Wednesday, November 27, 2013

What I'll Miss: Part 1

It seems fitting to have this blog post on the week of Thanksgiving.  You could say that this post mentions some of the things I am grateful for. They are also the things I'm going to miss while I am in Korea. I look forward to the experiences this new adventure has in store for me, but these are the things that will make me homesick.

1. My family

I've never been this far from family. Ever. It's nice having family close by, but that's not possible while I'm in Korea. I can't just take a quick trip home for the weekend and I even have to figure out time differences before calling. I'm just glad that Skype makes it a little easier.

2. My friends

I really hope that I will be able to make some good friends while in Korea, but I'm definitely going to miss the awesome ones I have here. It might not be easy to find people in Korea who share my same strange interests, like my unnatural investment in the lives of fictional characters... Thank goodness for the Internet, right?

3. The holidays

Ok, so there are some holidays in common, but they don't celebrate in the same way. It's going to be great to see the differences, but at the same time I'm going to miss things like the family gatherings that typically happen.

4. Being in my "culture bubble"

This one will be a bittersweet departure. We can all live just fine experiencing a single culture for our entire lives because, well, it's our culture. It's comfortable. It's familiar. But, at the same time, there are so many possibilities when you step out of the bubble and into the unknown. I am sometimes more adventurous when I step into an unfamiliar situation. The stranger it is, the more comfortable I am because knowing that no one expects you to know what you're doing is somewhat freeing.

Or maybe I'm just strange that way...

So, that is the first installment of my "What I'll Miss" posts. Look forward to part 2 next week, where I'll be talking about one of the loves of my life -- food. Thank you for reading!

And Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Korean Food: Love or Hate?

There was a webinar on food and eating culture in Korea yesterday, which I unfortunately missed because I couldn't log in. In its place I decided to browse videos on Korean culture, particularly ones made by teachers. Then, I decided to search for thread topics on Waygook.org discussing food.

Which brings me to my blog topic for today.

I came across this interesting forum topic here, which had people discussing how they felt about Korean food. More specifically, they were ranking its level of deliciousness in comparison to other countries' foods.

Now, I wouldn't say that one countries' dishes are better than another, simply because they are very different areas of he world, with different ingredients available to them. If you're comparing how they prepare the same dish across countries, then fine, but saying one countries' food is better than another is like saying apples are better than oranges -- it's your opinion, not fact.

What really got my blood boiling was how vicious some people on the forum could be in terms of expressing how much they disliked or down-right hated Korean food. First, I want to note that pretty much everyone on Waygook.org, as far as I know, came to Korea to work as teachers for at least a year. They knew that Korea meant Korean food, and yet they act almost as if they were tricked.

What? Korean food? I thought I was going to get NORMAL food. What is this soybean stuff and pepper paste all over my meat and vegetables? 

Going through this forum thread alone, keywords that pop up are: disgusting, puke, dog meat, bland, not spicy...
While some Koreans do eat actual dog meat, not everyone does. And they definitely don't eat it like this.

A number of people on this thread are under the impression that if you do love Korean food you need to expand your food experience, have an emotional attachment or have deluded yourself into liking it because it's either below average or simply disgusting to them.

I admit that I haven't had a chance to try a large variety of world cuisines, and I'm still working my way through Korean dishes, but I actually do like Korean food.

*gasp* You uncultured, numb-tongued woman!

I admit, there are some dishes I like more than others, but most countries have dishes that you are going to like and some you don't. Don't write off a whole country's food simply because of some bad experiences. It might just be that one dish or that one restaurant. And, you definitely should not base your opinion of all Korean food off of what you get in a Korean school's cafeteria -- actually, don't base your opinion of any country's food off of what you eat in a cafeteria.

Now, there is something I find questionable about Korean food culture, and that's the Koreanization of food from other countries. Pizza, hamburgers and burritos particularly come up in North American bloggers' rants or videos. I have heard and seen some horrible things about the Korean versions of some of these. Pickles in the burritos, sickenly sweet hamburgers, corn kernels in the pizza (okay, not so bad), and weird sweet cream cheese layering in meat pizzas. This makes you want to stay away from food that looks familiar.

It's a trap! 
This might be a picture of the pizza monstrosity I wish to avoid...
I intend to eat plenty of Korean food while I'm in Korea. I don't mind occasionally ordering a dish and then finding out I made a horrible, horrible mistake. So long as that mistake isn't food poisoning, I will boldly journey forward... unless it's still alive on my plate, or brains. Okay, so there are some things I won't be trying no matter how open-minded I decide to be.

