Floundering can be a good thing

Life in Hwaseong Dongtan as a Chungdahm April Teacher

First day & Medical check up

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The bus that takes you from the hotel to the Training Center to the Hospital.

The first day of the training week consists of orientation and the medical check up. Easy peasy. Around 9:20 a.m., you are expected to wait outside your hotel and get into a shuttle bus (basically a large tour bus type vehicle) that takes you to the Chungdahm Training Center. There, you get to go through orientation where you basically are welcomed and are give a basic layout of how things work. You also get to know the people in your training group (I highly suggest just getting people’s emails right then because it’ll be hard during the week).

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Chungdahm!

Orientation is fairly short. For my particular group, we had our medical exam in the afternoon, which meant starving until the whole exam was done. Some of the other training groups that were in different weeks had their medical exams in the morning.

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The building where the medical exam will take place.

After orientation, you once again get on the wonderful shuttle bus and get driven over to the hospital. Don’t worry, Chungdahm isn’t going to just dump you in the middle of nowhere and leave you in the hands of the friendly, but barely English-proficient staff of the Korea Medical Institute. There will be one to two trainers that will go with you to the medical center to make sure that all things are in order. There shouldn’t be much of a problem.

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There is a medical form that you fill out at the Training Center during orientation that you need to bring to the hospital (along with 3 passport photos). Once you’ve given your papers to the staff, you will be given a locker key and directed to the changing  rooms. There, you expected to remove all your jewelry, and clothes and change into these interesting, colorful ninja outfits that seem to be the equivalent to our medical gowns (theirs are way better… no breeze coming in from the back door if you know what I mean). The girls can keep their underwear on but should take off their bras.

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Girl’s outfit

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Guy’s outfit

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The order of the different medical procedures differs from person to person. You basically do whichever procedure the nurses tell you to do. The first step to my medical check up was to get weighed and have my height measured. Thank goodness I am used to looking at pounds, because I’m pretty sure that my weight in kg was not a pretty number. I blame the good eating that I had before I left for Korea. Nothing like home cooking.

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Second step, checking the blood pressure!

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The torture device! Jk…

Here’s a fun step to the medical exam. You go into this room so that they can get an EKG on you. They open the top of your ninja su- I mean medical gown/outfit and stick a bunch of wires connected to suction cups to your chest and also clip wires to your ankles and wrists. Girls, I will warn you, there is a bit of just lying there with your boobs out in the open. Don’t worry, it’s a private room and you definitely get a female nurse.

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Next step! They take a mini camera on a stick and check the inside of your mouth for coffee stains, cavities, and signs of poor dental health. No big deal really. My nurse said my teeth were pretty ^-^.

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Radiology

I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to take pictures of the x-ray machine. But they do take an x-ray of your chest. To see if there’s any pneumonia or TB i guess?

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The hearing test room

The oooooh so effective hearing test. This part was the second most ridiculous part of the whole medical exam (the most ridiculous comes later). I mean, when I think of hearing test, I think of hearing a ton of beeps that get softer and softer as you progress. Yes, there was a button that you had to press when you heard the beep. But honestly? They only had me listen to two beeps. TWO! One each ear. Really?! I could’ve gotten luck with those! How do they know that a person being tested using that method doesn’t have a friggin’ hearing problem?! I honestly thought that there was something wrong with my hearing when I didn’t hear anything after the two beeps. But then the nurse got up and came over to tell me that I was done with the test.

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PEEEE TEST!!!!!

Pee test! Who doesn’t love a good pee test? Basically, you pee in the cup, pour some of that pee into the tube, dip the stick into the cup, and only bring the tube and the stick back to the nurse. Yes, you have to carry the pee stick and the tube from the bathroom all the way back to the desk where the nice nurse gave the the tube. So not sanitary….

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After the pee test came getting my blood drawn. God I really hate needles. It has nothing to do with the pain or the blood. It’s just the thought of the needle pierce my skin and vein. The nurse was really good at drawing the blood so that it was fairly painless. She was worried when I kept staring at my phone (I was taking pictures for this blog, haha….).

