Posts Tagged 'Teaching English in Korea'

Ready for some Korean adventure? Apply now.

Applications to teach English in Korea’s public schools are out now!

EPIK (English Program in Korea) is the Korean-govt sponsored teaching program.  EPIK is the primary body responsible for hiring Native English Teachers (NET) and placing them in public schools (elementary, middle, and high) throughout Korea.  Micah and I are EPIK teachers.

EPIK hires NETs to start in either March or late August.

RIGHT NOW, applications for EPIK Fall 2010 are available.   I believe you can apply directly through them or do as we did…

Micah and I used a recruiting company that specializes in finding applicable NETs to work in Korea (as well as other countries).  We used Footprints Recruiting and felt they did a very good job in communicating information to us and helping us with the often times arduous application process.  But there are numerous recruiting companies out there from which to choose.

Micah and I are really happy with our experience so far.  I feel working for the public schools (rather than private academies) was an excellent decision.  Sure, there are MANY things that are very frustrating about being here and the way things are done…but it’s all part of the experience.  We’ve made some really great friends along the way and have been able to finance some pretty awesome vacations.

August 20, 2009 – just landed in Korea and off to EPIK orientation!

And of course, everyone’s experience will be different.  Where you live, what your school is like, what your co-teachers are like, how open/flexible you are, etc. – these will all play fairly big roles in your success and happiness living and teaching in Korea.

So…who’s up for a little adventure? 🙂

Back online baby!

So, since we are “foreigners” in this country – it’s not easy getting things like a cell phone, bank account, and internet.  Many of our fellow EPIK friends lucked out and had co-teachers who co-signed for them and was able to get internet within their first week of being in Daegu.  However…Micah and I are both at schools where this is their first time hosting a Native English Teacher (i.e. our teachers don’t know they can help us out like this – and we’re not comfortable asking them).

But alas, we finally have internet at home.  No more waiting until we get to school to see what is going on with the world.

We can hopefully Skype now with people.  I say “hopefully” because the time difference is a little problematic.  An ideal time for people on Pacific Coast Time is when we are at work. And the ideal time for us to Skype is when most people are asleep.  But I’m sure we’ll work something out.

Anyways…had to share the exciting news!  Ahh…all the news and blogs to catch up on!  What’s this I hear about Taylor Swift and Kanye West?  Hmm…must go investigate. :-) 

Daegu nightlife

Daegu is a big city, and has a big nightlife.  Downtown is where it’s at, but stores in all parts of the city are open late.  Even the tiny little “shanty” places – they stay open until at least 10pm every night. 

Downtown Daegu is about a 15-20 minute subway ride from our place.  It’s not bad.  Downtown is a zoo.  There’s shops everywhere, people everywhere, and cars everywhere.  The cars drive down these little streets filled with people – streets that you don’t think cars should be driving down.  So you have to be on the lookout all the time.

Also, there are foreigners EVERYWHERE…and by “foreigners,” I mean Americans, Canadians, Brits, etc.  There are a significant number of English-speaking people who like to socialize in the bars and shops downtown.  It was a little weird to tell you the truth.  I figure, if the time comes when I want to just speak English on a night out – downtown is the place to go.

Last weekend, we met up with some of our new EPIK friends and went downtown.  One of the veteran EPIK teachers (who’s been in Daegu for 18 months now) was hosting a trivia night.  You enter as a team, pay 20,000 won, and the winning team takes all.  He was hosting it at a very popular downtown bar called ‘The Communes.’  Our team started out strong and then quickly went downhill.  The round of questions pertaining to “Life in Daegu” really killed us, since we’d only been there for exactly 1 week.  But fun nonetheless.


Plus, got to check out the infamous “bagged drinks.”  There are four places in the downtown area where you can buy a mixed alcoholic drink…in a bag, a straw included. 🙂


A little more about my hakyo

Some more interesting tidbits about my school and job.


8:00am – Start walking to school

8:30am – Arrive at school (I usually get there 10 minutes early) and change into “school” slippers.  Yes, my school (most schools) have “inside” shoes that you change into when you get to school and never wear outside.  Here are mine.  Thank you Regina and Martha!!  My co-teachers love my Mary Jane Crocs. 


8:50am – 12:00pm – Teach class (some days I have 3 classes in a row, sometimes I have 4)

12:30/1:00 – Eat lunch.  I mentioned before that my school cafeteria is closed until October.  So I eat lunch with three other ladies everyday.  In Korea, you share everything…food and drink.  A few times we went out to eat at lunch, but most of the time we stay at school and share side dishes (i.e. kimchi, beans, sprouts, etc.).  And Koreans don’t really drink very much water, juice, etc. during mealtimes.  When they do, the cups are teeny tiny.  Sometimes we’ll have lunch and never have anything to drink – and it doesn’t bother them at all.  Oh, and you ALWAYS brush your teeth after lunch…always. 

