I’ve been back in South Korea for just over two weeks now, as in, writing this… it’s been two weeks exactly since I stepped on a plane, two weeks and six days since I arrive at Incheon airport. And, first things first, this time round was way, waaaaaaaaay easier than the first time I was out here, even though I did it almost completely by myself (my dad drove me to the airport, bless).
waiting at heathrow terminal 5 – no duty free shopping for me! my bags were already full
It was So Much Less Stress, I knew, more or less, exactly what I was doing the minute I got off the plane, and bar having to direct a taxi driver to a hotel I’d never been to before, it was a pretty easy ride.
Seriously, I have the hat trick of ‘ways to leave the airport’ now, and airport/limousine bus is my favourite. Pick that one, don’t get scammed by taxi drivers. It’s more expensive than the subway, but you get a super comfy seat, room for your luggage and don’t have to deal with subway stops that don’t have step free access.
Sunny, cloudless skies greeted me upon landing, so I had one of the most beautiful drives into Seoul that I could’ve asked for. The traffic in was also pretty decent for a Friday morning, no hold ups, and I got to enjoy the scenery – Incheon into Seoul is beautiful in the sunshine – whilst watching all the space-conscious Kia’s and Hyundai’s zip past on their commute into the capital.
The First Week
I arrived on Friday morning, which gave me a good 3 days to play with before the start of training on Monday. Since I’ve done long-haul before, I know how my body handles jetlag best, and my go to for that is: try and get yourself eating meals when they would in the new timezone, then go out and do something, go to bed around 8 or 9 pm, sleep through. So on Friday, I went up to Myeongdong to see how much it had changed (spoiler alert: a lot), got some food and crashed at about half 8 in the evening, about the same time as my roommate. We woke up at a Normal Morning time (seriously, it was about half 7 I think?) the next day, so… my trick works.
Saturday and Sunday we used as exploration days, I got to visit the flagship stores of two of my favourite brands of all time; seeing styleNANDA again honestly makes me so happy, and the fact that a new brand love of mine, CHUU is literally opposite, means a lot of my wages are probably going to go on one street. How fab. I’m yet to venture to the Pink Hotel of styleNANDA… but … soon.
And then the work began on Monday.
I’m out here to teach, in case you were unaware, and the school that I picked does a very intense training week before we get sent to our schools.
The intensity is no joke.
On Monday morning, I woke up at 5:30am to get ready for our bus to the medical centre at 6am (sharp, but it turned into more of an ‘ish’). All work visa holders are required to get a medical exam before they start teaching, which includes a drug and STD check, to make sure you are fit to teach. South Korea has immensely strict drugs laws, so if you’re looking to come and teach over here soon, you might want to lay off the recreationals.
Also, if you take medication for things like ad(h)d, anything with mild amphetamines in it is also illegal, so, you might want to find alternatives.
The medical wasn’t as bad as I feared, I got to meet a load of the other trainees for the first time, chat about reasons people wanted to come and teach for the company, or come to Korea in general, all whilst being ferried from station to station for the various parts of the exam. Some parts were hilariously odd, and I now know that my height is 158.7cm exactly (dammit), but still no real clarity on my blood type.
Oh, if you fail the medical, you basically end up with your visa voided.
So after sitting around and feeling a little light headed after bloods, the ecg, and a quick dental check, we were put back on a bus and taken to the first day of training.
the view walking to work in the morning
Our first day was just an overview of the syllabus we’ll be teaching this term, getting to grips with the software, and a lot of practice teaching. Throughout the rest of the week, it was generally a LOT of practice, planning for practice, learning the specs, methodology, and more practice. My day routinely started at about 6am for wakeup, commute to training to arrive at the centre for around 8am, and stay there learning and practicing until 6pm – 6:30pm. We had an hour lunch break to go and explore the area for food, and then the afternoon was prep and practice Then home time, where we had to complete daily evaluation homeworks and prep for the next day. There was so little time to re-explore Gangnam again, weh. But! I was on the top floor of the building for training, and the view of Olympic Park in the sunshine was pretty amazing.
Also, the area training was in (Jamsil) has some really beautiful areas. I stumbled across a market street on the way back on Monday. The only issue I had was it is a really foreigner sparse area – it’s been a while since I’ve been that stared at.
chinese food with some of the other trainees 🙂
Regardless of the intensity; oh my god it was so useful. Forever thankful to my trainer for being consistently enthusiastic even though sometimes it was really hard. Things started really clicking for me around Wednesday evening, and I felt so comfortable Thursday, and for Friday when it was our final evaluation, I didn’t feel as horrifically sick with nerves as I did Monday.
On Friday, after evaluations, my quad of trainees had a super long wait before we found out if we’d passed or failed training, and thankfully myself and the girl in my group – who is also at the same school as me! – passed. We were super excited to finally move into our apartments in our new city, Cheongna… but logistics got in the way. We were told we’d be spending another night at the Hotel we’d been at all week, but they moved us, along with two other girls, into the same room so we had some company.
the view from the 2nd room!
