especially so on clear, sunny days. The only downside is that because it’s on a mountain you have to climb up and down everything. Not to mention all the stairs. And let me tell you: my legs and glutes are super sore. But, at least it’s a nice way to get in a work out! I’ll have buns of steel by the end of the week at this rate lol.

Once you arrive and finish checking in, you’re allowed free time for the rest of the day until dinner. All meals are buffet style so you’ll want to go to the cafeteria early to beat the rush. There are no other events planned for the rest of the day so I went with some people to a cafe and had some froyo at a cute cafe called A Twosome Place. To find it, turn left once you reach the main gates of the BUFS campus. I find that the left side has more to look at than the right, but I didn’t go too far so who knows what you might find if you go further?

Be prepared to feel like a high schooler once you arrive. You’re shuttled to and fro from lecture to meals. They also emphasize the many rules and regulations and you sometimes feel like the staff members don’t trust you to act like an adult. It’s understandable though because we represent not only our countries but the EPIK program as well. So to be on the safe side: just don’t do anything stupid.

The dorm rooms are a decent size and you will share a room with another person of the same sex. There are 2 beds, 2 desks, 2 chairs, 2 closets, and 1 shared bathroom. The bathroom has a shower, but no bathtub and as is common in most Korean bathrooms, the shower is connected to the rest of the bathroom. There’s no shower curtain or door or anything so the water gets all over the floor. As such, I recommend bringing a pair of flip flops or sandals you can use in the bathroom because you may or may not want to use the pair that come with the room…

The dorm has wifi, but only at the 1st floor lobby. Otherwise you’ll have to use a LAN cable to connect to the ethernet in your room. You’ll be given this when you check in (along with a few other goodies like a thermal mug, calendar, muffins, and more!).

The dorm also has a laundry room, indoor gym, and convenience store at the basement level of the dorm building. I cannot begin to express my joy of discovering that the laundry rooms here have DRYERS. Do all your laundry that you can while you’re here because it’s highly likely that this is the last time you’ll have access to a dryer while you’re here in Korea! It’s also cheap: a total of 2,500 won for 1 round of washing, drying, and some detergent and a dryer sheet.

I feel that I’ve been so blessed on my journey so far. I was able to enter this program, had no one sit next to me on the plane, met relatives who helped me with my monetary needs, and now I have no roommate. Her name tag is on my door but no one showed up and it’s the end of the 2nd official day so I guess something happened. It’s nice because I can shower when I want and talk with my parents in my room freely, but it does feel a bit empty by myself here..I’ll go into further detail about the actual start of orientation in another post, so look forward to it! 😉