Changes to EPIK Program 2019 (Gwangju)

So over the years EPIK will make small changes to the contracts of foreign teachers. That being said, the changes are usually quite small.

For 2019, the changes seem to be much larger than in previous contracts. Here is a quick outline of what is changing in 2019 for the EPIK program in Gwangju


1. English Camps are now discretionary

Summer and Winter English camps will no longer be a hard requirement for schools with Guest English Teachers. Instead, schools designated as “in need” will be given priority to hold English Camps. Perhaps this means that if your school opts out, and an in need school requests a camp, GETs may be dispatched to teach the camp at different schools.

2. Housing matters handed to Office of Education

If you are living in school provided housing, the paperwork will no longer be handled by your school and instead will be organized by the office of education.

3. Increased paid vacation

Renewing teachers will be entitled to more paid vacation days, up from the 21 in previous contracts. (I will update with the exact number)

4. Drug test no longer required for renewing teachers

When you renew your contract, you will no longer be required to submit a drug test.

5. Increase in number of schools

More teachers will be teaching at 3 schools this coming school year. An increase from the typical 2.


What do you think of the changes? If you aren’t in Gwangju, what changes are coming to your office of education this year?

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How to vote in the 2019 US elections from Abroad/Korea.

US politics go local in 2019. In order to vote from abroad you must RENEW your Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) every calendar year.

Louisiana, Alabama and Kentucky will hold Gubernatorial elections.

Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Kansas City (MO, Las Vegas, Memphis, Philadelphia, San Antonio, San Francisco, Tampa, and Phoenix are among the major cities with Mayoral contests this year.

Ballot measures will also appear in several states.

 

“Do you know about Dokdo?”

Last summer, I had the opportunity to visit Dokdo with a cohort of other native English Teachers from all over Korea. The trip, sponsored by Gyeongsangbuk-do and the Dokdo foundation consisted of 3 JAM PACKED (see schedule below) days on Ulleungdo, and of course, eventually, Dokdo.

<4AM BUS —>9AM PORT –>12PM ULLEUNGDO *NEXT DAY* 2HRS–> DOKDO>

제목 없음

For those unfamiliar, Dokdo consists of several islands east of mainland Korea, and west of Japan. The islets have been a point of contention between Korea and Japan, as both countries claim the islands are their territory. Given the history between the two countries (think the Japanese occupation of the Korean peninsula) the issue brings heavy emotion here in Korea, especially in the realm of politics.

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Being brainwa..I mean educated about Dokdo.

Were the foreign teachers and I used as a propaganda piece in the trip? I mean, yes, to an extent. The trip was funded by organizations with aims at promoting the claim of Korean sovereignty to the islets. And why else would we be given neck towels adorned with the words reading “Iheart Dokdo”?  I mean honestly some great PR planning given the era of instagram and social media. Who knows how many people would end up googling “Dokdo”, because, well, who outside of Korea really knows about the islands (no tea, no shade, just facts on that )

But given that I have been in Korea for some time now, I felt as if this was a trip that is on my Korea travel bucket list (yes, that is a thing I have going).

 

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Upon landing at Dokdo we had FIFTEEN minutes to quickly see the surroundings lol

Dokdo – one of the most difficult locations in Korea to visit. Often times, ferry services to the islets are cancelled due to poor weather conditions. Given that Dokdo is only accessible from Ulleungdo – A 3 hour ferry ride from extreme eastern Korea (which, if we are honest is far AF from urban Korea), the trip is risky given that you may not be able to even step foot onto the fabled land.

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Moving to Korea: Get your WiFi fix without an ARC card.

One of the most common initial frustrations upon moving to Korea is not having wifi or contracted cell phone service without your Alien Registration Card issued. In fact, I can recall the first month living in Korea, I had to go to Angel-in-us every evening to work on my lessons materials.

Here are a few tips I have for beating this daunting hurdle.

Cafes

Perhaps the most obvious choice is to go to a cafe. I have two options when it comes to cafes. One I call the moral customer option, and the second option I call the leeching option.

Moral customer – Order an item off of the menu. preferably the cheapest item as going here consistently will add up over time.

Leeching option – More likely in metropolitan areas where there are many people. Find a Starbucks or other cafe with multiple floors and simply sit and use the WiFi. To me I always feel guilty doing this but, desperate times call for desperate measures.

Public Libraries

After working at a public library in America, to me this was an option that was second nature to me. Only downside to this one is that they are not open super late (usually).

Bus/KTX terminals

If you are living in a city with a KTX terminal or Bus terminal, these locations will likely have public wifi options. Again, in smaller towns it will be quite obvious that you are hanging around for WiFi but in larger cities, with so many people coming and going, hanging around with your laptop is probably not going to catch much attention.

