The Fall 2015 EPIK Orientation was at the KT Human Resources Development Center in Daejeon. It lasted from August 18th to 26th. The purpose of the orientation is to help new EPIK teachers transition into their new lives living in Korea and teaching Korean children.
*this post is quite long and veryyyyy photo heavy!
2/16/16: The EPIK February 2016 orientation is being organized quite differently. Obviously my photos of the campus in this post will not be relevant to this orientation, however the content of the orientation seems to be the same. There are three different orientation venues based on location. Venue 1: Kyonggi University (Gwangju, Daejeon,Ulsan, Sejong, Gangwon, Chunbuk, Chungnam, Gyeongbuk, Jeonbuk, and National Schools). Venue 2: Busan University of Foreign Studies (Busan, Daegu, Gyeongnam). Venue 3: Gongju University (Seoul, Gyeonggi).I think splitting the orientation up like this is a great idea as the lectures can be geared more towards your area. I do wonder though, if the quality will be the same. The dates of the three orientations are slightlyyy staggered, but all the lecturers cannot be in the same place at the same time.
It will be interesting to see if they will do a split orientation for the Aug ’16 intake as well.
EPIK provided buses from Incheon Airport to the orientation site between 11am and I believe 8pm. If you arrived outside those times, it was your responsibility to find your way to Daejeon by bus or train (directions were posted on the facebook group).
I arrived in Korea the night before the start of orientation and stayed in a hotel near the airport. The following day I woke up, ate breakfast, installed my new Korean sim card, and made my way back to the airport on my hotel’s shuttle bus.
I checked in at the EPIK counter and was given a bus boarding number. My bus was the second one to leave Incheon airport at about 11:30am. The ride to Daejeon was a couple hours and I spent most of the time working on my airplane and hotel blog.
We all stayed in dorm-style rooms right on campus in a building called “Living Center B” (or maybe it was A?). As we entered the lobby of the building, we received our name tags which would also be our ticket to meals. Next we were assigned a room number and a roommate. Our roommates were determined by whoever the person of the same sex was behind or in front of you. And guess what, my roommate’s name was Tasha!
We were also given an EPIK canvas bag with our EPIK Orientation manual, a pen, some sticky notes, a drink, and two Paris Baguette pastries. (Paris Baguette is a popular pastry brand and shop in Korea. It has way too many shops all over the country.)
My roommate and I watched English movies at night for a while before we went to sleep. During the first few nights different Harry Potter movies were playing. Besides that, it was a mostly really random movies we had never heard of.
The dorm building has lounges on each floor. I did not venture to the other floors, but ours had an ironing board and iron, water station, garbage/recycling, and couches. There were also washers and laundry detergent was provided by the EPIK staff. Laundry racks are in each room to dry laundry. There is also AC in the rooms. It is only turned on from 6pm to 6am.
Overall, the accommodations were really nice. No, not the fanciest or pretties building. But it was comfortable and the EPIK staff did their best to keep everyone feeling comfortable and providing what would be needed.
Once settled into the room, I met up with a fellow Busan-er and we explored the campus to find where everything was so that when we did start classes we would know exactly where to go.
Inside the lecture hall building is a convenience store and also a small coffee shop. The woman who owned (or just worked?) at the coffee shop was really sweet and handled us foreigners and our limited Korean really well! Besides the lecture buildings, there is a cafeteria building, a gymnasium, and an “information center”. The information center is located next to the living center. Inside is a small gym, convenience store, and also a pool table. I’m such a good blogger; I didn’t take photos of any of this!
The first full day of orientation started off pretty stressful for a lot of people. Starting at 10pm the previous night, we weren’t allowed to eat anything. And starting at Midnight we weren’t allowed to drink anything. We were also told not to take any pain medication in the days leading up to the exam because medicines like Ibuprofen can cause a false positive on the drug tests. (Of course I got a massive headache on the plane, but I refused to take anything. Not even aspirin, which I was told would be OK.)
It was really difficult waking up in the morning and not being able to drink any water. Especially since we were all still jet-lagged and feeling icky from being on planes/in airports for 10-30 hours. My class’s check up was at 8am, so I was really lucky. Others were not until much later in the morning.
The check-ups were in a huge room at the top of the lecture building (where we later had tae kwon do class). After paying our 50,000won, we were handed a medical check up sheet and proceeded through each station
- Height and weight: Stood on a small scale that had a long back to it. A small arm came down and tapped your head to measure your height.
- Vision: Stared at a huge white screen with one tiny number in the middle and read out the number as it changes and gets smaller. It was honestly a little scary because the screen was so white and bright making it hard to see the little number.
- Blood pressure: same stuff as what happens back home. Got a smile and a “good!” from the nurse.
- Blood drawn: Squeeze your fist, say goodbye to your blood. I really don’t know what happened or how many vials they took. I looked the other way and tried not to think about it. I hate needles.
