Today is Wednesday and we are almost done with orientation. It has been really hectic but I have also learned a lot.
We are staying in the dorm of the National Institute of International Education near Hyehwa Station in Seoul. This is a pretty bustling area of the city, very crowded at night. Each room has two beds, two desks, a table with two chairs, and a wardrobe with two lockable compartments. My roommate’s name is Mary and she is from Arizona.
The bathrooms are shared and have some interesting quirks. The sink faucets turn on the opposite way from in the US so I keep getting confused. All the showers have the handheld nozzles and there are a couple of stalls that you have to hold a button to make water come out.
We have a cafeteria with pretty decent food. Each meal is at a set time of about an hour long. Usually breakfast has eggs and cereal and toast as well as a few Korean things. They have done some sort of American style food but mostly there’s Korean food and it has been yummy. There’s always kimchee. I am pretty proficient with chopsticks (in fact, the president of NIIED complimented me on my chopsticks use).
Almost every day has been packed from 9 am to 5:20 pm with lectures. Four lectures a day at 1 and a half hours each. It is pretty tiring. Then for several days we have had lectures and other stuff after dinner until 9 or 10 pm. Breakfast starts at 7:50.
The first couple days I was waking up really early (6 am) because I was hungry or because I had fallen asleep really early the night before, but now I’ve gotten more used to the time and over the jet lag. Since it’s a 13 hour difference, it makes being hungry at the right time easy at least.
The first day, Friday, we had a medical exam. It was the most efficient and easy one I have ever had. They took blood and a urine sample and a chest x-ray, but still they got about 50 people through in less than an hour. We couldn’t eat before the exam but we were still up pretty early so a bunch of people took a walk around the neighborhood. We found some parks and some cool statues. Seoul seems to have a lot of green spaces, which I really like.
After the exam we were given snacks but still had to wait for lunch to open so we walked around some more. After lunch there was the opening ceremony, for which we all had to wear our EPIK t-shirts. Some boys from a local high school came and did samulnori, which is traditional drumming. Then the former security adviser to the (Korean) president gave a talk about Korea in the world today. I didn’t know Korea had the 15th largest economy or was one of the top shipbuilders. It is also up there in producing cars, phones, and flat screen TVs. Samsung is the biggest electronics seller in the world. All of this is especially amazing when you consider that Korea was more or less a third world country only 50 or so years ago. The economic boom was known as the Miracle of the Han River.
After that talk we filled out some forms to set up our bank accounts. I went to bed very early.
Saturday was full of lectures and in the evening we had Korean language classes. It turns out I was in the intermediate class because I could already read Hangul (sort of). We learned how to say hello and introduce ourselves in Korean.
We also discovered we had to do a lesson presentation with a group of 15 minutes, and do a formal lesson plan. This took up a lot of evenings as well.
Sunday we had lectures, Korean class, and group meeting. Monday we had lectures and our last day of Korean class. No group meeting so a bunch of people went out to party. Jeff and I joined them. We went to Beer O Clock where I had my first taste of soju and Jeff ordered an entire squid (delicious!). Afterwards we went to 노래방 (noraebang or room-style karaoke) which was of course super fun.
Tuesday we had a really nice field trip to Ganghwa Island (강화도) which I will blog about in more detail later.
Wednesday was the last day of lectures and we also had group meetings until late.
Today, Thursday, we did our lesson presentations through the morning and early afternoon. Afterwards we met our MOE (Metropolitan Office of Education) supervisor and signed our contracts. We also finally found out our schools! I don’t have the name of mine available just now but it is an elementary school on a major highway in Incheon not far from Chinatown. Jeff’s school is approximately a block away and is also an elementary school.
Tomorrow we will be moving to Incheon! I am quite excited, although I’ll probably also have to meet my principal which makes me slightly nervous. But it should be alright.