Convenience stores

SOME convenience stores may have WiFi available to customers. Maybe go with a smart phone initially to search for WiFi options before lugging your laptop only to be disappointed.

If you moved to Korea, where did you go to get that free WiFi?

Ad astra per aspera,

Jeffrey

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Reflections on my first months as an ESL teacher in South Korea

I’ve been in Korea now for a little over 4 months. Here are a few of my reflections on my experience so far..

  • Good classes and bad classes are in flux – same goes with good students vs bad students. In the beginning I would dread 3rd grade (adorable but out of control, even with native co-teacher doing management), but now I love teaching 3rd grade. Now 5th grade tends to be problematic. 
  • You will eventually accept the unpredictability – cancelled classes, lesson plans shifting, new teachers coming and going etc. If you are a person that needs everything to be planned out 100% you will change, not as a matter of choice, but necessity. 
  • Stock up BEFORE YOU COME on lessons focusing explicitly on each of the communicative domains (speaking, listening, writing, reading) along with review games for when you finish lessons. Once you get your textbooks, look at the review sections for the jist of what key expressions and vocabulary you will need in review activities. You can use these to make word searches and other supplementary materials, which im telling you, will save your life when a lesson flies by faster than you expected or when technological issues occur and you are unable to use that powerpoint you slaved over for hours or planned to use in class.
  • You will not feel guilty for downloading and using files and materials from waygook.org. DO IT. SAVE TIME. THERE IS GOOD STUFF ON THERE. At first I wanted to be the teacher who made everything themselves. That lasted for only a few weeks and I caved.
  • After your first semester you will have an idea of what works and what doesn’t work in your classroom and what students like and dislike. Take note mentally as you do different activities what your students are receptive to and what flops. 
  • The seating charts the teachers give you will save your life too, ask for one if they haven’t given you any. Even knowing a few students’ names can change the atmosphere of a classroom. You can tell on a students face when you call on them by name and they are relieved that you know who THEY are. 

Ad astra per aspera,

Jeffrey

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How to: Never miss another package delivery in Korea

Receiving packages in Korea can be a headache. Delivery services typically will not leave a package at your residence if nobody is there to receive it at the door. Which can be a good thing if it is something expensive, but if you ordered a really really cool oven mitt (idk), or something not so valuable, then you probably are frustrated if you keep missing the delivery guy/girl. In this post I will outline what you can do to ensure that you receive your package without stress.

Before you read further, this how to is intended for those living in an apartment building where there is no office that can receive your packages when you are gone (one room people, where u at?). It is also intended for people who are comfortable with packages being left unattended outside their apartment door when they are away. 

The delivery process typically goes like this – screen-shot-2016-12-10-at-7-46-30-pm

  • Delivery company will send a text message to the phone number you likely supplied during the ordering process (if you ordered from online). This text message could include information like the time frame in which the delivery person will go to your apartment to attempt delivery
  • Before immediate delivery the delivery person will CALL the phone number. During the workday this can be difficult to answer, and I became wary of constantly asking my coworkers to answer the calls. Take initiative. Be an independent foreigner (kidding, ask if you want).
  • If nobody is home to accept the package, and if contact is not made, the package will not be left as it typically is in the US with services like USPS.

To ameliorate this problem, you can text the delivery person to leave the package outside your door. To do this simply text the following message –

“택배는 문앞에 놓아두시면 됩니다. 감사합니다. TYPE YOUR ADDRESS HERE.”

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The message roughly asks the delivery person to kindly leave the package outside your door.

The delivery person may choose to respond to your message, or they may simply leave the package. Really depends on the person.

I’ve also had the delivery service (looking at u CJ express) text me saying they just went ahead and left the package at the CU convenience store on the corner, which i’m 100% okay with.

Hopefully this quick hint will get you your packages with less hassle and give you more independence from asking your coworkers every time the mail man calls you from that creepy unknown caller ID when you are at work.

 

Ad astra per aspera,

Jeffrey

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“We will be experiencing some turbulence”

It all started at Incheon International Airport. Before boarding my flight I purchased an overpriced bottled water because, ya know, gotta stay hydrated on those long flights. The usual routine for me.

face-with-no-good-gesture.pngStrangely as I was boarding the flight there was a secondary security checkpoint in the jet bridge (that tunnel you walk in before you board the plane). It was there that I was told I couldn’t take my bottled water on the flight. Why? WHAT? I bought it past the ~official~ security checkpoint! No point in arguing, though. So I had half a bottle left and I thought…okay I mean I spent the money so I might as well drink the rest of it. MISTAKE.

The first hour or so of the flight was fine we were served a meal and everything was peachy keen. Then the turbulence began.

Something along the lines of

“We will be experiencing some turbulence. We ask that you remain seated while the fastened seatbelt light is illuminated.”

came over the intercom in a stern voice. They shouldn’t have said “ask” because it was more of a demand.

