Cherry Blossoms be a blossomin’


One of my favorite times of year in Korea is when the trees go from looking barren and dead to this…


Advice for an EPIK applicant

**Please note that contract details and application requirements have drastically changed since I applied (and are constantly being changed), but let me know if you have any questions and I will do my best to help.**

I was recently asked by Emma of Emma’s New Groove if I have any advice for someone applying for EPIK (English Program in Korea). I definitely do!


My first bit of advice is get your documents together…. NOW! Recommendation letters, background check, passport photos, etc. I applied through a recruiter (Korvia) because the process intimidated me and I wanted someone to hold my hand along the way. As I was in the process of applying, I wished I had gone through EPIK directly (
Busan burial mound Bokcheon
Decide which level you want to teach. Every level has its ups and downs. The up side to elementary is that you will more than likely have an active co-teacher, meaning you will literally be CO-teaching. The down side is that some of the co-teachers are crotchedy and stuck in their ways, but it’s just the luck of the draw and every level has good and bad co-teachers. In middle and high school you will more than likely be teaching alone. If your co-teacher is in the class, he or she will probably only be there to play the role of disciplinarian. You may or may not be teaching out of the book. Some people like the freedom of not having to work out of a book, but you have to come up with all new ideas every week. The good news is that there’s a large community of English teachers in Korea that are more than happy to share ideas.
Teach English in Korea EPIK
Decide where in Korea you want to work. Do you want to go urban or rural? Do some research. If you can swing it, try rural. You get paid more and a lot of times the rural cities aren’t as small as you’re afraid they will be. Korea’s a small place so it’s fairly easy to get around on the weekends. I chose urban and ended up in Busan. I love Busan. I think it’s great and would highly recommend it to anyone. It’s not as hot in the summer here, but it is very humid. I’ve been told it doesn’t really snow here in the winter, but it is quite windy so the cold is a bit bitter. I’ve heard that Busan is quite popular so if you’re interested in working here, APPLY EARLY. **On your application you’ll be asked to pick one preferred office of education to work for. The next question asks if you are willing to work in other provinces or if you’d like to withdraw your application if the office of education to selected is unavailable.**
Capture the Colour 2013 Green

Boseong Green Tea Plantation

Be patient. This application process is one of the most painful things you can go through. It will stress you out like no other. The best way to experience the least amount of stress is to apply early. It’s still going to take you forever to find out if you got a job, but your odds are better. If you apply early, pass your interview and send your documents in right away, you are probably going to get a position. You probably will not know if you have gotten a position until a month before it’s time to go to Korea. For the fall intake, I think some didn’t find out until a week or two before.
Take a picture of 2 family mart employees making a heart with their arms- 50

Scavenger Hunt – Take a photo of convenience store employees making a heart with their arms

Get doubles of documents. Ask for 2 (or more) copies of the same recommendation letter, get at least two background checks, apostilled copies of your diploma and transcripts. If EPIK falls through and you’re still serious about going to Korea, you’ll need backup documents because EPIK won’t be returning what you’ve already submitted. You don’t want to scramble at the last minute. Also, if you’re in Korea and want to change jobs for the second year, you’ll already have extra documents and it will make the application process much easier.
day 67
Look online for a Facebook group so you can share your experiences with other people that are going through what you are. Other places like Daves ESL Cafe and can be helpful, but once you apply it’s nice to be able to cut out all of the crap and just talk about what you want. It can also be a good way to network and make friends before you go. Most of you will be going alone so it doesn’t hurt to make all of the friends you can.
Making a toast

Thanksgiving pot luck

EPIK has now started making “official” facebook groups for applicants that are monitored by them. It’s nice that they see the need for it, but I think it’s much nicer to be able to form a community with your peers rather than being in a group formed by EPIK. If you agree, don’t be afraid to make your own group for your intake. EPIK does have an official facebook page with a lot of great information so be sure to check it out.
I hope this is helpful to any people thinking about applying to EPIK. Korea is amazing and I think it’s well worth the journey. It will be a year of your life that you’ll never forget. If you have any more questions, please post a comment below and I will get back to you as soon as I can.
Jusanji Korea at sunrise

Awww Moment

I teach grades 3-6 in an elementary school. Up until a month or so ago, I taught 6th grade twice a week. It was cut back to once a week so that the 6th graders could prepare for their national exam that they had last Tuesday.

Last Friday was my last class with the 6th grade students until September. My co-teacher knew they had been very stressed out over the exam so she wanted me to have fun with them. We played a “Name That Tune” game using Korean pop (K-pop) songs. They were able to listen a clip of the song that used English and they had to write down the name of the song and the name of the band. They also had to list the English words that they heard. Apparently they loved it because my co-teacher told me that yesterday they were begging to play again.

She also told me that she gave them a sheet of paper and asked them to write down things they thought the class was missing. 20-30 students said me. Awww!

End of the semester

I love my 3rd graders. They are all so sweet and very eager to learn. It’s their first year learning English and are just now starting to learn phonics and the alphabet. We had so much fun today. This is the last week of the semester so I won’t see many of them again until September. I’m going to miss them.