1:30 – 4:30pm – Work.  Create lesson plans, write emails, update my blog, etc.  I’ve actually been REALLY busy.  Each week, I have to plan 4 different lessons, plus Teacher Training, and materials for English Club.

4:30 – Go home! Once 4:30 hits, teachers are outta here.  They thought it was weird that I wanted to stay late a couple of times (more to finish personal stuff since I don’t have internet at home yet).  They were going to wait for me…so I just left (hence, why updates haven’t come so frequently). 

Oh…one more thing.  The women’s bathrooms in my school only have one western-style toilet.  The rest are squatters.  I had to use squatters a couple times during orientation…but I’m really bad at them.  They are alot more tricky when wearing pants.   


First week of school (aka "hak-yo)

FINALLY…as a follow up to My First Day of School post, I now have a little time to update you on how the rest of my week went at my hakyo (school in Korean).

Since I didn’t teach anything on Monday, that left me with only 14 classes the rest of the week.  That might not seem like much, but that’s 14 of the very same “Introduction to Lisa” lesson.  Seriously, it was a little painful. 

But the kids seemed to really be excited, fascinated, and a little disgruntled with me.  Excited because there was someone new at the school.  Fascinated because this new person was from America (Ah-mare-eee-ka).  But disgruntled because I was the new English teacher.  The majority of Korean students at my school (and every school in Korea) don’t like learning English.  There’s only a small minority of Koreans in general who like English and want to learn it.  English in Korean public schools is mandatory, starting in elementary.  Think about how hard that would be for Americans.  We were still learning to read and spell in the 2nd and 3rd grade.

I had each of my classes make name tags.  One side was their name in Korean, and the other side was their Korean name…in English.  Of course, not everything translates perfectly.  And many students don’t know how to write their Korean name in English.  Ah…this really tested my Korean language skills.  I helped as best I could.  Here are a few of the nametags.



A few stats for you:

-18 classes a week (3rd-6th grade)

-552 students

~About 120 students have the last name “Kim,” ~120 students have the last name “Lee,” and 50 students with the last name “Park.” 

Interestingly, “Lee” is really “Eee” in Korea.  They add the “L” to help English people say the name easier.  And “Park” is really “Pak” – again, they add an “R” to make it easier to say.

Overall, the week was fun, but very exhausting.  I’m learning, that elementary students in Korea are not that different from elementary students anywhere else.  They are loud, have lots of energy, are creative, love playing games and singing songs, and  they lose focus easily.  Also, each class has the range of abilities – some speak absolutely no English at all…while others are quite good.

*Every other week, I am in charge of English Club.  An hour long “club” where students who want to, can improve their English.

*Every week (starting next week), I will have an hour long “Teacher Training.”  Again, voluntary – but for teachers who want to improve their English.  Most teachers speak very little English…or are too afraid to try.  But apparently there’s alot of interest in these weekly sessions.

First day of school

Ah….my first day of paid work since April 1.  I was a little nervous about it and didn’t sleep all that well Sunday night.  Micah and I had both prepared an “Intro to me” PowerPoint Presentation, so that we could let our students know a bit about us “foreigners.”  However, neither of us actually were in the classroom on our first day. 

Both of our schools start at 9am (actually, mine starts at 8:50am) and we have to be to work by 8:30am.   And it ends up being more like a 20 minute walk to our schools.  (We have the same route for most of the distance, so at least we can walk together to and from school). 

Daegu is the hottest city in Korea and the coldest city too.  And since it is summertime right now, well, a 20 minute walk sometimes feels like a workout. 

Ok…back to my first day.  I had been waiting for 15 minutes in the English classroom, and then I saw my Korean co-teacher, Seung hui (pronounced “Sing hee”).  She raced me downstairs to the “broadcast room” where I (unbeknownst to me) had to introduce myself over the school’s TV system.  I did my best, but am fairly certain most students and teachers didn’t understand anything I said except for “I am from America.” 

Afterwards, I met the school principal and vice-principal.  The principal is a woman, Ms. Kwan.  She knows very little English, so I relied on Sueng hui to help me understand what she was saying.  She seemed very nice and I think she liked me.  She gave me a big hug as I was leaving her office.

I didn’t get to observe any of the classes this day.  I think my co-teachers weren’t sure if I would be ready.  So, at least I had a computer and was finally able to check email and Facebook too :-)  Unfortunately, my school computer is nearly 10 years old.  It’s SLOOOOW and takes (I’m not kidding) 15 minutes to boot up fully in the morning.  Really, this is painful.  I’ve realized my elementary school doesn’t have a lot of money.  The computers in the actual classrooms are better, but not the ones my co-teachers and I have to use. 

