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 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. 

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9 reasons you will love Gwangju

1. Mid-size city charm

15109483_10210138150548875_6564091619823353421_nGwangju is home to around 1.6 million people. In my eyes, this makes Gwangju the perfect size. If you want to experience rural Korea, rural Korea is not that far. If you want to experience modern Korea, you’ll be right there. If you want to live somewhere where foreigners are not viewed as literal aliens, while at the same time being met with curiosity about your homeland, Gwangju is perfect.

Traffic- For the most part the traffic (aside from 7:30-9am and 5pm-6:30pm on weekdays, is typically not that bad. There is only one subway line in the city so most commuters use the roads via bus or their own cars.14702465_10209782864346942_2360908213654079043_n

  • You can actually see the stars at night.
  • Perfect for the pay you will receive as a teacher (if you go through EPIK).
  • Air quality is not that bad.
  • The geographic area of the city is large yet manageable.

Notable areas for nightlife/entertainment – Chonnam backgate, Geumnam-ro area/downtown, Sangmu, Chosun university.

2. The “Gwangju frump”

Forget trying to impress anyone with your looks 24/7. Leave that for everyone in Gangnam. My friend and I have termed the aesthetic here as “Gwangju Frump”. This doesn’t mean that you can mosey out of your apartment in pajamas but it does mean that you will not need to invest as much into your appearance as locations such as Busan or Seoul. This is liberating financially, and mentally.

3. A+ bus intercity bus location

Gwangju is located (essentially) equidistant from Seoul and Busan, so trips to these cities will take basically the same amount of time. Gwangju Seongjeong Train station provides service to Yongsan, in Seoul for those who wish to take a fast track to the city. There is no quick fix for Busan, however.14713527_10209891627865962_3895738278966494042_n

U-Square Bus Terminal (광주 광천터미널). This is your lifeline for the intercity bus system. Usquare is outfitted with a 24/7 sauna, CGV movie theater, KFC, Burger King, a TGI Fridays, baskin robbins, krispy kreme, large book/stationary store, a Shinsegae department store, and an E-mart conveniently located across the street which is also accessible through an underground walkway on the basement floor of the shinsegae dept store. Buses to nearby cities typically run incredibly frequently (like every 15 minutes).


4. Great expat community

The Gwangju International center along with other organizations offer foreigners great opportunities to socialize and make connections. Two restaurants in particular cater to foreign clientele – The first alleyway AKA “Alleyway” and Tequilaz (Both located downtown).

5. Comfortable for the native English speaker

Not everyone speaks English but transit and essential services are typically easy to carry out in basic English or simple Korean. PLEASE USE SIMPLE KOREAN WHEN POSSIBLE. PLEASEEEE

6. Kia Tigers baseball


You don’t even need to be a baseball fan back home to enjoy the games here in Gwangju. The tigers may not the the #1 team in Korea but the energy of the crowd here is contagious and you are allowed to bring in your own food and drinks into the stadium (YEAH).



7. The gift of Democracy

14433179_10209606084367553_7604615944962747531_nGwangju’s role in modern Korean history is especially poignant. Protests which took place in the city led to the eventual democratization of the country during the late 1980’s. All around the city you will find memorials and locations dedicated to the various movements which have taken place. It is also a point of pride for many in the city. The Asian Culture Center, and the fountain in front of it located downtown were the literal battlegrounds between citizens and the “aggressive government forces”.

8. Food, FOOD, F-O-O-D!

Gwangju is locaated in the Honam region, an area renowned for its diverse cuisine and generous portions. Of course not every restaurant provides service that is beyond what you will find in other Korean cities, but the food here is definitely not a choice between quality and quantity.

9. You are a foreigner

Being a foreigner in Gwangju is a unique experience. You aren’t in Seoul or Busan so seeing foreigners is not /THAT/ common. But at the same time people here are not shocked when you are on the bus or walking down the street. (Of course I say this as a white male so perhaps if I came from a different gender or ethnic background this could be different! I see my privilege here!)

To everyone coming to Gwangju in the coming weeks/months! – WELCOME^^

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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.”


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.


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How to check the status of your Korean Visa Application


** अपने आवेदन के बारे में मुझसे संपर्क न करें **

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 you can search the status of your visa by providing simple information you submitted on your application.

Screen Shot 2016-07-16 at 5.54.22 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2016-07-16 at 5.54.48 PM

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~

Screen Shot 2016-07-16 at 5.44.11 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2016-07-16 at 5.44.18 PM

And there you have it, no more wondering!

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** अपने आवेदन के बारे में मुझसे संपर्क न करें **

EPIK NOA and Contract Packet – Fall 2016



My NOA and supporting documents arrived this afternoon! FI.NA.LLY.

KorVia sent my documents on 7/6 and they arrived today 7/7. I am still so impressed at how quickly mail can get from one side go the globe to the next so quickly…

Anyway, so inside the packet there was a letter from the KorVia CEO extending congratulations from the KorVia team on my success along with orientation information, which had previously been provided online by EPIK coordinators on the EPIK Fall 2016 Facebook page and on KorVia’s Facebook page.

More importantly, my tentative (long and somewhat intimidating lol) contract was enclosed as well. This contract sample will be signed by me and sent along with my supporting documents to the Chicago Consulate for my E-2 Visa. Which looks like a headache waiting to happen but I will keep you updated!

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