How I Pay My Student Loans From Korea

One of the most important things I researched before coming to Korea was how I was going to pay  my student loans every month from abroad. I found the solution… though slightly complicated. It didn’t work out the way I wanted it to at first, but eventually it all got sorted out.

Thanks to another EPIK teacher’s blog (sorry I don’t remember specifically so I can’t link it), I found out that when using Citi Bank both in Korea and the US there is no wire transfer fee.

1. Open a US Citi Bank Account before leaving the US

I did not have a Citi Bank account, so I needed to set one up before I left the country. I went to a local bank and a really nice man helped me set up the best account for my needs.

We settled on an Access Checking Account. As long as I do one of the following each month, I do not have to pay the $10 monthly maintenance fees:
1) Pay 1 bill (this includes my student loan payments)
2) Maintain $1,500 in the account
3) 1 direct deposit Continue reading

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Mini Update: September 2016

Hello everyone!

I have officially completed my year of teaching with EPIK in Busan. So what am I up to now?  …I’m still here! Busan granted 6-month contract extensions to the teachers that started in August 2015. August is the middle of the school year in Korea. Busan is trying to make it so that all teachers start at the beginning of the school year. I have my problems with how Busan handled these contract extensions….but I’ll vent about that another time.

The contract extension means that I will continue teaching at my schools until the end of February 2017. After that….I don’t for sure yet, but I know I’m not ready to leave Korea. I am ready to visit home for a short while, and I will be doing so during my winter vacation. I can’t wait!!!

Check out my Instragram for more frequent updates. I post lots of photos of yummy food from all around Busan.

Right now there are probably about 15 blog posts that I wrote and never posted because I think they are poorly written or just stupid. Stress from work and personal stuff has put blogging on the back-burner. In 2017 I’m going to make blogging more of a priority again.

❤ Natasha

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

MokTalk: Language Exchange in Busan

*Update 4/6/16: MokTalk has moved to a bigger cafe! Check out the updated info below!

While I was studying in Seoul, I participated in two language exchanges. These were both one-on-one, but they were a huge factor in me learning Korean well and becoming more confident in the language. I also met two really amazing people and our “meetings” turned into just opportunities to hang out with a friend, and also practice language. I knew when I returned to Korea that I wanted to participate in more language exchanges.

I have been to two different language exchange meetings in Busan, but MokTalk is my favorite. I’ve been attending MokTalk since I first arrived in Busan, and it was only last night that I realized the meaning of the name. I feel very stupid that it has taken me this long. 목요일 (mok.yo.il) means “Thursday” in Korean. So, mok + talk = Thursday Talk.

Even if you don’t attend MokTalk, there are other language exchange meetings around the city that might be closer to you. I know there is one in Seomyeon and another in PNU. I really recommend language exchange meetings, even if you don’t want to learn another language! They are a great way to meet people! Before attending MokTalk, I didn’t know anyone in Busan. Now, I have an amazing group of friends!

Moktalk

When: Thursdays. 7-9pm

Where: SEA Space Cafe near Kyeongseong University.

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Fee: Order coffee, tea, juice, etc when you walk in. Prices are ~3,500-5,500won. Give the receipt to one of the MokTalk organizers.

Join: Check out MokTalk’s Facebook page for all the latest information about the meetings.

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When you arrive to the meeting, you should order a drink and bring the receipt to a MokTalk organizer. All the MokTalk organizers are super friendly, wonderful people. You will be asked to make a name tag and shown to a seat. People show up at differrent times, so it starts off with everyone at one table, but it eventually grows to a few tables in the cafe. From 7:00-8:00 everyone is speaking primarily English. There is no set topic or guide, you are free to talk about whatever you want with your table.

At 8:00 you are asked to change tables, so that you are able to meet and talk with different people. At this time they also set up language tables based on the native speakers of different languages that show up. At this time I move to the Korean table where there are other foreigners learning Korean. A few native Korean speakers also join the Korean table as well.

At 9:00 the meeting ends and some move on to round two at a nearby bar. Because I don’t live nearby, I usually don’t participate in round two. I’ve gone a few times when I didn’t have school the next day and it’s been really fun both times.

