Once I booked my flight to Korea, I had a ton of things to do before leaving. I had to drop my visa application off at the embassy, move out of my apartment, and pack for an indeterminate amount of time. It’s really hard to pack for a place you’ve never been. There are plenty of blogs and vlogs that past English teachers in Korea have kept that did help me a lot. I learned to pack things like deodorant because it’s expensive here since Korean people don’t really smell bad.
I picked up my visa on a Monday and left for Korea the following morning. I also bought a new phone that I planned to use once I got to Seoul. But, this was poor preparation on my part because I miscalculated the cost of an international phone plan and I didn’t back my phone up. So, I got to keep all of my contacts but lost several years’ worth of work in Candy Crush. That fucking sucked.
I would like to give a big shoutout to my mom though. She helped me a ton while getting ready to head out. I think she was really excited for my sister and me to be in the same place at the same time. She claims she’s going to come visit, but I don’t know how she’s going to handle dat kimchi.
I flew from Washington to San Francisco to Seoul. I was surprised that the flight to Seoul was under 12 hours. But I still hate flying and have trouble sleeping in anything that’s not a bed, so I arrived in South Korea after having been awake for around 24 hours.
Once I made it through customs, I found the taxi driver who was waiting for me outside the airport. No one had ever held a sign for me at an airport.
He drove me the two hours through rush hour traffic to the school I would be working at. I nodded off several times and really just wanted to get to my new apartment and sleep. Most schools here provide foreign teachers with an apartment, so it was nice not to have to look for one on my own. When the taxi dropped me off, someone from the school met me and took me to my new home. I knew to expect a small apartment because this is a very populous city so space is expensive. I’m sure the school was looking to save a buck too. I held my breath as the door opened hoping that it would be a decent size. It’s not. It’s a fucking tiny ass studio. There’s barely enough room for me to practice doing the splits.
I dropped my bags off and followed this man (who never introduced himself to me) back to the school. There I was passed around to several employees, and no one seemed to know what to do with me. Eventually, I was told to go to sleep and come back the following day at 4 p.m. So, I went to my tiny apartment, which I realized had no heat on, and slept for about 12 hours.
The next morning, I tried fiddling with all kinds of buttons and breakers to figure out how to turn the heat or hot water on. No luck.
So, I welcomed myself to Seoul with a cold shower and blew myself dry with the random hairdryer left in my apartment. I expected there to be some furnishings like cups and plates. Nope, just a bed, a microwave on the floor, and a TV. What more do you need?
I walked around my new neighborhood for a few hours and quickly realized that almost nothing has English translations. Living in Korea with no Korean skills might be harder than I thought.
I knew that my teaching hours were supposed to be from 1-10 p.m., so coming in at 4 p.m. was really like a half day. But still, having to work less than a day after flying halfway around the world made me nervous. What if I couldn’t stay awake in classes? All I had to do was shadow teachers, but I didn’t want to leave a bad first impression.
After one night of shadowing two teachers and the world’s most boring New Year’s celebration alone in my apartment, I showed up to work the following Monday with no idea what to expect. To my surprise, I was given my own teaching schedule and thrown into things. I was already expected to teach my classes all by myself. Wait, what?
I’m a failed model/international peace mediator. I like telling stories, traveling, and guys. Besides becoming Oprah, my biggest life goal is to be able to do the splits. All the way.