After a long two weeks in quarantine in Seoul – the day of freedom was finally here!
We all packed our bags once again and waited for the phone call from reception saying we could finally leave our rooms. We were put on a bus straight away to head to orientation. The weather was wet and grey but that didn’t dampen our mood as we pulled our suitcases in the rain and watched a damp Seoul go by out of the bus windows. From a very small glance at the capital city I can’t wait to go back hopefully in the near future.
Our orientation was held at Jungwon University in Chongcheongbuk-do. The university was very rural with amazing views of the lush mountains. It was also huge, perfect for an orientation size of around 500 to congregate. Due to COVID regulations, we were each given our own room to stay in. These were dorms on the campus and I felt lucky I was in it alone. It seemed that it was usually occupied by 3 people and it seemed far too small a space for that!
After settling into our new rooms – we took advantage of the outside space we had and went for an explore and walk. It was so amazing to get outside and breathe some fresh air, although with the rain clearing to sun – it quickly heated up which none of us loved with our masks on!
We weren’t allowed full rein of the campus but we were able to walk around some of the grounds, use the convenience store onsite and explore the pond with a menagerie of statues including dinosaurs and Mickey and Minne.
Day 1 was spent exploring and getting to finally meet people we’d only ever talked to online and a meeting in the afternoon. We met our homeroom teacher for the following few days and what was expected of us was outlined. Due to COVID we were placed into classrooms and did not move around for lectures. Our class was mainly teachers heading to Daegu and a few to Incheon. Our Daegu intake was fairly big so there was an entire other class of teachers who we couldn’t really interact with during the week. That evening we stayed up getting to know each other and preparing ourselves for next day.
Day 2 was intense as we had back to back classes up until the evening. Our morning was spent learning about EPIK life and life in Korea. After lunch we met with current NETS (Native English Teachers) and learnt more about the practice lessons we would be presenting in pairs two days later. One of our NETS was a teacher currently working in Daegu so it was great to get her perspective about the city.
That evening we stayed after dinner to discuss our lesson plan. I found myself ending the evening at the pavilion playing cards and spending time with my peers who would be moving to Daegu.
Day 3 was another busy day. The morning was spent learning more about Korea whilst the afternoon was dedicated to lesson planning. We were placed into pairs and given a grade and class topic to prepare for. We were asked to prepare a detailed lesson plan for a 40-minute class and present 15 minutes of it. We were asked to prepare a class for 3rd Grade Elementary about the weather.
This was an intense experience as we were all unsure of what was expected of us. Me and my partner prepared the best we could and submitted our lesson plan with only 30 minutes to go. Whilst others prepared late into the night, we chose to take a more relaxed approach and I spent the evening with others sampling the various ice creams on offer at the on-campus store.
Day 4 was the big day of presentations. We were 4th to present and overall our presentation went pretty well but mainly it was just a massive relief to have it done. It wasn’t graded but we did get feedback from current teachers to help us in the future. The rest of the day was spent watching the rest of our class present their own lessons. To make it more authentic we all pretended to be the age of the grade which was quite entertaining.
This was another long day and the evening was spent euphorically for everyone as we celebrated the biggest hurdle of orientation being over. After heading back to our rooms to sleep, we were informed that the area of Korea we were currently in was moving to Level 4 COVID restrictions due to a rise in cases and therefore tomorrow mornings classes would be virtual. We would also have to eat our meals in our rooms. Prior to this day we would eat our meals in our classrooms.
Day 5 therefore was a bit different. We first ate our breakfast in our rooms and then had our morning classes online. This included a class on more practical things in Korea such as how to use various navigation apps and food delivery services. For lunch, I met with a couple of friends to eat in the cafeteria by the campus store and we headed back to our classrooms to find out our placements. Due to the nature of this part of the schedule, it was agreed that it could be offline.
Dressed to impress, we headed towards our classroom with increasing nerves. Before this point, although we knew that we would be placed in Daegu, we had no idea where in the city we would live or work. As we entered the classroom an envelope with our name and schools/school was waiting for us. Seeing the name of the schools meant nothing to me – although I could see I had two and both were elementary. This was the grade I was expecting to teach in so I was pleased to get my preferred grade level. As we sat down, we started to search for our schools online which determined where in the city we would be!
When my search came up I felt like I’d hit the jackpot. My schools were both a short walk from each other and both close to Duryu park and E-world, a major landmark in the city. I also found out that my subway stop was only two away from the main downtown area.
As we compared locations we discovered that we were spread throughout the city but for the most part close to transport links to visit each other or meet up downtown. It was so exciting to finally know where we’d be living and made everything feel a lot more real.
At this point we also met the DMOE (Daegu Metropolitan Office of Education) and signed our official contracts with the name of our workplace. Our DMOE representatives who look after us on a wider level were so friendly and helpful that we all felt at ease – it wasn’t a formal meeting at all!
That evening we all got some early sleep and spent more time researching the areas we would be living in. More research showed me that there was a main road nearby, easy access to the rest of the city and the mountain, Apsan close by to explore.
The next day we got prepared to leave the safety of orientation and go our own ways. We once more packed our bags, loaded the buses and set off for Daegu. This was only a 2-hour drive and as we got closer to the city, the reality of everything started to hit us. Although finding out the day before where we would be placed was a huge weight off our shoulders, we still didn’t know our co-teachers, our apartment or what our schools actually looked like.
We met our co-teachers at an eastern point in Daegu and from here started our own journeys in Korea.