First Two Weeks in South Korea – EPIK Orientation

Flying to South Korea

I was fortunate enough to have met two girls from Minneapolis that were also moving to Korea prior to flying there. We had only talked online before meeting face to face at the airport but I think it made the world of a difference. I was instantly more calm having two other Midwesterners to travel with. My flights went smoothly. 25 hours of straight travel. We first flew into Denver then Japan and then landed finally in South Korea. My longest flight was from Denver to Japan. Almost 13 hours. I requested an aisle seat but was switched to a window seat and for some that may have been exciting but for me I do notttt like window seats on long flights! So I switched with a nice man and ended up middle seat next to my friend Katie. It actually worked out great as the two of us would get up every 3-4 hours to stretch our legs together and the person sitting in the aisle was a young girl who was friendly and would smile once in awhile. Perfect type of person to sit next to!

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We stayed in a hostel the first evening in Incheon called Kozy Korea. We were picked up by an American which was the greatest surprise of comfort again and brought to the hostel. That was by far the best decision we could have made right off the bat by sleeping in a hostel. I ended up with a full nights rest which totally attacked the so called Jet Lag!!! I woke up refreshed and ready to get back to the airport and meet my fellow teachers through EPIK!

Incheon Airport actually isn’t all that big so it wasn’t hard to find the area where we were all meeting. 300-400 teachers were flying in from all over the world to meet that day and take our shuttle bus to orientation. Anyone who flew in the night before had to meet at 11 AM to take the first few shuttle buses. We all were numbered off and had to wait for our numbers to be called to take the shuttle. There were about 20 people on my bus ride over there and we actually ended up bonding pretty quickly. We arrived two hours later at orientation. We were put in dorm rooms with one other roommate. Ends up whoever you were standing with in line was who your roommate ended up to be. I ended up rooming with a wonderful girl from England. Of course it was meant to be as I love England times a million. Her name was Becky and she was just delightful!!!

Orientation in Daejon

The first day was nice as we didn’t have anything planned so we all hung around and played Frisbee in the courtyard. It totally felt like college. Passing the Frisbee while introducing yourself and where you are from and a fun fact about you. Orientation is so interesting because everyone just wants to make friends and feel as comfortable as possible from the beginning. It’s scary but also exciting because most everyone is really nice and open to meeting new people! We also all have a few similar things in common such as love for travel, passion for teaching and for some crazy reason we all left our home countries to move to Korea. Not many people can say they’ve done that! Some people didn’t arrive until after midnight that day so I was thankful to have come early to be able to relax before the 9 days of full schedules ahead of us.

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Welcoming Ceremony

We had a welcoming ceremony for all of the teachers. It was a memorable night. There was a Taekwondo Performance from students at a local university. They were AMAZING! I could have watched them for hours on end. I was so impressed. We also have a man named Walter Foreman talk to us about the history of Korea, which was absolutely fascinating. So fascinating that I saved the slideshow that he used so I can share the facts with my family (Yes I’m a dork). Korea has come sooo far in the past 50 years. They were considered a 3rd world country not long ago and they have made huge strides in their economy. It made me respect the country even more and I am excited to be a part of it and to help students learn English and help their own futures.

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Jeonju Hanok Village

We also took a day trip to Jeonju Hanok Village to explore some of Korea’s history. It was a great day. Here are some pictures! I even was able to “stamp paint” a piece of famous art. Now I have a souvenir I can frame 🙂 We were also taught to play the drums as you see below.

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Each class was 1.5 hours long and we had 4 classes a day. We were also provided breakfast, lunch, and dinner. So basically our schedule consisted of eating, class, class, eating, class, class, and more eating and then hopefully going to bed at a decent time since we had 12 hour days! You can see the meals below – it was fun being able to finally work on using chopsticks. After the first day I decided to only grab a spoon and the chopsticks since that’s all they eat with here. It was good practice. We were always served soup, kimchi, rice and whatever else was there. I could tell they tried to make it a bit more comfortable for us with random things like fries or cereal. I was not used to eating the huge breakfasts with kimchi and rice every morning so I ended up buying some oranges at a local store and just had those. We just ate and ate during orientation but it was good!

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EPIK did a really great job of choosing their teachers for each specific class we took. Each teacher had a different style of teaching but they were all so enthusiastic and basically what a dream teacher should be like. They were really inspiring to me and I hope one day someone can think that about me as well. Teachers were from all over the world too. There were some English ex-pat teachers from England, USA, Canada and also native Korean teachers. A great mix with all different advice and helpful tips for your time here in Korea. I was extremely impressed by the knowledge given to us and I wouldn’t have traded any of the classes we took. They ranged from your first day at school, lesson planning, and culture differences in Korea, Korean lessons, classroom management, and even a Taekwondo class.IMG_8834 IMG_8823

During orientation we were put into teams of 3. The three of us had to put together a lesson plan that would be presented to the class on the final day. This part was quite stressful as we all didn’t have much time to take a break and actually lesson plan. We had the lesson plan “She has long, straight hair.” It was fun finally presenting it and understanding why we did the activity. It helped warm us up for our big trek to moving to our cities the next day and meeting our co-teachers!

Excited to share about Gwangju soon!

With Love,

Caroline (Caroline in Hangul below!)

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5 comments

  1. Hey Caroline!

    I’ve been reading your posts because I am really interested in teaching in Korea myself. I noticed that you said that you were able to get in touch with two other American girls from your area who were also moving to Korea. How did you get in touch with them, if you don’t mind me asking? That does sound really comforting!
    Thank you! Continue blogging, it’s great.

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    • Hi Emily! Thanks so much for the comment. Thank you so much for the kind words! I appreciate it 🙂 I am glad to help. Before I was officially accepted to teach in Korea I actually found a few people by googling teaching in Korea and reading different people’s blogs similar to how you found me! I reached out to a few individuals who lived in Gwangju (the area I live in now) and reached out to them to ask what they thought of teaching in Korea and of the area. I applied through the recruited Greenheart Travel which is free to use – When I was officially accepted to teach I joined a Facebook Group and I saw that two of the girls in the Facebook group were also from the same state as I was. We then formed a facebook chat and talked a ton before moving! I actually met them at the airport for the first time and we are still friends. They ended up moving to Seoul but I still talk with them. It was really helpful! Please let me know if you have any questions! I am more than happy to help! 🙂

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  2. I’m thinking about taking the leap too! 🙂 may I ask where you got your TEFL certification, and how intensive it was? just a little concerned that I may be a bit like a fish out of water as someone with no formal teaching experience otherwise.
    thanks for sharing your travels with us!

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    • Hi Sade! That’s great to hear! I think the leap is worth it 🙂 I did my TEFL through International TEFL Academy. I also used Greenheart Travel as a recruited because the program was still free and they were great support. I was working full time 50 hours a week and doing the TEFL course on top of it and also had to do 20 in-class hours of teaching. It was pretty intense for the couple months it lasted but completely worth it. It’s also expensive but down the line the money doesn’t matter. If you are thinking of teaching in Korea you will need in-class hours so I highly suggest it! It’s totally do-able! Please feel free to email me with any questions – I’d love to help!!! I have a contact page on my blog. Best of luck with everything!

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  3. Hello Caroline,

    I’m a South African girl who just applied to teach in South Korea. I am completely OBSESSED with your blog! The packing list was most useful to me as I was worried about not having my favourite things when I get there. It was a great heads up!

    One of my anxieties, should I come there, is the co-teaching. I’m worried about getting along with the co-teacher etc.

    While nothing can really prepare you for the actual experience, your blog does make it a lot less daunting.

    Thank you so much!

    Love and light,
    Nomalanga

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