Why I Haven’t Been Blogging

I can’t believe how long it’s been since I last updated. It’s been about 3 months! So, what happened? In short, my life just got crazy busy and I haven’t had the time, energy, or (honestly) the desire to write any blog posts. If you want more details, continue reading!

An EPIK Surprise

Back in maybe December or January my vice principal notified me that a nearby school was looking for my school to share me–the native English speaker–with them. My education district in Busan only has 3 or 4 middle school native English teachers, and I happened to be the closest one. He asked how I felt and I kind of made an “ehhh” face and said, “I’ll do whatever you tell me to do.” His answer was “no”. The topic came up again a few times over the next month but each time everyone said they didn’t want to share me with a second school.

Because my school shrank in numbers between the two school years, we lost 3 classes. Therefore, I lost three teaching hours. In the eyes of the education office, I had plenty of time to spare. My school came up with a plan where I would teach the 1st graders twice a week to increase my hours and make me too busy to go to a second school. Well, it didn’t work.

Exactly 1 week before the start of the new school year, after a whole month of desk warming and preparing lesson plans for my new schedule, a letter arrived from the Office of Education informing me that I would indeed be teaching at two schools now. No one saw that coming. I was pissedContinue reading

Useful Links and Apps for Foreigners in Korea

I have put together a list of websites and apps that I use in Korea and Busan. App links go to iTunes. If you want Android versions, you can google them yourself ^.^

Communication

Kakao Talk (App) (Desktop): Koreans don’t text, they Kakao. Free texting, free calling, free video chatting. The emoticons are also fun (though many you do need to pay for).

Naver Dictionary (App): A dictionary/translator for single words or short phrases. For long translations people use Google Translate (though most often it is just jibberish).

Continue reading

Blog Post Requests

 

I know the new wave of EPIKers are starting to prepare for moving to Korea. I’m sure you all have lots of questions and I want to answer them! Please comment below with any questions or potential blog post ideas that you are interested in!

❤ Natasha

Korean School Lunches

As an EPIK teacher you are entitled to lunch at school everyday. It is not free, but it is very cheap at about 3,000won per meal. You can opt-out of these lunches if you don’t like them.

I decided to give school lunches a try for a while before deciding if I wanted to continue or opt-out. After a few trial weeks I decided to continue with the school lunch because they are pretty good! The food isn’t always amazing, but we all know I’m super lazy and there’s no way I’m waking up extra early to make lunch when the school lunch is perfectly fine!

I spoke to one coteacher about the preparation of school lunch. Unlike most public schools in America that just heat up frozen nuggets, she said that Korean cafeteria staff make all the school lunches.  I’m sure there are a few things that are frozen and heated up, but as far as I can tell most of our food is freshly made and prepared by the cafeteria staff. Continue reading

수능: The Korean SAT

Today is one of the most important and also scariest days of a Korean child’s life. Today is the second Thursday of November. Today is the day of the Suneung (수능), the KSAT.

The exam lasts from 8am until 5pm and includes many subjects such as: Korean language, English, science, history, social studies, math, vocational education, and an additional foreign language.

Unlike the SAT in America, the KSAT is only offered once a year. Right now, high school seniors across the entire country are sitting in silent classrooms and completing the exam that will determine the rest of their lives. If you fail the exam–or fail by not being accepted into the university of your choice–then you must wait a whole year to take the exam again.

The entire country gives way to this exam

Schools and businesses are urged to delay their opening so that there are less people and less traffic on the roads while the students are hurrying to their testing locations (which are typically not their own schools).

The stock market opens an hour late.

Students running late to the exam can call the police for ride to their exam. Handicap students can call an ambulance for a ride. Taxi drivers and people on motor bikes also give rides to students.

Teachers, administrators, and parents driving their children to the exam will have signs on their cars and are given the right away, even driving through red lights is OK.

Everyone is quite. Drivers of cars and buses are asked to drive more carefully today to reduce honking. Coffee shops, cell phone shops, and makeup stores which are usually blasting music out their doors are quiet. Airplanes are grounded in the entire country for 30 minutes while students are taking the English listening portion of the exam.

Families of those taking the exam climb mountains to special Buddhist temples or sit in churches all day to pray.

Reach for the S.K.Y.

During the Busan International Film Festival, I watched a documentary called “Reach for the S.K.Y.” which followed three students as they prepared to take this exam. S.K.Y. stands for the top three universities in Korea: Seoul National University, Korea University, Yonsei University. SKY is Korea’s Ivy League.

Only 1% will be accepted to one of these universities. There is so much pressure from society on Korean students to enter one of the SKY schools. Anything less is a failure. This is a small country, and the job market is very, very competitive. Graduates can spend years trying to get a job, or even an internship. Being a graduate from a SKY school means you have a much better chance of getting a great job quickly.

During this movie I could feel the stress put on the students. I cried a number of times, including when one teacher told his student that he had failed the practice test and will fail the upcoming KSAT because he got one question wrong.

Repeaters (those who fail the exam the first time) can attend academies where they live in dorms with other repeaters and study all day for a whole year to prepare for the exam.

Below is the trailer for Reach for the S.K.Y. The trailer alone can give you a sense of the stress students feel because of the exam.

Good luck to all the high school seniors taking the exam today! Hwaiting!

Additional reading:

Korean Herald: Korea enters full ‘Suneung’ mode

Arirang News: Over 630,000 applicants to take college entrance exam on Thursday