Travel: Flower festivals in Korea

Ah, yes. Korean flower festivals. One of the many themed festivals you will hear about during the spring, summer and fall months. So far, I have been to three different flower festivals here in Korea. In this post I will share my thoughts on these festivals and some tips on if you choose to go to these festivals yourself.

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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 check the status of your Korean Visa Application

Applying for a Korean visa can be nerve wracking. Even if you have tracked your application through the mail, once it arrives at the embassy or consulate, there is black hole of wonder on where your visa is, in relation to the application process.

Well, wonder no more! At visa.go.kr you can search the status of your visa by providing simple information you submitted on your application.

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If you aren’t proficient in Korean, go ahead and click the English option in the navigation of the webpage in the upper right hand corner.

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Proceed to click “Check Application Status & Print”

EPIK applicants: Search using your passport # and enter your name as it appears on your passport in [LAST NAME, FIRST NAME, MIDDLE NAME] format. Click on the calendar icon and navigate yourself to your date of birth and………voila~

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Click “search” and you will presented with a status table below the search box indicating your receipt number, date of application, status of stay, and where your application stands within the application process.

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And there you have it, no more wondering!

Ad astra per aspera,

-Jeffrey

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Korean E2 Visa Application – US EPIK Applicants

Before you continue please consult with your designated consulate for the official rules and regulations assigned to their specific mission~

I submitted my E-2 Visa application to the Chicago consulate in July of 2016.

What you will need

  • Notice of Appointment
  • Passport Photo – Try and get the Korean standard size 35x45mm
  • Passport
  • Copy of Passport information page (The glossy one and the signature page above it)
  • Money order
  • Visa Application Form – Download from your designated consulate/embassy website
  • Prepaid return envelope with tracking (if mailing)

Notice of Appointment

You will need to send the ACTUAL notice of appointment documents. Yes, you will have to part ways with this coveted certificate looking document so make photo copies if you would like a memento for posterity.

Passport Photo

△ Photo Requirements for Korean Visa Application Beginning September 9,2015, photographs must conform to the following requirements. 1. Photos must be color neutral, size 35×45 mm, with a length of full face 25×35 mm

1. Photos must be color neutral, size 35×45 mm, with a length of full face 25×35 mm

2. Photos must be taken against a plain, evenly lit and light background, without any mark or creases

3. Photos must be taken within the last 6 months

4. Applicant must be shown looking directly at the camera

5. No sunglasses or hats, except for medical/disability reasons

6. Photographs will be returned (and applications will be delayed) for the following reasons:

  • – The same photograph has been submitted as the previous passport, alien registration card, refugee travel certificate, flight attendant ID, etc. those were issued before six months.
  • – It is too difficult to judge that photograph is of the same person, (e.g. significant changes of face, hair color, lack of quality, without showing ears)

7. Photo Standards for Religious Apparel or Head coverings(such as Hijab, Veil, Turban, etc.) are permitted for religious purposes under the following conditions:

  • – Facial features should not be covered from bottom of chin to top of forehead.
  • – Full face should be visible without any shadows.
  • – Full face, eyebrows, eyes, nose, or mouth must not be covered, yet covering ears are permitted.
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Do NOT wear white in your passport photo

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Regulations for Religious Apparel

Money order

money-order.pngI had never used money orders before this process, so this experience was all new to me. A money order is basically a check that does not have a personal bank account attached to it. Money orders can be purchased at any USPS location. There is a small fee associated with this service (~$1.20) and you can pay this with cash, debit card, or traveler’s checks. Wal-Mart locations will often also be able to provide this service.

Visa Application

visa.pngWhen applying for your visa, you may be asked to include an address and phone number in Korea on a visa application form. If requested to do so, you must list your Office of Education’s address and phone number (you should receive this information in your NOA packet. Do not list the address of EPIK or your recruiter.

The Chicago consulate visa application directions are somewhat…contradictory when it comes to photo size because on one part of the directions is says applicants must submit a 2x2inch color photo and then in another part it says that applicants should submit the Korean standard passport photo size of 35mmx45mm. I emailed the consulate and they responded that either size would be fine. I went ahead and used the Korean standard size.