The turbulence was no joke and the lights even flickered in the cabin every now and then. I wouldn’t have been surprised if our luggage had flown out mid-flight. Everyone looked around at each other several times to see if anyone was concerned (Spoiler: we all were). A few people tried to get up to use the restroom but the flight attendants quickly told them that they needed to return to their seats.

KU6K3d82 hours later – I GOTTA…. USE THE “FACILITIES”. That damn water that I chugged was making itself known. Of course, now that we had all been forced to be seated for hours, after being served a meal other passengers had to use the restroom as well. That is when I had to begin strategizing my plan of action during the impending stampede of restroom goers. We were no longer passengers, we were competition. Luckily I had an aisle seat so I wouldn’t have to trample anyone. Continue reading

That one time I almost died in Gyeongju

Okay so maybe the title of this post is a little overdramatic but…still.

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Students at Bulguksa Temple

Back in 2013 when I was in Korea I went on a day trip to Gyeongju to visit…well…..Gyeongju. The city is located in Gyeongsangbuk-do on the southeastern part of the Korean peninsula. You may hear Gyeongju referred to as “the museum without walls” thanks to a rich cultural history spanning over 1000 years. In fact, the city and immediate region is home to several UNESCO-designated world heritage sites. On top of that, every school child in Korea visits Gyeongju with their school at least once.My tour would take me to Seokguram Grotto, Bulguksa Temple

My tour would take me to Seokguram Grotto, Bulguksa Temple (both of these locations are exquisite examples of religious and architectural masterpieces) , and the generically named “Gyeongju Historic Areas”. In the Gyeongju Historic Areas, I would be visiting the Tumuli Park Belt consisting of burial mounds, and Cheomseongdae.

Screen Shot 2016-05-30 at 9.29.21 PMCheomseongdae is the one of the oldest surviving astronomical observatories in the world, dating back to the 7th century. At one time it could even be found on the 10,000 원 banknote. Symbolism can be found everywhere in the observatory’s architecture take for example that the 362 stones used to build Cheomseongdae represented the 362 days in a lunar year.

So the night I arrived in Gyeongju I wasn’t feeling so well after dinner. I didn’t think much of it and went ahead and fell asleep that night without really any problems..well aside from the fact that the wi-fi was not working, but I digress. The next morning I went ahead and got ready for the tours I had scheduled for the day and went down to the breakfast buffet. From what I recall, this is when things really started going downhill. Continue reading

So it begins – Telling friends you are moving abroad

In all honesty, I have told very few people that I am leaving in August. A handful of “critical” people (my employer, parents, letters of recommendation referees, etc.) are the only ones who know so far. I haven’t posted something about it to Facebook or anything like that. Something about exposing things in advance always makes me feel like something could go wrong. I don’t want to jinx myself, I suppose.

I mean how is someone supposed to slam that on someone they know? It isn’t like I can be sitting in a coffee shop and all of a sudden say “Oh, yeah, by the way, I’m moving half way around the globe in 2 months and you won’t be seeing me for at least a year.” Well, I mean I could do that, but it isn’t really my style.

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Well, today was the first time I have had to actually reveal my upcoming departure to a friend. They live in Philadelphia, so I see them maybe only once or twice a year when they come and visit family. Ironically, this same friend, whom I have not seen in over 18 months, just returned from a trip to Korea about a week ago. Consequently, I was given a few goodies. I’ve been dying to try the 초코파이 바나나맛, so the gifts were perfect! I’m gonna bring the mango soap with me to Korea.

I told them right before we parted that they wouldn’t see me around Christmas when they would visit because I would be gone. They took to the news well and in all honesty, I’m expecting that everyone I tell will take to it in a positive light. I think the biggest wall is ultimately myself, and being superstitious (I want that placement email, stat!).

I know as the date approaches and I tell more people, it will get easier. I’m not sad, I’m not nervous, I just feel like the timing is really important.

Ad astra per apsera,

-Jeffrey

 

Voting From Abroad – How To Guide for Americans

Moving abroad doesn’t mean you lose your voice. Voting from abroad is now easier than ever. Here is a quick run through of how to apply and vote in US elections while living abroad.

UOCAVA citizens: U.S. citizens who are active members of the Uniformed Services, the Merchant Marines, and the commissioned corps of the Public Health Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, their eligible family members, and U.S. citizens residing outside the United States.

The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) supports UOCAVA citizens and election officials by providing necessary absentee voting forms, materials and training guidance.

Voting from abroad requires several steps

  1. Request FPCA
  2. Send FPCA to local election office
  3. FPCA approved by local election office
  4. Absentee ballot sent to voter from local election office
  5. Voter sends completed absentee ballot to local election office
  6. *FWAB can be completed if the ballot is not received 30 days before the election.

UOCAVAVote.jpg Continue reading