Friday, August 19, 2011

An EPIK Adventure begins!

A new adventure begins.... This time in the land of kimchi!!! (spicy fermented cabbage)

I arrived in South Korea yesterday to start a one year contract teaching English in public schools through the EPIK program.

Over 1,000 eager yet groggy EPIK teachers landed in Seoul, where EPIK was waiting to greet and shuttle us on buses to our various orientation venues. We all have to attend a mandatory ten day orientation covering culture, language, the Korean education system, teaching, with a field trip or two sprinkled in between.

My orientation is at Jeonju University which is a 4 hour bus ride south of Seoul. They pulled over at a rest stop half way through the trip. I was amazed to find a "Lactating Station." I wasn't lactating at that time, so I opted for the florescent pink ladies' room next to the K-pop music stand instead. We didn't arrive to Jeonju until just before midnight. We loaded our bags off the bus, were given a care package form EPIK (containing a banana, apple juice, pastry, an awesome pink EPIK towel, alarm clock which I still can't figure out, and other goodies) we were assigned a roommate for orientation, headed up to our dorm room, groggily unpacked, showered and then CRASHED.

The first 1/2 day of orientation consisted of getting our medical exam. It was set in a huge auditorium on stage. They shuffled us through 10 or so different stations... including a trailer park x-ray van set up outside. Many of us were dehydrated after our flights, but weren't allow to eat or drink for 10 hours before the exam... yet were expected to give a urine sample. I didn't perform too well under the pressure. ;-)

After medical we had the whole afternoon to relax. I went back to the room to stretch out and get my blood flowing again with some yoga - but 20 minutes into it, a guy with a mask opened my door and came in with a long tubed weed killer looking machine and without any explanation started spraying every nook, corner, and cranny with some weird mist!!!! bizarre...

Afraid of inhaling who knows what, I decided to try and find the University gym. I was wandering around aimlessly, and asked a guy where the gym was. He didn't speak a lick of English, so I started playing charades and pumped some pretend iron. His eyes lit up with excitement and told me "CAR!" I jumped in and he was kind enough to drop me at the gym. We had a conversation neither one of us could understand... it was so sweet and reminded me of Japan. :-)

The gym also brought back memories of my first gym experience in Japan at the JET orientation in Tokyo ( But instead of mechanical workout bulls - Korea was all about shaking machines. My legs turned to jello as I stood on this vibrating, shaking, balancing pad... then after that I joined a cute granny as we strapped belts around our bottoms and were shook up even more. I watched the cute granny and copied some of her cool moves on the shaker.

After lunch we had a few hours to rest before the opening ceremony – which was surprisingly very entertaining! I remember the opening ceremony of JET – which was speech after speech after speech after speeeeeeech. EPIK took their ceremony up a notch by having different cultural performances. Colorful fan dancing, Korean drumming, dancing with drums, the awesome man with a huge rope on his head which he twirled around, and my favorite – The Jeonju University’s Tae Kwon Do team. They started out with serious intense music with screams, punches and traditional forms of Tae Kwon Do… then all of a sudden the music cut and uppity cheery K-pop (Korean pop music) blared through the speakers and they went into a cheesy high school musicalesque choreographed routine!!! I loved it. Too funny. They also were doing acrobatic flips, spins, and kicks breaking boards, and chopping apples with their feet flinging the remains into the audience. Not what I expected from an opening ceremony… I was quite impressed and forgot about my jetlag.

Jeonju University live up to it's motto on our towels: "The Place for Superstars!" yessssssss......

After the ceremony we were broke into our classes which were divided by the cities we are placed in. Each class has two Korean leaders who filled us in on the rules and schedule for the following 9 days. They also helped us apply for a bank account, and signed us up for Korean classes. Here we go again!!!

At 6pm they had a Welcome Dinner… which was overflowing with food, food, and more food. Kimchi, sushi, tofu, stirfries, fried rice, bean salads, fruit trays, dessert tables, and more. We had a toast and spent the rest of the evening chatting.

Two days down.... only 8 more left to go. ;-)


Jammer said...

Great blog. I always wondered about teaching English abroad. Korea seems like it would be fun

Anonymous said...


My name is Kellianne and I'm currently applying for a teaching position with EPIK to start this August. I came across your blog from a Google search for EPIK bloggers in South Korea.

I'm at the point in my application where I'm writing my personal essay, and I'd appreciate some advice from someone who's been through the process. Specifically, what do you think is the most important thing to emphasize in the essay (educational philosophy? thoughts on cultural diversity? reasons I want to teach EFL)? I'd also like any other advice you'd be willing to share about the EPIK application process.

Thank you very much in advance for your time!

All the Best,

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