First Impressions of Korea

Hello there!

I’ve been meaning to get this up and running since I got here but it has been a manic couple of weeks and I just haven’t found the time to post anything. Hopefully now the posts will become a little more frequent!

I have decided to do this blog as it seems the ‘in’ thing to do amongst us teachers out here and it provides an easier way for telling everyone back home what we’ve been up too! It’s also an easy way to document what we’ve been doing. I hope you don’t find it to mind numbing but please feel free to have a read…

Amelia and I ready to go at Heathrow!
So after an 11 hour flight and overcoming some pretty unpleasant jet lag, we are finally beginning to settle and acclimatise to Korea.

Anyway, to summarize what we’ve been up to we had a 9 day orientation in Seoul which was very intense and hard work. However, we made some really good friends and met some lovely people so hopefully now we will have a social circle to actually socialise with outside of the two of us! Amelia must be very relieved!

We are all from different places but there are a few Brits as well (one lad went to Leicester Uni till last year – so we had an intense conversation reminiscing about Leicester on the other side of the world one night!) and theres a few really nice Americans, South Africans, Canadians and token Irish and Kiwis that we have also befriended.

Some of us at the top of the Seoul Tower!

It’s pretty cool learning and discussing their countries and cultures as well, because even though we all speak English, we all come from very different places. It makes me appreciate England and Britain a lot more. I think Amelia will agree as will most the other ‘ex-pats’ out here. It’s really nice having other Brits out here also, so we can still reminisce about home and talk about all the things we are familiar with. Saying that some of the Yanks, Safas, and Canadians are great value also! I refuse to include the Irish on the list because they’re pretty much British anyway! They just sound ridiculous.

My only complaint about the orientation was that our schedules were so full and busy, and we had a midnight curfew every night even though we were staying pretty much slap bang in the centre of the 2nd biggest city in the world. There we were in a far off new exciting place, with an endless list of things to do and see… and we were stuck in a classroom undergoing some extensive teacher training. Granted it was certainly helpful and most definately required for the vast majority of us, but this was a slight frustration. Nevermind.

I just like this photo I took whilst downtown in Seoul

We are working under the Ministry of Science, Culture and Education in a programme known as EPIK (English Program in Korea). The whole orientation by EPIK was very impressive and well organized with almost military precision. Everything else (except the food – which was average, but with hindsight – not bad at all!) was perfect. It also became apparent how much money the Koreans are spending on us being here. They recruit 1,000 new teachers every 6 months, and have about 3,000 on the payroll at any time… They pay us between 15-17,ooo pounds a year in addition to paying for everybodys rent and accomodation. They had to feed us, entertain us (which they did pretty well to be fair) provide us with travel, hire buses, transport and shelter us for the first 9 days. They also pay for our airfares here and back home, so add on at least another 1,000 pounds. Every state school in Korea virtually has been awarded $60,000 to spend on an English classroom these past couple of years.

You do the maths, thats some pretty serious money they are spending on English!

Anyway, we have arrived in our province of Gangwon-Do where we will be living for the next year. We are staying in Hwacheon County which is about 9km from the border with North Korea! haha

We are living where the little pink 'A' is, one of the closest towns to the border!

There are 35,000 troops stationed here, but only a 23,000 population! Thats 3 and a half times the total number of British troops in Afghanistan at the moment, just in our little town! It is common to see convoys of military vehicles carrying heavily armed troops with machine guns, bombs and missiles through our little town. It’s pretty different. Its something you see on the news at ten, but not anymore. It’s literally on my doorstep! However, another girl we know has been placed up the road in Cheorwan, quote a conversation between her and her co-teacher the other day:

Johanna: is that thunder?
Co-teacher: Oh no just testing bombs.
Johanna: Is that a game of paintball behind those camoflauged walls?
Co-teacher: Oh no just military shooting machine guns in the ‘practising’ zone.

Its not quite as extreme where we are I’m sure you’ll be pleased to hear!

Amelia has been placed 40 minutes away because our area superviser is basically a nasty, corrupt little weasal of a man. I can’t be bothered to rant anymore. Anyway, we are working round this and still seeing each other most days and nights, as we are pretty much alone otherwise.

Our surroundings are very beautiful, although I don’t think the Koreans quite understand the concept of architecture to the same level that we do back home. Surroundings are beautiful, but think 1960’s tower blocks slap bang in the middle of the lake district and thats what we have here.

Hwacheon - Our home for the next year!

My co-teachers and school are all really good and friendly, I have my own office and classroom which is pretty sweet. The classes are small. ranging in size from 6-22 with most being around the 10-13 mark. So it’s pretty sweet. I have yet to start teaching, I am lesson planning for the first week. Amelia has two weeks of observing her Korean co-teacher. Fun, fun, fun!

The days are long, I have to wake up at 630, leave at 730 and get home just after 6 now. Oh I miss uni!!!!

The hospitals here have free gyms for the local people to use to keep them fit and healthy. And they’re actually pretty good. Britain could maybe take note to sort out all the fat people back home! I am more than happy with that. It’s about a 15-20 minute jog from where we are living, so its good CV followed by some weights. The Koreans are all so small bless them, even their Korean ‘musclemen’ are very small. I still wouldn’t want to mess with them though, they probably know some crazy kung-fu kind of stuff as every male here must do military service for 2 years!

The Korean children as well, I feel for them. They arrive in school at 8am and the high school students don’t finish till gone 10 sometimes 11, 5 days a week, and every other Saturday. It’s not much of a childhood for them. They are all very sweet and friendly. My ego is going through the roof, I have teenage girls shouting they love me across the corridor at me and I am told how handsome I am about 5 times a day! However, we were warned that they do this to most westerners regardless of their attractiveness when they are new to a school. So that kind of takes away the ego/esteem boost a little bit!

The students and teachers think I am a giant here, in Seoul people weren’t to small, but in my little rural school they certainly don’t feed them so well! The next tallest teacher is probably about 5’7-5’8. They keep saying ‘wow teachaaa you are giant, very tall’. I’m like ‘but really?’ Back home I am just a normal maybe slightly above average height!

Amelia however fits in just like a local.  Heightwise and genetically! Chin (or the pronounciation at least in Korean) is one of the most common names in Korea to go with ‘Park’ and ‘Kim’. Bless her. I wish she was staying with me!

Anyway, it’s lunch now so I must go as I am hungry. The Korean food does not agree with my stomach, I am trying lots but its bloody horrible, very spicey and I’m force feeding it down me at lunch because otherwise I go hungry and don’t want to offend the other Korean teachers who have all been so lovely to me. Even Amelia doesn’t like the food and she’ll eat anything!

Anyway, cheerio for now. Thinking of you all at home. Lots of love xxxxxxxxxx


One thought on “First Impressions of Korea”

  1. Hi Daniel

    Your Blogs make very good bedtime reading! Pleased to hear that you are settling in well and that you have managed to get round your problems with Amelia. Very unfair to split you up like that.

    Keep up the good work and make the most of all your experiences. Look forward to the next Blog


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