EPIK Orientation Week and Cultural Tips

EPIK Orientation WeekHello teacher-travelers, welcome to Korea and the EPIK program! I came here six months ago and this was my first time moving to a new country, away from my family, my culture, my language, and my comfort zone. If you are also a first-timer like me, my immediate advice to you is: go with it; be open to everything from the moment you arrive in Korea and head to orientation. It will make your experience and your transition so much easier.

-Recommended: TESOL Certification for South Korea

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Things You Probably Didn’t Know About South Korea

TESOL South Korea Cultural AdviceSonia writes her last post about her wonderful TESOL experience in South Korea and shares a couple of things that you probably wouldn’t know until you got there. Enjoy!

You should know about the yellow dust season, particularly if you have allergies. It comes between spring and summer, and it’s exactly what it sounds like- a thin layer of yellow dust coats everything outside. Some people say it’s pollution from eastern Chinese industry, others say it’s spring pollen. During this season, weather reports will include the yellow dust predictions for the day, and on high index days you’ll see a lot of people wearing surgical masks outside. Yes, sometimes people really do wear surgical masks around all day long. Sometimes it’s for yellow dust, but the rest of the year it’s because the person wearing it has a cold and is being polite by keeping the germs to themselves as much as possible with that mask.

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TESOL South Korea: Tourism

TESOL South Korea Tourism UlsanThere are plenty of interesting things to see and do in South Korea.

About half the population identifies as Christian, which accounts for all the red neon crosses in the city night sky, and the other half identifies as Buddhist, which leaves you with a lot of old, beautifully painted temples to explore. Most small towns and many remote mountaintops have got a temple, and bigger cities have several each. Some temples, such as Bong Eun-sa in Seoul, offer temple-stay programs where you can get a more intensive Buddhist experience, trying out the food, dress, and lifestyle of a monk, even if just for a day or two. Otherwise, most temples have regular visiting hours when anyone is welcome to enter the grounds for a stroll or just to have a look. Note that removing your shoes is considered polite in most indoor temple spaces.

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TESOL South Korea: Transportation

South Korea BusPublic transportation in South Korea is great in a lot of ways. It’s generally cheap, quick, and reliable. Subways operate in only a few major cities. By far the most extensive metro system is in Seoul, with several very long and interconnecting lines. You must buy a T-money card from a kiosk in or near a subway station, then load money onto it at the station agent’s window or at an automated machine (these operate in English and Korean, the station agent may not). You tap the card at the turnstile to enter the subway, and tap it again on your way out once you’ve reached your destination, and your card is charged based on distance travelled. The subways operate until roughly midnight, a bit later on weekends.

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TESOL Korea: What To Do For Fun!

Jeju Island TESOL South KoreaThis next post is about all the fun you’re going to have teaching English in South Korea! There are the regular options like movies or dance clubs, but there are some things that Korea does like no place else, so read on!

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Korean Food

Korean Food - TEFL Korea

The food in South Korea is very different and takes time to enjoy it. When I first moved into my apartment in Seoul, I could hardly bare to the open the refrigerator door for fear of the aroma that would pour out and linger in the room for an uncomfortably long period of time. Fortunately enough, I would soon become very familiar with the stench of Korea’s national dish, kimchi. There are a few variations on this delicacy, but the basic idea is white cabbage with hot chili pepper paste, soaked in vinegar and left to ferment for several days in enormous clay pots. It is reportedly good for digestion and very high in vitamin C. For many, this dish has an acquired taste, but if you are eating a truly Korean diet it will be served at 3 meals a day, every day, and you will learn to distinguish homemade from store-bought, which ratios of garlic and chili pepper you prefer, and so on. Personally, I wasn’t too enthusiastic at first, but after a little while I learned to love it, to the point that I now make it at home in New York City.

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TEFL Korea: Shopping

Shopping in South Korea - TESOL South Korea bogGrocery shopping can be done at large chains like Homeplus (owned by the British company Tesco), Grandmart, or E-Mart. They are a lot like Walmart and offer a mix of clothing, housewares, and food (Mostly Korean with a bit of foreign produce). In smaller towns such large chains may not be available, in which case you will probably find a small H-Mart or other grocery store selling mostly Korean products. A great way to try out local food and get fresh produce is to shop at outdoor markets. NamDaeMun (pictured below) is a big one in Seoul. Most other cities have similar outdoor markets for food, clothing, gifts, and other miscellaneous items.

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Cultural Adaptation: TESOL Certificate Graduate in Korea

Adapting to Korean culture - TESOL South KoreaKorean culture is collective. Family, social connections, and a feeling of oneness are extremely important in Korean society. Most Western cultures by contrast, are individualistic. Growing up in New York, I was taught to value uniqueness and creativity, so the Korean emphasis on sameness did not appeal to me right away.

Find Hagwon Teaching Jobs in South Korea

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Why You Should Learn Korean if You Want to Teach English in South Korea

TESOL South Korea learning Korean LanguageLanguage can be one of the more daunting parts of living in Asia. If you are in or around Seoul you may find some signs in English and some Korean English-speakers, not to mention a large community of English-speaking expats, but if you are outside the capital city, English usage can be quite sparse. Most teaching jobs do not require any knowledge of Korean, especially programs that favor immersion-style learning. Many expats live successfully in Korea for many years without ever learning any Korean, it IS possible, but a cursory understanding can get you far in your day-to-day life.

Free EPIK Recruitment by Official EPIK Recruitment Agency

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TESOL South Korea: A Look at Hagwons, Public Schools, and English Villages

Teach English in South Korea - Hagwons, EPIK, English VillagesAre you ready to teach English in South Korea?! There are basically 3 kinds of teaching opportunities: hagwons (English academies), public schools (EPIK), and English villages. Each has advantages and disadvantages over the others, depending on your list of priorities.

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