Some language exchange meetings have the “speed-dating” vibe or are just too loud. MokTalk has a more friendly atmosphere and you can actually hear people when they are speaking.

(Credit: both photos are from the MokTalk Facebook page)

Packing for Korea

I’m throwing this post up super quick. I really wanted to get this up fast because I know a lot of you have started preparing to pack!!

Winter camp is kicking my butt and I’m a lot busier than I thought I would be. Therefore, I don’t have time to read though this really carefully. I’m sure there are a million spelling/grammar errors, possibly some sentences unfinished or out of place because I wrote this post maybe two weeks ago and just added a few things.Don’t judge me for this mess of a post hahaha! I’m sure I also forgot a bunch of important things. Please comment and I will add them!

Suitcases

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I brought a 3-piece luggage set that was a gift from my aunt and uncle. On the plane I brought the smallest suitcase (for anything valuable and my computer) plus a backpack (for anything I would be needing on the plane). The two larger suitcases were checked in. Inside my largest case, the Vera Bradly weekender bag was packed with all my bath/medicine related items, that way the bag wasn’t taking up wasted space. This bag is also lined, so if anything spilled it wouldn’t ruin the bag or leak out onto any clothes.

Something not pictured was the Lewis N. Clark luggage strap. I strapped together my two smallest bags so going through the airport, hotel, orientation dorm building was super easy. I now use the luggage strap to tie the Vera Bradly bag to whatever luggage I’m using when I travel with less baggage. It’s really useful. 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

Chuseok in Ulsan

Ok! I am finally going to update about my Chuseok holiday weekend! Better late than never right?!

What is Chuseok?

Chuseok is often compared to Thanksgiving. Both are celebrations of harvest. While Americans give thanks for all the good things in our lives, Koreans give thanks to their ancestors  and preform ancestral rites ceremonies.

Chuseok is on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar, so every year the date changes. This year Chuseok was September 27th. The holiday is actually celebrated for 3 days–the day before, the day of, and the day after–and are considered “red days”, meaning no one goes to school or work. This year the three days fell on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. We were also given Tuesday as a red day, called a Holiday Makeup Day. The explanation I was given for this was because the holiday fell during the weekend when people already don’t work. So, we all had a 4-day holiday weekend! Continue reading

100th Day

Koreans don’t count things by months like we do in Western culture. Instead, they celebrate the 100s. Babies have a huge party on their 100th day of life and couples exchange rings and other gifts on their 100th day of dating.

Today is my 100th day of living in Korea. I can’t believe how fast the time has flown. It feels like I arrived here only only month ago, not three! Even though I miss home almost every day, I’m really loving life in Korea. I’ve made many friends and have seen and done many exciting things (which I REALLY need to catch up on blogging about!).

My 100th day is falling in the middle of a really exciting week for me. You’ve all read about my leaky and moldy apartment. I’ve been sick for over a month now, and my school finally had enough. On Monday they signed a lease for a new apartment for me! It’s bigger, closer to my school, has tonsss more storage, and most importantly there is NO MOLD. I will start the moving in process tonight and on Sunday one of my coteachers will help me move my larger/heavier items with her car. I am very excited!

I’m excited to see what the next 100 days have in store for me. Maybe a trip to Japan? Maybe a 9th grade class where not a single student falls asleep? ….Who am I kidding? That will never happen!

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To celebrate, here is a blurry and terrible photo of me standing in front of the “Tree of Thanks” my 8th graders and I made in my classroom.

❤ Natasha

A Month in Review: September 2015

I have decided that instead of posting a ton of mini blog posts about little things I do during the month, I would post a Month In Review at the end of each month that would include all the little things. Larger or longer things I do will still have their own posts.

This first one is obviously LONGGG overdue!  Sorry!

First Night Out

A few days after arriving in Busan I met up with a few other EPIK teachers in the Kyeongseng University area for chi-mek (치맥). Chi-mek means ‘chicken + beer’; in Korean beer is mekju (맥주). Korea knows how to do fried chicken!

Continue reading