- Sit: They had us sit in a chair with a cotton pad over the needle site for 5 minutes to make sure we didn’t faint.
- Urine sample: This was embarrassinggggg. Pee in a cup up to the line they drew (the amount you need is determined by your weight it seemed like). A lot of people had trouble with this. You were allowed to drink water at this point if you needed some, uh, assistance. Once you filled your cup to the line, we had to bring it back out into the hall–yes, in front of everyone including the opposite sex–and they pour it into vials. Ick!
- Chest X-ray: Girls went into a classroom to remove bras or any tops with metal. There were robes that we were able to wear over our tops because the chest xray machines were outside in vans. It was fun walking past all the Korean men standing outside smoking while wearing a robe :D. The actual xray was really simple. Get on the bus, stand in front of this white thing and put your chin on it, OK done bye, go inside, put bra back on.
- Snacks: Once we completed each test we were given two muffins, a fruit drink, and water to refuel ourselves.
We had a big chunk of the day left to do whatever we wanted until the opening ceremony later in the afternoon.
Lectures and Classes
Orientation officially started Tuesday (8/18/2015) afternoon at the Opening Ceremony.
Our first lecture of the orientation took place right after the Opening Ceremony. It was called “Eight Days a Week”. The lecturer Walter Foreman, called it this because he said thats how working culture is in Korea. Mr. Foreman has been in Korea for many many years (I forget how many exactly), so he had a lot of really funny stories about culture shock and just cultural differences to share with us.
The remaining days of orientation were PACKED! The schedule
Breakfast 7:30 -8:50
Lecture 1 9:00-10:30
Lecture 2 10:50- 12: 20
Lunch 12:30- 1:50
Lecture 3 2:00-3:30
Lecture 4 3:50- 5:20
Dinner 5:30- 6:50
Survival Korean/Lesson Demo Prep: 7:00-8:50/10:00
These are the lectures we took (I have put a * next to my favorites):
Cooperative Learning (Dennis Odo)*
English Comprehension (Charles Ko)*
After School & Camps (M. Fennell)*
Elementary English Education (Soonhee Kim)
Secondary English Education (Seokyoung Lee)
Lesson Planning 1 (Clarence Bennett)
Co-Teaching 1 (Timothy Stambaugh & Sora Hong)
Co-Teaching 2 (Sun Hyoung Jo)
Storytelling (Jungjoo Ahn)
First Class (Casey Barnes)*
Teaching English Creatively (Sarah-Jayne Coutts)
Cultural Differences (Juyeon Jo)*
Classroom Management (Bridget Maret)*
EPIK Duties & Regulations (EPIK Staff)
Tae Kwon Do (Arirang Tae Kwon Do in Seoul)*
We were all sorted into classes based on our destination. I was in Class 3 with all the other Busan teachers and the Jeju teachers. Each class had 2 amazing Korean leaders. Ours were Yumi and Moon. They were both extremely cute and funny. We were all very sad on the last day of orientation to leave them. They really helped us all transition into living in Korea.
Tae Kwon Do
Besides our lectures, we participated in two Tae Kwon Do classes during orientation. The first one was cool because we got to wear the uniforms. The teachers were amazing; all professionals or majoring in Tae Kwon Do at school. It was pretty intense. They
They even had us break boards!! WHAAAAA? Before attempting to break our boards, the Tae Kwon Do master asked us to write our goals on the board that we want to accomplish while here in Korea. I wrote “become more fluent in Korean”. I really hope that I can achieve this goal!
Then it was board breaking time. I was terrified. My first two boards broke just from my partner holding them. I was really happy because I thought I was in the clear. Nope. One of the trainers saw and brought me another one and made me break it in front of the entire class. OH MY GOD. It was sooo embarrassing. Of course I failed the first two attempts. I was really worried I was going to break my hand if I tried again. I had no choice but to try again >.<
A few days later was our second class of TaeKwonDo; I was still sore from the first one! This one was even more intense. Lotsssss of running, jumping, kicking, punching. We did learn quite a few self defense moves; I hope that I will never need them…and if I do I hope I remember them!
I was sore for daysssssssss!
For 4 nights during orientation we had Survival Korean courses. If I had to give EPIK one critique, it would be about these classes. Of course, when the surveys came around at the end of the closing ceremony I totally forgot to include my thoughts about this >.<
There were 4 Korean classes to chose from: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, and KPop. I initially chose advanced because on the sheet with example sentences and words for each level, the intermediate section seemed really easy and basic.
Well. I went to the advanced class. The teacher comes in and says he’s not going to speak any English. OK. He starts apologizing about the lack of AC and promises a new room the following day. Ok I got this! And then he hands out a worksheet. I’m totally lost. I don’t understand a single thing on the worksheet or his directions. A few people get up and leave. No! I’m determined to stay here and get this! Maybe 30 minutes into the class I finally gave up. He was defining vocabulary words in Korean.