Part 2: Things that just don’t seem strange anymore…

Because the first post was so popular, here are more things that just don’t seem strange [about Korea] anymore…
  1. You start telling people they should “take a rest.”
  2. Blue eyes can put others into a state of hypnosis.
  3. A single bar of soap can kill the bacteria on the hands of 1,000 people.
  4. You’re getting used to fruit flies buzzing around your head.
  5. You love buying food in the supermarket that is scotch-taped to something else.
  6. The wait staff likes to cook your food and feed it to you.
  7. You cross your arms in an X every time you say NO or disagree about something.
  8. You think you’re back in university after hearing loud drunks stumbling home at 4am on a Sunday morning… but then realize its 50 year olds wearing suits.
  9. Koreans seem to be able to find anything from “www[dot]daum[dot]net” but you’re not even sure what kind of site it is.
  10. You feel like you’re playing Frogger every time you walk to school or have lunch in the cafeteria.
  11. Parking a car means turning off the engine.
  12. You find yourself chopping vegetables while sitting on your bed because there is no counter space.
  13. Your fate is often determined through a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors.
  14. People just love to watch your groceries go through the checkout.
  15. Clerks in the stores stand at attention and ready to pounce on you with customer service.
  16. Dishes and ironing are taking up too much of your spare time.
  17. You’ve-ah started talking like-ah this-ah.
  18. No matter where you are standing, you are always in an old lady’s way.
  19. You actually prefer bowing to saying hello.
  20. People only need to walk one block to reach a convenience store or PC room.
  21. People politely start public trash piles rather than littering everywhere.
  22. You find yourself disappointed in the equipment offered at the free public park gyms.
  23. You still have no clue how the garbage/recycling system works here.
  24. You’re already losing your motivation for temple-stay and learning fluent Korean.
  25. Everyone is very impressed with your chopstick skills and kimchi-eating ability.

*I didn’t write any of these myself, but they pretty much sum up life in Korea. *

You can find the original post here:

Things that just don’t seem strange anymore…

Carnival of Drifter Tales

3 Months in Korea

I know I’m extremely behind on posting. I felt so bad about it that I decided to make a video to make up for it. Even though I’ve just started month 5 in Korea, I made this video using short clips I took during my first 3 months here. Enjoy!

Busan Aquarium

Saturday, April 2

One of the most famous attractions in Busan is the Busan Aquarium. It’s located right on Haeundae, Busan’s most popular beach. If you go, watch out for those pesky birds. As always, click on any picture below to see the full size image.







The aquarium is nice, but it’s actually quite small. The entrance fee is 18,000 won (about $16.50). We thought that was a bit too expensive. It’s definitely good to get it checked off of the To Do List, but we won’t be back.

After the aquarium, we stopped off at the darts booth and Andy and I threw some darts at balloons. Here we are with our prize seashell necklaces…

Our next stop was Fuzzy Navel for drinks and chips and dips… and more darts.

Afterwards, we headed to the Wolfhound Pub and had some Irish food and played more darts.


Night Out with the Teachers

Thursday, March 17

Last night the English teachers from my school went out for a night of food and bowling. We ate at a shabu-shabu restaurant. This was, by far, the best food I’ve had in Korea. If any of you come visit, we must go eat at this place. They bring out a pot of seasoned broth and you boil the broth then cook very thinly sliced beef in it. You are also brought loads of veggies and rice paper. You wet the rice paper then fill it with veggies, meat and sauce and then wrap it. It’s so good! The girls said that it’s like Korean/Vietnamese fusion.

After dinner, we walked to the bowling alley, which is located about a subway stop away inside of Home Plus. Bowling was such a blast. There was tons of high fiving going on, even for gutter balls. The ladies I work with are super sweet. I was in second place the whole game, but I had a comeback on the last two frames and won.

Something I thought was really neat about the bowling alley was the way you rent shoes. The shoes are actually distributed through venting machines. The fee is 1,500 won (about $1.40). You insert your coins into the machine with your shoe size and the shoes drop out of the bottom. So cool.

After the game we walked around Home Plus to buy some snacks and supplies for the English teachers’ office. My two co-teachers shared a taxi back and JuHye and I took the subway. I only live two stops from where we were and I wanted to find out where the subway station was so I could come back on my own sometime.

I look forward to many more teachers nights in the future.

Shark Attack

Life at my school is pretty good. We moved offices not that long ago. It was nice to be able to have my own desk, but I soon discovered that I’d be sharing an office with this…

One of my co-workers and I ended up carrying that darn shark all over school. Our new office is on the 3rd floor so we carried it down to the second floor science lab to see if they wanted it, but they didn’t. Next, we carried it down to the first floor to take it out to the trash. The man we took it to said he actually tried to throw it out before, but they didn’t want to. Oh well. It’s gone now.

Pancake Day

Tuesday, March 8

When my friends talked about having pancakes on Tuesday, I honestly thought it was just because they were missing pancakes. I had no idea there was a reason behind it until that night. I stopped by the store on the way and picked up real maple syrup, which was super expensive (18,000 won, which is about $16.50 USD), but you can’t have Pancake Day without syrup, right?? Apparently there’s a super cheap Korean version of syrup that isn’t bad. I’ll know for next time.

Anyway, Pancake Day is an actual thing. My friends from the UK all celebrate this day. They didn’t really know how to explain the significance other than on Shrove Tuesday (Fat Tuesday) you get together with your family and eat pancakes. Apparently, many people in the UK really only eat pancakes on this day.

So about 10 of us all got together in Beth’s apartment and had pancakes. We ate them British style, with a squeeze of lemon and sugar sprinkled over top. We also had chocolate chip pancakes and we had regular pancakes with syrup. It was such a great time.

* Click on the pictures above to see the full size image *