Tag Archives: school

what to expect when you’re expecting… to move to Korea… Part 2

Hey there, Reader. Let’s pick up where we left off last time and keep the tale going. (If you didn’t read Part 1 and are interested, you can read it here.)

So, we last stopped when I had been offered two “phantom” positions via the two recruiting agencies I applied through, Aclipse and Footprints. When I received these offers, it was late June of 2012, but I didn’t plan to leave the Americas until February 2013. Because everything you need to compile for leaving to teach in Korea is time-sensitive, it’s good to have a cushion to work with. Eight months is way more than enough time. I was so incredibly early that I did what I could, which wasn’t much, and then I sat on my hands for almost five months.

I don’t remember what kind of information I received from Footprints, but I’ll give you everything I’ve got from Aclipse. :)

Following my initial phone interview with my recruiter, she sent me an email saying that she was pleased to tell me she would be recommending me to the Chungdahm Learning headquarters team in Seoul for review. In addition, I would need to prepare and send some other materials in order to complete my application with them. I needed

  • a completed Chungdahm Learning application
  • an application essay, up to 500 words – a list of ten basic topics were provided for me to choose from
  • an additional copy of my resume (which I had already provided to Aclipse initially to start the process at the very beginning)
  • a professional-looking photo of myself, neatly dressed and with a solid background
  • a photocopy of the picture/signature pages of my passport
  • a photocopy of my college diploma
  • a video introduction – instructions were provided in her packet

I had exactly one week to get all this crap together and I didn’t waste any time. Most of it was really easy – making photocopies? Yeah. Easy-schmeasy. I filled out the application as requested. I double-checked my resume to make sure I hadn’t screwed anything up or needed to change anything. I took a picture of myself in my house against a beige wall. I sat down and finished the essay in an evening without breaking a sweat. The most challenging thing of the lot was the stupid video. It wasn’t hard, it was just super awkward. You talk about yourself on camera… It’s just weird. Also, I’m not a technical girl, so it took me a while to figure out how to save it correctly in the right format that would be acceptable according to the instructions. I had to FaceTime a friend to get it done… (I know, sad. I’ve come a long way!)

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dude, it’s finally happening…

Reader. Oh my god.

Oh my GODIE. Oh. My. GOD.

Hell hath frozen over. It’s happening. My Korean dream of all dreams is coming true:

They’re building a Starbucks in my neighborhood.

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This is the one thing that I have thought would make my life in Korea complete. If there was just a Starbucks in my neighborhood, I thought, I would truly be happy. All would be as it should be. The universe will have given me my one, last Korean wish.

And the best part about it all? IT’S IN THE BUILDING DIRECTLY NEXT TO MY SCHOOL. It’s like they’re begging me to spend every dime of my paycheck in there. I mean, seriously, it’s true. The place isn’t even more than a gutted building right now, but never you mind that. The Starbucks gods reminded me just this morning that I have two coupons for free drinks and one for a breakfast sandwich. (Of course, they reminded me of this after I had already paid for my chai and egg-and-bagel sandwich, but, you know, whatever. I have them for later at my real neighborhood Starbucks.)

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the missing Christmas-y classroom pictures…

If you read my previous post of my my Christmas classroom decor, you’ll know that I somehow managed to lose the photos I took of my completed work. I promised to snap a few of all that was still up (which is all of it) and add them here. So, without further ado, here’s the final products:

So there you have it! The most Christmas-y this year. The bar has been set. This year will be epic.

that one time when I obnoxiously wanted to be the most decorated teacher…

READER. Oh my god, I’ve done it again.

With just eight days left in the month, I’ve given myself barely any time to get all those goals in for the month that I wanted… It’s safe to say that some of them won’t be happening. But instead of hashing over what I didn’t do [yet, and what I’ll try to squeeze in], we’ll save that for another day.

No, no. Tonight, I’d like to share with you one of the many things I’ve been meaning to write about: the time I was the most Christmas-y of them all at school.

Last year, I didn’t do anything in my classroom, but instead was commissioned by our receptionist at the time to do something elaborate in the lobby area. I loved this.

It took me about a week with a little help and turned out decent. Sure, I would have changed a few things, but all in all, it was a good Christmas-themed, life-sized diorama in my eyes. At least, the kids loved it.


the Xmas setup in 2013...

the Xmas setup in

Now, I’ve had plans for a long time to decorate my classroom and make it more a place where I want to be and where my students might enjoy learning. At some point early last year, I fashioned a tree out of some crazy-fancy tissue paper and then stapled red, orange, and yellow leaves to it that I had my students write their names on. I loved the tree, I hated the leaves. They looked weird, for one thing, but also, the students’ artwork wasn’t my cup of tea. Many of them tried to make their names “prettier,” and the aesthetic just didn’t work for me.


tree with leaves... I don't like...

tree with leaves… I don’t like…

Eventually, once the term changed and I had different students in class, I took the leaves off and left the tree green and bare, but cut out [seemingly] a zillion mitten shapes to put up with their names (which I planned to write myself) and hang on the tree. I never got around to it… I have a ton of mittens and they’re sitting in a little box.


the bare tree, which I liked...

the bare tree, which I liked…

And then, nearly a year later, Christmas came. And if you’ll recall, I was determined to be the best decorated classroom out of the four. (We’re a small academy. Also, it’s important to note that there was no contest – I made it up in my own head and was competing against myself. Which, by the way – I am my toughest competitor…)

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a short list of grievances… Game of Groans

As you might imagine, living in Korea is pretty awesome. I love it here, and I’m not planning on leaving anytime soon. However, this being said, you might also imagine that living in Korea (or living in any foreign country, for that matter) might also bring a few headaches… Like, seriously? What possesses these people to do these ridiculous things? Wear that? Just not do stuff like we do it in the Americas, where everything is bigger, better, and more delicious?