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Ok, I have saved the best (worst) for last! The eye exam! There are so many words I want to use to describe this particular exam… It was the ABSOLUTE worst one out of all the exams. The other ones were fairly pleasant. The gist of the exam is to look into the machine and determine which way the opening of the C is pointing. You use the joystick to indicate which way you felt that the C was pointing or press ? if you are unsure. The C starts out reasonably large and is easy to see. However… The damn thing gets smaller and smaller and pretty much looks like a tiny circle at one point. How the hell is anyone supposed to see that?! SERIOUSLY?! I’m pretty sure that even 20/30 vision is ok. But good lord… these people must’ve been trying to see if someone had a bionic eye that could zoom in that far. There was no way that anyone got 100% on this test. Not unless they have amazing luck (which they wasted) or they cheated. I vote for option 2.

The other thing that you had to do was get checked for color blindness. Basically they have you look at a book of pictures of numbers and tell them what the numbers are. If you don’t know what a color blindness test looks like, look it up, you’ll find plenty of examples. Needless to say, I am not colorblind, but the test was pretty hard regardless. All the colorful circles make it pretty hard to tell which numbers were which. I was probably the only person that the nurse tested a few times. I blame the circles! The five and the 6 look the same!

Anywho, I’m pretty sure that the only thing from the medical exam that would get you not hired would probably be if you tested positive for HIV, drugs, or were color blind (you kinda need to be able to see the slides you use to teach kids).

Well! That’s all for this post! Please feel free to comment and ask questions! Until next time!

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The Alien Registration Card (ARC) and Escalators

What’s up? The ARC! What’s that? Read the title!! So the ARC is something that you need to get within 90 days of arriving in Korea to work. Without this, you basically can’t do all the important stuff. I know I know, there are plenty of important things, like pie. What could I mean? Three major things you can’t get if you don’t have your ARC: a cell phone, internet in your apartment, open a bank account that can transfer money home. 

Now, I say open a bank account that can transfer money home instead of just open a bank account because a friend of mine told me that she was able to open a bank account with just her passport. However, the problem was that she wouldn’t be able to send money home if she needed.

Cell phone. You can get a cell phone if you have a friend from Korea who is willing to help you out in the beginning and help you get a cell phone (yes you have to go with them). I recommend just waiting anyways to get a cell phone just because it’s a good idea since you want to shop around and get a good idea of the prices. 

Internet in your apartment? Do you really want to spend all your time in a coffee shop every time you want to use your laptop to check Facebook? Exactly.

Where and how do you get your ARC? You have to do this in the city that you work for, so the earliest you can apply would be when you arrive at your city. Your branch manager should be the one handling this. How long does it take? No idea! I haven’t tried yet. Leave me a comment and i’ll update you guys!

Time for the fun topic! Escalators!!!!!

The escalators in Seoul are just like any other escalators. I assure you.
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HOWEVER!!!! The escalators with a yellow line mean that if you’re not moving, you should stand to the side. People who are in a rush or just want to move faster on the escalator tend to come on the left. These people are not going to stand behind you and hope that you move. My friend pretty much go shoved out of the way by an older Korean lady on the down escalator (so dangerous…). 

But there you have it! Until next time!

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Getting places (like the hotel for training for example)

Hey all! So it’s the Saturday before training and I just wanted to talk about how I got to the hotel. I was staying at my friends place instead of coming straight from the airport. If you’re coming straight from the airport, please see my previous post for taxi info. 

This time, for travel, I took a regular yellow taxi that my friend and I found parked near by us. The driver spoke absolutely no English and was really surprised at the size of my luggage (yes, I had big luggage. 2 check-in bags and one duffel). I’m pretty sure he was asking me if I wanted a bigger taxi since all I heard was the word ‘prima’ (if that was what he actually said…). 

Tips for travelling anywhere by taxi:

  • If you can find out ahead of time how to pronounce the name of your destination in Korean, it would help a lot with the taxi driver. For example, I am in the COATEL HOTEL (pronounced co-ah-tell).
  • If the driver has no idea what you’re talking about, write it out for them, it’s easier for them to read something in English than to listen.
  • Still nothing? Get the phone number of the place in advance so that the driver can call and ask for the location of your destination (probably the best option to use after telling the driver where you want to go and figuring out if the driver speaks English).

Wanna take a bus/subways instead? For the Coatel Hotel at least, it’s located in Gangnam and the airport bus doesn’t go by there. So you would have to stop at a near by subway station and take the subway over to Gangnam station and then walk to the hotel. If you get lost, I suggest having the name and address of your hotel written on a piece of paper so you can go into a shop or 7-11 and ask for directions. I can’t really help much on how to ask properly in Korean where a place is, but you can point at your piece of paper and say eodi (pronounced uh-dee, means where in Korean). 

Well, that’s it for now folks! Until next time!