The school cafeteria is under construction until October.  So that means we have to eat out or get food delivered everyday.  (I don’t feel comfortable bringing my own lunch in yet).  But my co-teachers bought me lunch.  I had bibimbab and it was delicious. 

Elementary classes are only 40 minutes long.  And all of the English classes I’ll be teaching are done by noon everyday.  School is done by 2pm, (but I have to stay until 4:30pm – no matter what).

I spent the rest of the day, struggling to use the computer….1) because it’s painfully old and slow and 2) because the operating system is all in Korean.  The computer runs MS Windows…so I can figure out how to get around for most things, but it’s not always easy. 

I showed my co-teachers (oh yeah, my other co-teacher is named Minju) my PowerPoint, and they liked it.  They told me I could start presenting it in classes the next day.  Yay!

I had a TON of questions for my co-teachers, but I have to be patient and just ask a few here and there.  While their English is both fairly good, I do have to remember to speak slowly with them and use common English words.  

At the end of the day, there was a teacher staff meeting.  So I had to introduce myself again.  (There are maybe five men total in the school…the rest are women).  Everyone was very welcoming and curious.  Once a month, I will be holding a class for teachers only – so that those who want to improve their English can do so with me. 

All in all, the day went well.  It was sort of a whirlwind, but I feel good about it and I like my co-teachers. 

Let’s see how the rest of the week goes!

Here’s a picture of one of the two English classrooms.  I’m fortunate that I have two dedicated English classrooms.  Micah, for example, has to move to a different classroom in his school for every class he teaches.


Our first weekend in Daegu

Apologies for the LONG post…we don’t have internet yet at our apartment (and won’t get for another week or two).  And I’ve just now been able to post some updates using the school computer.

This is the area we live. Our apartment is surrounded by lots of little shops (a lot of hair/barber shops), street vendors, restaurants and buildings we don’t really know what they are for.

daegu map

There are also lots of different smells. Some good and some bad…really bad. You walk by certain drainage grates and there are some pretty terrible smells that waft your way. But there’s no avoiding it.

And there is a lot of traffic. Cars, scooters, bikes – everywhere. If you’ve heard about crazy drivers in Korea – it’s all completely true. Scooters driving on the street one second, and on the sidewalk the next. Red lights are more suggestive at times. “Pedestrians having the right of way” – HA! When walking, you have to be on the look out at all times. This has been a very new and sometimes terrifying experience for me. However, if the old ajummas (that is Korean for grandmother) can walk in the middle of the road with cars whizzing right by and not flinch for even a moment…well, hopefully I can navigate Korea with no major harm too.

So…back to our first weekend. We spent the majority of the time fixing up our apartment. It’s a nice place: three bedrooms (one of which came completely empty), one twin bed in two of the rooms (yes, twin size), an older TV, washing machine, stove (no oven – they are quite rare in Korea), fridge, and a place to hang our laundry. Unfortunately, it did not come furnished beyond those things. We were expecting to have at least a few cups and plates, maybe a microwave and rice cooker – but not our place. (The housing for other EPIK teachers varied dramatically. Some had fully furnished apartments – including a computer with internet all set up, a queen size bed, a flat screen TV…and others had very small studios where your kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom fit in a very small room. I think our place is somewhere in the middle).

While our place was fairly clean upon our arrival, there was definitely a funky, musty smell coming from the bathroom and laundry area. I think there was even some mold on the ground in one spot. So, we spent a few hours just cleaning. Most of the smell is gone…but when we opened the washing machine, we found about three inches of old, stagnant water left in the basin. Yeah, gross. So we ran it a few times with no clothes to try and get the smell out.  We were only semi-successful.

On the plus side – we have two extra rooms! (We are using one room as our “entertainment/living” room).  So if you want to come visit…there’s plenty of room to stay. (But remember…only one extra bed – and all wooden floors). Also, only one bathroom. And our washing machine is in our bathroom. (Again, common for Korea).

In addition to some major cleaning, we did some even more major shopping. We found a Home Plus (like a Target or Wal-Mart) about 20 minutes walking distance from our apartment. We navigated the subway to get there and in the span of three days, we went there three times. We spent about 700,000 won already – for common household items and food.

It is money well spent. We are really starting to settle into our place and it is feeling more like home. There are a few quirks here and there that we have to get used to, but TIK (This is Korea!)

P.S. We did manage to have a little fun over the weekend too. We had dinner with our new EPIK friends, Charissa, Gabe, and Sydney and then met up with about 20 other EPIK teachers in downtown Daegu (apparently where all of the foreigners hang out). Although it had been only a day since we last saw each other, it felt like longer and there was SO much to talk about (our apartments, meeting our co-teachers, visiting our school, etc.). We went to a place called Bill-i-Bow, and for a few hours, it didn’t even feel like we were in Korea.


Where in the world…

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