Any questions, comments? Leave in the comments, and I'll get back to you as soon as I can or make a blog post to answer. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Do's and Don't's of EPIK Interviews

I passed!


I'm super excited and happy to say that I have officially been notified that I passed the EPIK interview. That means I'm moving on to the next stage, and then hopefully the next. I'm not really sure how many more steps I have left. Send documents, wait for them to verify and review, sign a contract, get hired, get a visa and buy a plane ticket... something like that.

So, what did I do to successfully pass?

The answer is kind of difficult to give. Part of it is luck, but most of it is preparation. Let's go over the preparation part:

1. Have a professional appearance: This tip applies to pretty much all interviews. If you're a girl, make sure your top is conservative and simple. Avoid red -- blue is the typical go-to color for interviews. Keep makeup simple, and your hair nice. No need to get elaborate. I definitely didn't.

2. Look at the camera: My interview was through Skype, and while I thought it would be hard to look into the camera rather than at my interviewers face, it was actually easier than I thought. I put a sticker next to the camera, but it turned out I didn't really need it. When I'm thinking about what I want to say, I like to sometimes look to the side rather than directly at someone and so it ultimately worked to my advantage.

3. Smile and be friendly: Okay, so your interviewer might not look up at you much or respond that well to what you're saying -- Don't worry! Personally, my interviewer was friendly, but some people have crashed and burned because they felt like they needed a positive response from the EPIK interviewer. Keep your smile on as much as you can, and say thank you at the end of the interview.

4. Have a simple background: Not sure how much this affects the outcome of your interview, but I just had a plain white wall behind me. Some say too many objects in the background can be distracting, but a messy room or naked roommate (someone failed an interview because of a naked boyfriend wandering past near the end) might be deal-breakers. Who knows.

5. Talk slow (not too slow) and clearly: Pretty simple. Nerves can make you mutter or ramble, but just keep in mind that your interviewer might not be able to understand you that well if you do so, which equals a bad outcome. 

Interview Questions?

I can't give you any specifics, and everyone gets different questions, but I can tell you a few things. (Disclaimer: A lot of this is personal opinion. I have no way of knowing exactly what works, but this is just what worked for me.)

1. They WILL review your EPIK application information, so make sure you remember what you wrote down.

2. Make sure you know what EPIK stands for. If you don't and you fail as a result, it's your own fault. Read EPIK's website info while you're at it.

3. Keep your questions to a minimum and general. EPIK doesn't like it when you ask tons of questions, especially if they are questions that could be answered by your recruiter or are best answered later. They can't tell you about the school you're going to be hired by because it's likely they don't know where you're going to be placed yet. I asked my interviewer if there was anything that I should know or might not expect as a foreign teacher in Korea, which was a good move for me because it really got her talking and allowed for me to slip in one more positive blurb to show that I was hire-able.

Okay, there it is. Some basic info and advice. I'm so excited about all of this!

If you have any questions, comments or maybe want to make a contribution to my adventure, please feel free. Comment below, click on the gofundme button on the left... whatever you feel like.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, November 8, 2013

The EPIK Interview

I couldn't help but write that title...

Anyways, I had two majorly nerve-wrecking things to do this week: Have my EPIK interview and teach a phonics lesson to a 3rd grade ELL/ESL students. They were less than 24 hours apart, and I still felt unprepared even as I was saying, "I can do this!"

I won't hear if I've passed the EPIK interview until maybe next week. My general feelings concerning the interview are teetering towards good with a heap-load of worry and doubt waiting to shoot me into a worrying oblivion.

The interviewer and I got along relatively well. There were moments when we laughed a little and both of us smiled, which is much more than some interviewees get from what I've seen in blog and forum posts. She ran through my application, confirming information and then threw in the occasional question to throw me off or expand upon my listed information/something I said.

To be honest, I was expecting more questions than I got, which has me worried. Did she not ask me a lot of questions because they planned on passing me up and were just giving me a pity interview, or had she already gotten a good feel for my qualifications from what was submitted? Do they give pity interviews?


Whatever happens, happens. I won't go into detail about the questions, but after I get my results I'll do some kind of "How to Prepare for an EPIK Interview" post.... Unless I didn't pass, then it'll be a whole different post involving some margin of self-pity and a long list of what might have gone wrong.

As for my first ever classroom teaching experience... I was so nervous! It didn't really hit me until I was in front of the students, which meant I was up there trying to read what I was familiar with a moment ago. So, I might have gone a little fast and messed up one of the exercises, but the teacher reassured me and gave me a few pointers.


Overall, super nervous week! I think I'll be planning some more teaching opportunities with the teacher, but for now I just need to get things on my To-Do list done and patiently wait for results.