Check out an sample visa application provided by KorVia consulting here 

Signed Contract

IMG_3598.jpgSign the bottom of each page of your contract which arrived with your EPIK packet and fill out the passport information requested on the final page as well. You will sign two additional copies at orientation in Korea, so the one you received with your NOA packet is merely for the visa application process.

Paperclip all these documents together and send it off in your tracked envelope along with a prepaid self addressed envelope (also with tracking. I recommend prepaid forever envelopes from the USPS) for the consulate to send back your passport with visa attached inside!

Track the progress of your Korean visa application HERE!

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Embassy/Consulate locations and their assigned districts

Consulate-General Address Phone/Fax District
Washington D.C. 2320 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20008 T:(202) 939-5653
F:(202) 342-1597
Washington D.C., Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia
New York Main Office : 335 E. 45th St.(4th Fl.), New York, NY 10017 T:(646)674-6000
T:(212)692-9120
F:(646)674-6023
Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania
Public Office(Visa Section): 460 Park Ave. (57th St.) 6th Fl. New York, NY 10022 T:(646)674-6000
F:(646)674-6023
San Francisco 3500 Clay Street San Francisco, CA 94118 T:(415) 921-2251
F:(415) 921-5946
Colorado, Northern California, Utah, Wyoming
Los Angeles 3243 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90010 T:(213) 385-9300
F:(213) 385-1849
Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, South California
Boston One Gateway Center 2nd Fl. Newton, MA 02458 T:(617) 641-2830
F:(617) 641-2831
New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont
Chicago NBC Tower Suite 2700, 455 North City Front Plaza Dr. Chicago, IL 60611 T:(312) 822-9485
F:(312) 822-9849
Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin
Seattle 2033 Sixth Ave., #1125 Seattle, WA 98121 T:(206) 441-1011
F:(206) 441-7912
Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington
Atlanta 229 Peachtree St., Suite 500 International Tower Atlanta, GA 30303 T:(404) 522-1611
F:(404) 521-3169
Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virgin Islands
Houston 1990 Post Oak Blvd., #1250 Houston, TX 77056 T:(713) 961-0186
F:(713) 961-3340
Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Texas
Honolulu 2756 Pali Highway Honolulu, HI 96817 T:(808) 595-6109
F:(808) 595-3046
American Samoa, Hawaii
Hagatna 125C Tun Jose Camacho St., Tamuning, Guam 96913 T:(671) 647-6488
F:(671) 649-1336
Guam, Northern Mariana Islands
Anchorage 800 E. Diamond Blvd. STE 3-695 Anchorage, AK 99515 T:(907) 339-7955
F:(671) 907-0411
Alaska (Since 2008)
Dallas 14001 Dallas Parkway Suite, 450 Dallas, TX 75240 T:(972) 701-0180
F:(972) 701-0183
Texas DFW(Dallas, Forth Worth)

Ad astra per aspera,

Jeffrey

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EPIK Placement – GWANGJU!

This morning I woke up to see the e-mail I have been waiting to receive for what seems like an eternity.

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Gwangju was my preferred location so I could not be happier. Of course, I would be happy with any placement, as I believe each city and province has its own personality and charms.

Now comes the wait for the notice of appointment, contract, and visa application. Exciting stuff!

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

Applying for an International Driving Permit (IDP)

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Countries that honor IDPs

There are only two private entities in the U.S. authorized by the U.S. Department of State to issue an IDP. They are AAA and the National Automobile Club. As Korea is a member of the Geneva Conventions, it’s acceptable to drive for 1 year from the date of entry with an international driving permit issued from other members of the Geneva Convention.

As Korea is a member of the Geneva Conventions, it’s acceptable to drive for 1 year from the date of entry with an international driving permit issued from other members of the Geneva Convention. It is possible to drive in Korea, using an international driving permit issued by member countries of the Geneva & Vienna Conventions

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