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

Tips for Webcam Interviews

open-laptop-with-shining-screen.pngWebcam interviews are becoming more and more commonplace. While this format has revolutionized the way we conduct long-distance interviews, they also present new challenges and things to consider. Some of these tips are pretty obvious but in my experience they have always given me positive results! Here are my tips for webcam interviews.


Your account

  • Make an account

If you haven’t already, make a skype account. Go ahead and make one right now even if you don’t have an interview scheduled. Familiarize yourself with how the program works.

  • Make an appropriate status update

happyThis may be a point that is often overlooked. Skype has a feature where you can make a status message. Make your status message professional or relevant to the position for which you are being interviewed. Remember that your status message history will be visible to your contacts, so keep it all clean and positive.

  • Choose a professional username

Keep it simple. Using your name in a form like “hong.gildong”, “contact.honggildong”, “info.honggildong”, or “hello.honggildong” are safe choices.

  • Choose a professional avatar

This is a no brainer. Make sure your avatar is professional. This is literally most likely the first time the interviewer has ever seen you, so make a good impression from the start.

  • Hide your number of contacts

Unless you have a large number of contacts (50+) hide your number of contacts. Continue reading

Goals: Studying for the Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK)

If I write it for others to see, I will feel more committed and actually follow through with it…theoretically. While in Korea, one of my personal goals is to take the TOPIK, aka Test of proficiency in Korean. While many people who take this examination are doing it for academic or career-oriented reasons, my motives are more casual and personal. I know, it sounds strange to take an exam just for fun, but I want to challenge myself. Continue reading

On your mark, get set…READ!

It’s that time of year again~

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Info table/sign up sheet station in our department~

Anyone who works at a public library, especially the youth services department, will tell you that summer is a time like no other. School is out, summer programming is in full swing, and work schedules and loads shift.

This is the 3rd year I have properly worked during the Summer Reading Program. Each year the CSLP (collaborative summer library program) assigns a specific ~theme~ that participating libraries shape (more or less) their programs around. This year’s theme is all about being active/sports. Just in time for the Rio Olympics!

Continue reading