“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>

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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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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

**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 **

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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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

The small details: Make the most of your EPIK application

Most of these suggestions are dependent upon your timing and personal preferences~


1. Apply directly

I say this even though I applied through KorVia consulting. The general rule is that recruiting agencies have a later application acceptance date (around April 1st) than applicants who apply directly. As an example, for Fall 2016 intake, direct applicants could submit their applications on February 1st, 2 whole months earlier than us recruiter applicants.

However, I HIGHLY recommend KorVia should you choose to use a recruiter!

2. Strategize your preferred location and be open to any location

forestCheck that box saying you are open to other locations if you cannot be placed in your preferred location! Being flexible is a huge deal.

Seoul, Busan, and Gyeonggi-do are generally viewed as the most competitive locations. If you have your heart set on a metropolitan area, you may be best served to go avoid listing Busan and Seoul, and instead, apply to a smaller metropolitan area such as Daegu, Ulsan, Daejeon, Sejong city or Gwangju.

In other words, choose a less competitive metropolitan area or else you may be placed in a place like rural Gangwon province (no hate on Gangwon, though. They have the Olympics coming up!). Rural areas have their own charms and you may find that you are best served in the countryside.

Of course, by all means, if you really want Seoul or Busan write it down. Continue reading

Apostilled Criminal Background Check – EPIK Fall 2016

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After receiving your cleared Identity History Summary Check from the FBI, you will need to have that document apostilled by the Department of State in Washington, D.C.

You have the option of using a channeler to expedite this process, or you can do it independently. I went with the independent option via mail  since I expedited my initial background check results and had time to go the normal route.

Documents you need to include in your package – Continue reading