Home > Uncategorized > The first 8 days…

The first 8 days…

OK, so it’s been a long time since I’ve written, so here is an abbreviated update:

The orientation was amazing. It was 8 days packed full of classes, eating meals, going out once or twice, and sleeping. Basically we would get up every morning, eat breakfast, and go to teaching classes until 12:30. Then it’s lunch and then back to class until dinner. Then it’s dinner, survival Korean class and then a couple of hours before sleep. The facility in which we were in locked its gates at 10, so we didn’t have much time to see the nightlife around Daejeon, but we managed to get see a very chilled out underground hookah bar, a noreibang, and a patio bar down the road that we celebrated our last night in.

The orientation was very intense. The staff that ran it were all Korean post-grads, though the EPIK leaders were all English speakers. EPIK has members from the US, UK, Australia, South Africa, Ireland and New Zealand (though no one was there from New Zealand). The teachers of our classes were all people who have been here for many years and had honed their skills and now they were going to pass them onto us. We had classes in “edutainment” in which the teacher taught us fun group activities. We had a class on PowerPoint, in which we learned that PowerPoint video games were going to be our best friend (3 weeks in, they’re definitely mine.) We had a class on classroom discipline, on the Korean curriculum, on how to deal with co-teachers, on classroom management, and my personal favorite – what life will be like in Korea – where our teachers, the guy who actually interviewed me when I applied actually – told us the real deal, how to treat our coworkers, how to expect to be treated, and what life would probably be like.

When we first began orientation, we were all split up into groups. I was in group 3, a class of about 50 who were all going to Gangwon province. What I didn’t realize was how large Gangwon was. One person could be in Sokcho, which is at the far eastern shore, while another could be in Yeongwol, 1.5 hours from seoul, and probably 2 hours from Sokcho. This meant that we had no idea how close we’d be to each other. There could feasibly be people closer to you in Gyeonggi-do or Seoul than people in your own province. this all stemmed from Epik’s inability to tell us what town or school we’d be placed in. When I talked with one of the EPIK instructors, they said the reason for this was that when they told the teachers ahead of time where they’d be placed, their call centers got inundated with complaints. He even added that some teachers went back home. To respond to this, the Provisional office of Education withholds the placement of all teachers until the last day of orientation.

The format of orientation goes the following way: Arrive, go to orientation, opening ceremony, medical check, classes for 6 days with one bus tour day, on the last day, the director of the POE of your province pays a visit and you receive your school placement along with your final contract which you sign on the spot. That night, you have the closing ceremony and the next day you get bussed to central locations around your province where your co-teachers pick you up and drive you to your new home for a year.

I was placed in Imgye elementary school which is in Jeongseon district. I guess you could call it a county. I was placed with 2 other people. I was the only one in my program in my town. That made me a little nervous. A million questions floated through my brain and I kind of understood why they didn’t tell us until the last day. I wondered how small the town was that I was going to, if there would be other Americans there, what my apartment would be like, how difficult it would be to reach major cities, and so on and so forth, all answers which I would only be privy to only once I’d gotten there.

Surprisingly, the whole ordeal went quite smoothly. The only part that really sucked was sitting on that bus in Gangeung hugging each friend as they got called to leave the bus and meet their co-teacher, saying goodbye and good luck, wondering, after 8 days of living in a bubble, when I’d see them again.

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