Here’s a list of 5 things that cause me to become an irritable white girl:

#5. Socks with sandals.

...this lady... i can't even...

…this lady… i can’t even…

Women here will literally wear socks with their sandals, regardless of how stupid it looks. Now, there is some logic to this – Koreans remove their shoes before entering many places, like homes, schools, and even some restaurants. So, it helps when you’re wearing socks… However, it just looks dumb. Women also dress their children this way, so their littles look just as ridiculous as they do. My other favorite part about this is the random sock designs they choose… Which are pretty much any design you can imagine, including superheroes, brand names, and Psy, that guy that sang “Gangnam Style.” (I have a pair of those… and Starbucks socks. What a shock.)

#4. Air conditioning is not centralized, so you’re basically dripping in sweat when you leave the room.

the "air con" unit in my apartment...

the “air con” unit in my apartment…

For some reason unknown to me, South Koreans don’t incorporate central AC into any of their buildings. Instead, you have to have a single, separate unit for each room. (Or, in the case of a           business with a large open room, maybe two or three units to get it cool enough.) “What does this look like?” you ask. Well, they come in three standard units: a long, skinny-ish thing that gets mounted on the wall; a tall, skinny thing that stands upright and is a cooling beast; or a large, nearly meter-wide square set into the ceiling. (The last ones are usually found in businesses.) So, when you walk into a house or a business with multiple rooms (like a school, for example), the minute you leave that room, you’re dying from heat stroke. Basically, I suffer from chronic sweating all summer long. And it’s just gross.

#3. There are approximately five public trash cans in the whole country.

So, let’s say, for example, you went to Starbucks with your friends. When everyone was ready to leave, you still hadn’t finished your drink, so you took it with you. As you’re walking around the city, shopping or doing whatever it is you do, you finish that drink. So what do you have? Bingo. An empty cup. And where should you deposit that cup? Well, Western logic tells you that you should chuck it into the nearest trash receptacle. But wait. Where is that glorious rubbish bin?

Oh. Right. This is Korea. They don’t really like those.

According to my Korean friends, these public trash cans used to be everywhere, just the way we expect them to be. But at some point, Korean citizens got a brilliant idea: I’ll just throw all my home garbage out at one of the city receptacles. So apparently these cans were constantly overflowing. As a result of this unfortunate behavior, cities all over the country ripped out the vast majority of these bins. If you’re lucky enough to be near one, clean out your handbag. Otherwise, remember that Starbucks cup? Yeah. You’ll be carrying that around all day until you get home. Enjoy that.

#2. Old ladies and their entitlement. And young ladies and their lack of directionality. 

Now, it may be a scientific fact that Korean women can’t walk in a straight line. Period. Even when they’re not looking down at their phones, women, both old and young alike, meander through a walking area like they’re following a speck of dust through the air. I find this very annoying. They also have a tendency to just bump/SLAM into you whilst meandering and they will not stop to apologize. Nay, they will ram you and just keep on walking. This irks me to no end. I almost always swing back around to say, “chwesomnida,” which means “excuse me,” but they’re always already gone, continuing on their path of non-direction.

Old women are another story entirely. As an Asian society, you may remember from history class that the elderly are highly regarded and are treated with extra respect. If an older person gets on the bus, you should give up your seat (which is just nice to do anyway), and you should also move the hell out of the way for them… In every situation. Old women have grown so accustomed to this entitlement, they will cut in front of you for everything.

Because it’s their right. They earned it. How? I’m not sure.

They will not change their direction or placement while walking, they expect you to. They will attempt to shove you out of the way so they can board the bus or subway first. They will try cut in front of you in line at the supermarket. Sometimes, you give in. Other times, you stand your ground. Oh. My. GODIE. This is so annoying.

And… Finally…

1. Real bad English. Like, everywhere.

"A really good chicken, go to dakzip [restaurant name] has it all  Thinking about thinking chicken taste good drink  Today I come to think of a cup of chicken"

“A really good chicken, go to dakzip [restaurant name] has it all
Thinking about thinking chicken taste good drink
Today I come to think of a cup of chicken”

You would think that in a country obsessed with learning English, a society of people that spend millions of dollars to become proficient English speakers, and being a country literally crawling with native English speakers, that Koreans would be better about getting someone to proofread stuff before they publish/print/hang/produce stuff with English on it. But alas, clothes, restaurant slogans, notebooks, and a slew of other products have some of the dumbest, most non-sensicle (I just made that word up) wording you’ll ever see. Like, really? You couldn’t find a waygook (aka foreigner) or someone more proficient in English to read that for ya before you sent it to be manufactured?

This stuff is everywhere. And it’s bad. But, luckily, it’s equally hilarious.


So, this installment is just a short chronicle of things that irritate me… There are others, so I’ll revisit this topic in the coming weeks.



Here’s a question for you, Reader. What things have gotten on your nerves as you’ve been traveling or living somewhere new? Even if it’s a new area in your home country, what just drove you crazy?! Tell me all about it. I want your stories!

Write on. :)


*This post was written in response to WordPress’s The Daily Post: Game of Groans.

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