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

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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^^

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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How to check the status of your Korean Visa Application

**DO NOT CONTACT ME ABOUT YOUR 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 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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**DO NOT CONTACT ME ABOUT YOUR APPLICATION**

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

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 NOA and Contract Packet – Fall 2016

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My NOA!

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!

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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EPIK: Common questions -With answers from coordinators

Here I have compiled a list of some of the questions and answers from the official EPIK Fall 2016 Facebook page. I hope this is helpful, especially since the people asking the questions are real applicants in real situations and the answers are coming from real EPIK coordinators themselves.


Q: Not sure if this has been asked before, but if we don’t get our first choice for placement- how will EPIK place us? Is there a way to tell them about our second and third choices?

A: Epik Coordinator – We only provide one option for a preference location and do not give a secondary preference location. On rare occasions, some applicants may be asked to change their preference if there are some issues with their documents or they are not eligible for the location they have selected initially.


Q: Does anyone know when we’re allowed to take vacations? I imagine it depends on each school, but just for reference? My dad wants to get married in early June 2017 so I’m wondering if that would fall within a vacation period. Thanks!

A: Epik Coordinator – This depends on schools primarily, but for the most part the summer vacation period is in August and the winter vacation period in February. As noted above, most schools will have camps during this period, so your vacation days will usually be taken in these months and around your camp obligations.


Q: Since I only have my earlobes pierced do I still need the tattoo and piercing sworn declaration?

A: Epik Coordinator – In your situation, that document is not needed Continue reading

“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