A month ago I had an 11pm curfew.
Yes, as an adult.
Attending EPIK Orientation
My ridiculous curfew was at my orientation for teaching English through the EPIK Program here in Korea. And yes, I attended a late orientation nearly a month after I arrived here. Exactly one month ago today, actually. The schedule had us booked from when we arrived on the afternoon of Friday October 21st until we left on Wednesday the 26th. For those future EPIK Orientation attendees reading this, know that ours was apparently the first class to be given a curfew, so yours will likely have one, as well. However, we still stampeded out of the building after we finished lessons and lectures around 8:30 or 9:00, and went to drink convenience store soju or grab a beer, because with 130 teachers there were many reasons to celebrate.
Because of all of the changes happening to the English program in Korea and the funding shortages, a lot of teachers who had already been teaching for a year or more were at the orientation, meaning that many of us already knew their way around Korea. This includes a blogger I really admire, Nathalie, AKA TravelingNat. I watched some of her videos before coming to Korea, and they were really helpful in figuring out how my experience might be, and continuing to realize that a huge range of possibilities laid in my future.
Luckily, I love my job and my town, and even how far it is from Seoul. I’m sure I could not handle living in Seoul. Honestly, the hardest part of life here so far has probably either been navigating the bus system written in Hangul (the Korean writing system) or remembering to give and receive money with two hands. My culture shock has been so minimal that honestly, maybe it just hasn’t hit yet; I think my transition has largely been so easy because I did so much research beforehand.
Dealing With Culture Shock?
I’ve been surprised, of course, because you can’t plan for every detail (trust me when I say that I’ve tried). Other people I met at orientation had very similar experiences, though the rest seemed to fall on the opposite side of the spectrum, jumping in with both feet tied and finding out that their pond was actually a river. Life in Korea is very fast-paced, even in the countryside, and sometimes it’s hard to slow down enough to go out with the purpose of just networking and making friends and having a good time.
There’s always something happening out in Korea, whether it’s sponsored by the government, put on by a local group, or sponsored by one of the mammoth corporations here. The EPIK Orientation gave all 130 or so of us the opportunity to do just that, while taking in professional development courses at the same time.
The workshops on storytelling and intonation were delightfully engaging and props-heavy in an informative way. Not only did we meet other English teachers from all over the country, but we met native Koreans who spoke very good English and were excited to stay in contact with us and help us navigate Seoul and go for coffee on the weekend.
“I hope you enjoy your life in Korea.”
-Jessica; one of my group leaders at orientation, who left her two young sons at home to spend nearly a week mentoring us as teachers and guiding us through trips out in Seoul.
One month later, I’m still in contact with several of the group leaders and staffers from orientation. This weekend we’re actually having a reunion of twenty or so of us who met at orientation. So even though I initially dreaded “wasting” a weekend at orientation, I think that in the end the Korean government decidedly made it worth our time between the cultural trips and Korean lessons and dedicated team leaders. Plus, it was also considered a paid 6-day business trip, and who could be mad at that?