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The plane ride over from SFO

Sooo….. Singapore Airline is super nice and is almost the same price as United Airlines if not a little bit more expensive (totally worth it). So far, it’s the only airline that I know which has outlets for you to charge your stuff on the plane! 12 hours on a plane obviously would kill your computer/ choice of technology’s battery.

outlet for you to charge your stuff!

outlet for you to charge your stuff!

Also, the plane is huge! I didn’t take a picture of all the different cabin sections but shoot, there was a lot! I mean, i was in one section and when I looked back, there was a whole different cabin section. Not to mention that there was business and first class in front (which looked super spacious and comfy by the way). The economy cabin was kind of tight, but at least we each had our own screen to watch our movies!

the seats

the seats

more seats

more seats

the nice screen

the nice screen

 

The plane served pretty decent food and the flight attendants were constantly walking around throughout the flight offering refreshments and snacks. Talk about nice service. I definitely approve.

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Lunch

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Light meal before landing

The flight took about 12 hours and a normal person would sleep, but I just can’t sleep on planes…. the circulated air just makes it crazy hard for me to be comfortable. The thing was, the flight I was on was fairly empty and some people had whole row to themselves and were able to actually lie down and sleep. I wasn’t so lucky, but I did manage to get a row where there was an empty seat between the other passenger and I. A really good way to pass the time is to make a new friend and have a good chat!

My flight was at 12:50pm from SFO (San Francisco International Airport) and arriving at ICN (Incheon International Airport) at 6:30pm. Let me tell you, I didn’t sleep at all on the plane and ended up staying up until 10pm Korea time. Yes, that means I stayed up until 5am California time….. However! I slept like a log and woke up at 7am the next day. Probably the best way to get rid of jet lag is to get a reasonably timed flight (not arriving at friggin midnight…) and staying up until it was time to sleep in Korea. Oh! I also showed up 3 days earlier than the expected. For Chungdahm training, you are allowed to move into the hotel after 3pm on the saturday before training starts.

Ok, to the important part, the whole going through immigration and going to where I needed to go. First, I am staying at a friend’s place before I go to the hotel, so I do have it a lot easier than most who will be living in Korea. I still highly recommend arriving early a few days if you’re bad with jet lag (mine usually lasts 2 weeks if I don’t get rid of it early…). Find a cheap hotel or something to stay in for before you move into the training hotel.

Ok! Now! Time for the airport stuff. To get from your gate to immigration requires a ton of escalators and a tram. So get read to lug your carry on and whatever else you took with you on the plane (hope it’s not heavy). Going through immigration wasn’t as painless as I thought it was going to be. There were a shit ton of Chinese tour groups that were also going through, plus the other people who were either returning to Korea or visiting. The lines moved fairly quickly. The only thing I had to do was get my two index fingers scanned and stand for a picture (that and you should have an arrival card filled out for them). Easy! Getting my baggage wasn’t too bad either. Since I didn’t bring anything that customs had to deal with, I passed that area quickly too. After exiting into the main part of the airport, I went off on a search for transportation. There are two options: bus or taxi. Bus costs about 20,000 won. This will take longer and the driver will help you put your luggage on the bus. However, you will have to know what the stop is and where your hotel/place you’re staying is in relation to that bus stop. For the taxi, there is an international taxi service that charges different prices depending on which zone of Seoul you are travelling to. I was travelling to the Gwanghamun area and that zone cost 55,000 won. That’s not too bad of a price considering it did take 50 minutes to get to my destination. The taxi is definitely the way to go if you have more than one person, but it’s also not that bad of a deal even if you’re alone. The great thing about choosing the international taxi is that their drivers do speak at least a little English, if not more. My driver was super friendly and talkative.

Money. I exchanged some money at SFO just in case, but since I arrived early in the night I probably could have waited to exchange it at the airport. Oh well. My exchange rate was $1 for ~960 won. Apparently you get a better exchange rate at the hotels, so I would only exchange enough until I got to a hotel. For those who are going to just use their ATM to get money, look for ATM’s that say they accept international cards. When getting money from the ATM, I suggest that you take out more just because you get charged a pretty big fee and it’s not worth it to be charged that fee over and over again just because you didn’t get enough money last time.

Calling cards and payphones are available at the airport if you need to call someone in the US and let them know that you arrived safely. If you need to call someone in Korea, there are free phones located in the baggage area (before passing customs) that you can use.

