Monday, 4 March 2013

6 Months Down and Still Grateful


I have finally hit the 6 month mark here in Korea. I have completed half a year of teaching, living abroad and learning about myself. A new crop of EPIK teachers have started their contracts so we (August intake) are no longer the new kids. It feels nice to not be the newbies, its like being a sophomore in college. But yet sophomores in college think they know everything because they have one year under their belt. But it is not like that in Korea, because no matter how long you are here you can never predict Korea. It is forever changing and the land of the word Maybe.
This time last year I was a senior at Lander University. I was attempting to survive my 2 months of classes and finding myself confused with what I wanted to do when I Grew Up. There was one thing that really stood out to me and kept coming back to me as I pondered through options. EPIK, English Program in Korea, was the continuous option that kept popping up like it was a Facebook notification. I continued to research EPIK and the pros and cons. As I talked to my parents, friends and professors about it, it was clear to me. I was meant to live outside of the US and spread my wings.
All of the pros outweighed the cons. So I started the long and grueling process of applying. Between getting letters of recommendation (thanks once again Dr. Park and Dr, Ball), and FBI background check, a Skype interview, essays and numerous of other documents notarized and apostilled I almost gave up. During one of my tough days during this process I was in Dr. Balls (President of Lander) office getting documents, he could tell that I was flustered; he looked at me and said, You have to work for what want. Those words were never truer than in the EPIK process.
After 4 months of applying and taking online TEFL certification I finally received the email that I had waited for all summer. I was offered a contract to teach in the Gyeongbuk Province in South Korea. The day finally came where I knew what I would be doing for the next year of my life. All of my uneasy feelings went out the window, but yet now it was even more uneasy feelings. These feelings were the thoughts of living in a foreign country, not knowing the language, having to make new friends and support myself. With all of these emotions flowing inside of me it was still one of the happiest and proudest moments in my life. I got this opportunity because I worked for it.
When I received my contract I had less than a month to move out of my apartment in Greenwood that I had lived in for 2 and a half years. On moving day as I locked the door for the last time and drove out of 138 Grace Street I bawled like a baby. I cried more that day then I did the day I flew to Korea. It all became real at that moment. I was no longer in college (granted I graduated 3 months prior), it was becoming reality that I was really growing up. The morning I flew out to Korea my dad drove me to the airport. I could tell it broke his heart as he left me at the security check point. But all of my family knew this is what I really wanted to do and gave me the support that I needed.
So there I was in Incheon airport surrounded by strangers. Little did I know one of my new friends would live in my town, another would become one of my closest friends and the others I would make tons of memories with. The day I was picked up from orientation by my co-teachers was scary and exciting, I had no clue what to expect. I just hoped for the best and prepared for the worst. Luckily it all went smoothly. I was placed in Seongju in an elementary school with 550 kids. The first semester was challenging. Figuring out what worked and what didnt, learning my co-teachers personalities and learning how to deal with stressful Mondays. No matter how bad my day was, I always had a reason to smile. Seeing kids outside of school always brightened my evenings.
Yes, I will admit it is not the easiest living 7,000 miles away from home and being one of nine native English speakers in my town. But I tell myself each day that I would have tough days if I had a 9-5 job in the US. They may actually be tougher and more stressful. Because at 4:30 I can walk out and not worry about it until 8:30 the next morning. Being away from home you just learn to deal with things on your own. I know when I decide to return to the US and start my career there I will be very prepared for the most unusual situations and be able to run with it and not think twice.
Now for the main reason in my blog, Why choose EPIK? the question is Why not? There are great benefits. You have a year long guaranteed job, good pay and easy to save, vacations time, insurance and the chance to make an impact on young minds and encourage them to learn English. What do you have to lose by applying? Absolutely nothing; take a shot, think outside of the box and spread your wings. Like a famous quote says, Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. This is so true, you find out what you are really like and what you really want in life when your life completely changes.
To students and everyone at Lander University, I owe my EPIK experience to the Office of International Programs. If it were not for them I would have never considered teaching English. Even though Lander is a small school it gave me confidence and support. My family supported me in the fact that I was ready to live away for a year. My friends couldnt believe it but knew that I could do it. Heres to a new school year (Korea starts in March, a new class schedule, a few new students and another 6 months of fun in Korea!!!
I encourage anyone with a college education to apply for EPIK. Applications for the August intake will be up soon. For more information on EPIK go to www.epik.go.kr

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