I embarrassingly slinked into the intermediate class. No more seats. Now everyone sees me and the teacher moving a table so I can sit. AH! >.<
The intermediate class was easy for me, but I learned quite a few things! The teachers were Moon (my class teacher!) and Grace. They created the lessons based on what we wanted to learn, which was really helpful. They taught us about really useful daily life vocabulary and expressions such as: giving directions to a taxi driver, ordering food, teaching in a classroom, and more food! They also made the lessons fun by including games.
The last day was only lesson demonstrations, no lectures. After all the lesson demos were complete, there was a closing ceremony where we watched a slideshow of photos and videos taken during the orientation. EPIK really did an amazing job documenting the entire experience for us. I was so busy with classes that I forgot to take pictures of things….I also felt really awkward taking photos in front of every one. Thank you Ace for all the amazing photos of us!
Russell, our Class 3 leader (and a Busan-er! Not Gangwon!), was chosen to give a thank you speech at the end of orientation. His speech was really touching and made us all excited to get out there and start teaching.
And then. It was over!
We were provided with breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day. The meals were different every day, but were heavy on carbs and pork. Some of the food was weird. Apparently EPIK decided to make a lot of the Korean food more Western so that we were eased into Korean food. I think we all agreed that we would have been fine with being thrown into all Korean food. Honestly, I ate a lot of rice. My favorite meals were breakfasts with fried eggs or bagels, and lunches and dinners with noodles. The best dinner was our closing ceremony dinner. There was endless amounts of food of all kinds.
I’m annoyed at myself for not taking more photos of the food 😦 I promise that I did eat better on some days!
On Saturday (day 4 of orientation), we had no lectures. Instead we went on a trip to the Jeonju Hanok Village. Hanok are the traditional style Korean houses.
The first part of the trip was learning how to play a traditional Korean drum called Janggu. You can see a video of my class playing on Facebook here. (Not sure you will need an account to view this, I don’t think you should.)
Our next activity was making boxes using traditional Korean paper. They told us we could use the boxes for pens or jewelry. The women helping us were all friendly and funny. There was a lot of “no no no” and grabbing things away from the boys and doing it for them.
What we had to do was finish covering all the sides of the box with the paper. The bowl in the photo below is a special glue for the paper. You paint the glue onto the box or paper (unclear as to why sometimes it was the paper and why sometimes the box directly).
Once the entire box is covered, you add water to the glue and then paint the glue over the entire box sealing everything on.
Next stop was lunchhhh!! Jeonju is apparently famous for their bibimbap so that’s what we had!
After lunch we were led into the actual Hanok Village. I had no idea what to expect. It’s basically streets and streets of hanok houses which are shops, restaurants, or experiences. It is a very popular tourist destination, and it was veryyyy busy. Because it is a tourist destination, I paid 6,000 ($6) for a coffee >.< I was desperate OK?! I was exhausted and running on empty and still very jet lagged!
I already posted a blog about the lesson demonstrations, so click here to read it!
The last day of orientation was also the BIG day! The day we met with our office of education and found out where we would be teaching!
Busan Metropolitan City Office of Education greeted us with guide books for foreigners in Busan. There is soooo much useful information in these books.
They gave us a little presentation about more rules and regulations, this time specifically for working in Busan. Then it was time! They started handing out our envelopes with our placements and our official contracts to sign.
When I pulled out my contract and saw the words “middle school” my smile definitely melted off my face a little. We were told so many times that most of us would get elementary school, only a very small percent would get middle or high. I had my hopes set on elementary from the beginning. I feel like I can identify and understand that group more than middle, and especially more than high school. I just took deep breaths and told myself “You can make it work!”
I think we all went home and immediately started googling our schools and locations. Some people found out information about their apartments during these meetings, I did not.
Tuesday night we had to pack up all our luggage and bring them to designated areas for our destination. Honestly, I’m not sure what the point of this was, besides making sure we were all packed and ready to go on time. We still had to load the luggage ourselves. We were allowed to keep a smaller luggage in the room with us to pack any las minute things.
Wednesday (8/26) was leaving day. It was really sad saying goodbye to Tasha. We had such a great time being roomies and bonding. She is in Gangwon Province, which is in the north eastern part of the country. I hope to go up there and visit her one day!
Everyone going to Busan was told to be ready to pack the bus at 6 and leave at 6:40. I didn’t realize that 6 was the only arrival time, so I was the last one to meeting point and to load luggage onto the truck that would carry our luggage separately to Busan. They even called me asking where I was and had everyone standing around waiting for me. It really didn’t even matter, because they told us to go have breakfast and be back on the bus at 7:25. I still felt really terrible and embarrassed.
After one last meal in the orientation cafeteria we were off! I will talk more about the trip and arriving in Busan in another post!
Well that’s it!! That is everything about EPIK’s Orientation! Feel free to comment with any questions!
(As always, please excuse any spelling or grammar mistakes. Tired as usual! Don’t hesitate to comment with any errors that need to be edited!)