It turned out to be really convenient for me, as I was planning to go out on the Friday night with friends visiting from Japan, so an extra night in Gangnam wasn’t all to bad a compromise for living out of a suitcase for an extra day. I got to return to my old stomping ground when I was a student, and zero things have changed about Answer, or Apgujeong bars, so I was super happy.
Which brings me to Saturday – MOVING DAY!
We were super keen and ended up leaving about 20 minutes before we were supposed to, but the weather was beautiful (if freezing) once again, so the drive out of Seoul and into Incheon was fab. I love being able to see the mountains and all the high rise buildings in Korea when the weather is great, the skylines are honestly some of my favourite ever. The ride itself was easy, we actually had to stop at a service station for 20 minutes so that we could meet our school Manager and Head Instructor at the right time since there was pretty much zero traffic. My co-teacher I was in training with (let’s call her B) and I shared stories of our travels on the journey so it was really fun.
We arrived at our apartment building at around half 1 – and we briefly got to see our flats and dump our cases before going to sit the a coffee shop and chat to our manager and HI until they had to leave. Another one of the teachers came to meet us a little later, and we did the ‘necessities’ HomePlus run for bedding and some food we’d need for the next few days, then the ‘necessities’ Daiso run (oh Daiso how I missed you) for bowls, mugs, and cleaning supplies. The three of us went to go and get food, and I finally, finally managed to satisfy the craving I had for mandu soup.
And then we went back to clean.
It’s customary in South Korea, for the person moving into the apartment to be the one doing the cleaning when they arrive. My flat was pretty OK on the surface, but once I got into actually going over the floor and all the surfaces, it was a bit of a horror show. I ended up not going to bed until about 3am, I stopped cleaning at half 2 and thought that enough was enough for one night.
Sunday, however, was another run to Daiso for more cleaning things, and then the rest of the day was really spent cleaning, starting to unpack, and more cleaning.
But hey, the weather has been beautiful so far.
The First Week of Teaching:
Not gonna lie, I was actually terrified to start. I’m one of those people that really struggles when I’m not ‘well liked’ (though I’m working on it), and I was pretty petrified that the kids wouldn’t find me entertaining or fun enough, and that I’d be getting complaints constantly. Queen of self doubt, right here. My first ever lesson was a class of 10, and it was honestly kind of exhausting – they talked so much and it was really interesting to start learning about their personalities. My second class was much, much smaller, and more exhausting in a different sense, because trying to bounce ideas off of 2 kids and yourself requires a lot of thinking on your feet.
The first week definitely dragged, though. I think that’s mostly due to the fact that it felt like I was the new kid every day, since I was teaching new faces up until thursday, and a new topic every day. Even when I was teaching the same material, it really does depend on the class. I honestly have so much more respect for teachers now – and am glad that I was never a horrific student to teach for the most part!
The rest of the week was pretty uneventful (well… maybe more on that later, it’s been pretty hectic really), until Friday – which was the routine trip to immigration. They’ve changed the process so much since I got my ARC (alien registration card) as a student, and it’s infinitely easier and way, way less time consuming now. You have to book an appointment in advance, so there’s no more turning up as early as humanly possible to get out as quickly as possible. All the paperwork was done by my school too, so it was really a ‘show up for biometrics’ deal… even though I didn’t need to give my fingerprints again as I was already on the system from my student visa. It was interesting to see a little bit of Incheon city though – I’m definitely going to be visiting there more.
Saturday was definitely welcome when it arrived, even though I have 2 weeks of saturday morning classes to teach (they end this Saturday). The kids were all great and knew what they were doing for the most part, so it was a pretty fun class to do. After, it was another Daiso/homeplus run to get some of the things we discovered we needed, and more food… and I think B and I managed to spend a solid 3 hours almost just wandering around HomePlus and laughing at some of the fab Engrish we found. Oh, and South Korea is currently incredibly obsessed with Gudetama and Moomins. Though ahjummas still have zero chill when it comes to cash desks and queues.
I ended my week with a trip into Seoul from Cheongna, seeing some of the kids from uni who are currently on their own year abroads, and a fab night out in between Gangnam and Hongdae – I’ve not been out in Hongdae for an absolute age, so it was interesting to see how it had changed, and also how much time the commute takes from Cheongna – manageable but still 40 minutes into Hongdae, I’m definitely getting a bike.
This week has generally been more teaching, more admin (I now have a bank account, yay!) and feeling a little bit more settled. I still don’t have regular internet or a phone plan, so posts will still be a little sporadic, but I do get my first (part) paycheck on Friday, plus my skin has finally stopped crying at me and is actually behaving! So things are looking up.
How have the last two weeks been for you? WHAT PANCAKES DID YOU HAVE FOR SHROVE TUESDAY (I didn’t and now need to live vicariously through all of your choices)????
Oh, and if you want to keep up with what I’m doing daily, I post lots on my instagram stories, so def go and check them out!