That’s all I can think of at the moment, please leave questions and comments on anything that I might have missed or that you would like to see in a future post! Until next time!

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Leaving for Korea

Honestly, I never thought that I would actually be going to Korea to teach English. All I ever did was talk about it. I had considered teaching in Japan for the longest time since I have studied Japanese for 9 years now. And why don’t I go there to teach you ask? Why not go teach in Korea? Exactly!

After looking at programs like EPIK, I decided that most English teaching programs required teaching experience or some sort of certification (which is quite expensive mind you). I was almost going to give up the search when my good friend told me that she had been hired to teach in Korea! Say what?!!! Anywho, she told me that the recruiting agency that she went through was called Aclipse. What she really liked about this particular set up was that you didn’t need anything other than the most basic requirement to teach (a Bachelors degree). Aclipse works with Chungdahm Learning. Before her telling me, I had never ever heard of the company. I didn’t really think to go a research before applying since I didn’t think I’d get hired. But whaddaya know? I get an e-mail asking for a good time for a phone interview and also a bunch of forms to fill out. I started this process in October and I officially signed my contract to teach in January.

The whole process consisted of endless emails, photocopies, scans, and MONEY. Yes, applying to teach English costs money! You have to get notarized and apostilled copies of your diploma, two fbi background checks (which take up to a month), and a flu shot! Remember to get up to 8 passport photos as they will come in handy. For Chungdahm, you also buy your plane ticket to Korea and get reimbursed a month after you get there.

Since I am currently sitting in SFO airport, I can’t vouch for any of the process for training yet, but that will probably be in my next blog post. What I can say is that when you sign your contract, you get a link for training videos that will help you understand what you need to teach English. Now, I will put a warning out now: FOR THOSE WHO AREN’T WILLING TO WORK HARD DURING THE ONE WEEK OF TRAINING, THERE IS THE POSSIBILITY OF FAILING TRAINING. I HIGHLY SUGGEST THAT YOU SHOW UP WITH A POSITIVE ATTITUDE AND BE WILLING TO WORK YOUR ASS OFF TO PASS. Other than that, you’ll be just fine! This is coming from the experience of people who I’ve talked to who are already there.

A few things that people have told me to bring with me to Korea:

  • towels (they exist in Korea but are the mini versions of what we use)
  • toothpaste (There’s no fluoride in their toothpaste as far as I know)
  • Your diploma (yes they’ve asked you for copies, but you need the actual one)
  • Extra money for the first month (since you don’t get paid right away)
  • Girls: Underwear and bras (their sizes are a lot smaller than the American ones)
  • Shoes: If your feet are bigger than size 8 (girls) or 9 (guys), bring your own shoes just in case, the sizes do run small and are probably really expensive in Korea
  • Deodorant: Only if you have a very specific brand that you like, otherwise they have it in Korea
  • Meds: It’s a good idea to bring enough meds for yourself until you situate and find out where the pharmacy is and what you can take

Things I wish I could’ve brought but either just couldn’t or ran out of space for:

  • More clothes: If you’re like me, then you have way too much clothing and not enough space in your luggage
  • My hair dryer (I’ll just buy one in Korea)
  • My dog (I left him with my family because it’s not worth having him in quarantine and then I don’t have time for him)
  • Coffee (good quality fresh ground coffee)
  • More towels
  • ….My whole room…(haha…)

Things I did manage to bring:

  • A quilt
  • A plush throw
  • 2 laptops
  • My stuffed green bunny, Melvin
  • Kindle
  • 3 microusb chargers
  • 3 prong -> 2 prong converter plug
  • USA->Korea converter 2 prong converter plug
  • Tylenol, benedryl (cream and tablet), antacid, vapor rub
  • Lotion, shampoo, conditioner, lotion (all from hotels that I’ve stayed at, they make wonderful travel sized toiletries)
  • Brita water bottle (The tap water in Seoul is actually perfectly fine to drink from, but since the locals don’t drink from it, it’s probably better to err on the side of safety and bring a filter. I brought the water bottle because that’s all you really need. It’s the same idea as the larger brita pitcher except you refill more times.)

What I bought with The Arrival Store (TAS):

  • A cleaning kit
  • Comforter
  • Bedsheet set

Oh yeah,  burning question for you all who are wondering about plane tickets? I bought mine on Singapore Airline’s website and for flying on a weekday in mid February, it cost me about $435.

Anything else I’ve forgotten to mention that you have questions for? Please comment! See you next time!

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