Big and Little

In life, everything can be divided into two very general categories: the “big” things and the “little” things. For the most part, people have little or no control over the “big” things. These things are constantly present. They may cause you extreme anxiety or you may be completely indifferent towards them. It really depends on who you are and what your situation is.

For me, my biggest “big” thing is my absolutely crippling student debt. This is what I got for five years of education at a relatively well-known, private university in New Jersey (in addition to a lovely piece of paper in Latin, which is still sitting in an envelope, unframed).

Before coming to Korea, this one “big” thing was the reason for all the other “big” problems in my life. I was working two part time jobs with one paycheck automatically going towards loan repayment each pay period. My other paycheck essentially covered gas and I had very little left over to do anything for myself with. Then, there was my car. In addition to gas, I had to have a lot of work done to it over the past year, most of which got put on a credit card.

I was constantly tired, stressed, and dealing with anxiety. No college graduate beginning their life should feel like that.

When I finally made the decision to come to Korea to teach, I had no idea what a huge difference it would make in my daily life.

Right off the bat, I was provided with a nice apartment at the expense of my employer. I also get inexpensive health insurance (something I was paying over $100/month for at home), and a salary that allows me to send nearly half my paycheck home each month while still being able to live extremely comfortably. I don’t have to be at work until nearly 3 PM, so even though my day doesn’t finish until 10 PM, I can go out and socialize with other expats and not feel guilty about it.

Now, for the “little” things. And personally, I think these are the best.

I have students who shout my name and wave when they see me in the hall and want to hold my hand on the way to class. I have students who insist on sharing candies and snacks with me for no reason at all. I even have students who ask me to tie their shoes and get so happy when I do it for them because they can’t quite do it themselves yet.

I also get to see the progress my students are making in class in their speaking, reading, and writing. This is rewarding beyond words.

Outside of work, some of my “little” things include being able to walk almost everywhere I need to go and, if I do need to take public transportation, it is ridiculously affordable. Eating out is essentially more affordable than buying groceries here, so it’s really nice to go to a restaurant and not feel bad about the bill. Finally, free public WiFi is pretty much everywhere in Korea so it’s really nice not to have to use up my data plan!

So, what are some of your “big” and “little” things?

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One Day

In less than 24 hours, I will boarding a plane in Newark, flying to San Francisco, hanging out a bit, and then flying to Incheon. From there, I will take the KTX train to Ulsan to begin my new journey as an English teacher.

I can’t believe how quickly the summer has flown by. Working, packing, seeing friends and family.

I am nervous. The only experience I have working with children is from doing a few educational art programs at my museum. I loved doing that, though, and I think it has helped to prepare me for this new endeavor.

I am excited. I never thought that my first apartment would be halfway around the world. I am going to be all alone in a country where I don’t even speak the language. I have been practicing a few words and phrases, but I know it will be completely overwhelming as soon as I step off the plane.

It’s kind of funny where life takes you. One day, you’re working two part time jobs in New Jersey. The next, you’re about to embark on an incredible journey that will absolutely be a life-changing experience.

I’m going to miss everyone here so much. However, I am rather looking forward to making new friends abroad. Definitely bringing some Jersey with me, though.

Ulsan, here I come. USA, see you in a year!

Suddenly, Japan?!

I graduated from Seton Hall University in 2013 with a BA in Art History. For the past two years, I’ve worked multiple part-time jobs all while applying for full-time positions in my field. The closest I’ve gotten is one of my two current jobs: being an administrative assistant in a small, non-profit history museum between 10-15 hours per week. My other job right now is retail.

Now, I’ve been applying for more and more teaching English abroad positions and the number of interviews I’ve been asked to do is astounding. Why doesn’t anyone want to interview me in the field I have a degree in? *sigh*

Anyway. In addition to EPIK, I am being asked to interview with AEON, Amity, and ECC. I already knew about AEON and Amity when I started this blog. However, I just got the e-mail from ECC, and this is the interview that will make the biggest difference on my final decision (if I’m offered a position, that is).

In one of my older posts (click here), I talked about wanting to be in Japan, but feeing like South Korea would be the best option, financially. Now, I’m rethinking Japan because it seems a little more tangible.

ECC only hires around Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka. I would like to be in Nagoya or Osaka. Monthly salary is good (252,000 yen/month) and the work week is only 29.5 hours, which would leave lots of time for conducting private lessons to make some extra cash. Additionally, ECC offers 7 weeks paid vacation, which is more than any other program I’ve seen. Traveling is super high on my list if I teach abroad, so this is a sweet deal. Teachers do have to pay for rent, but ECC helps find you an apartment and you are not responsible for key money or deposit money.

Oh goodness. The struggle is so real.

Has anyone worked with ECC before? Any feedback to add to my pro/con list would be greatly appreciated!

Document Prep for EPIK (A Guide)

So, I didn’t realize how rigorous it would be to prepare all of my documents for EPIK.

But here’s a list of everything I need to submit and hopefully this will be helpful for anyone else applying:

1. Hard copy of application

– Not a problem. Printed it out, signed, check.

2. Photocopy of BA diploma (apostilled)

– First of all, I had never heard of the word “apostilled” in my life. Is it just me? After doing a bit of research, I figured it was like a notary. So I went to the bank. The guy I spoke to there looked at me like I had rocks in my head and proceeded to call over a co-worker. She had never heard of it either.

He then gave me the number of the county clerk. I called and the county clerk repeated the word back to me several times before transferring me. Whoever I spoke to on the other end told me I had to get in touch with the NJ Department of the Treasury located in Trenton. Oh yeah, and it also costs $25/document to get “apostilled” and several weeks to send it back to me. Yippee.

3. National level criminal background check (apostilled)

– Your EPIK recruiter will send you a list of acceptable background check companies through the FBI. They cost between $45 and $50 to get done and delivery times vary. Look at them all and decide what’s best for you. In addition to getting this thing “apostilled,” most require you to get two sets of fingerprints. You can get them at you local police department and they should only cost about $3/set.

4. 2 sets of SEALED university transcripts

– Check with your college or university. Most charge a small fee.

5. Photocopy of TEFL certificate

– Check with your accrediting TEFL program.

6. 2 passport-sized photos

– You can usually get these done at the Post Office or a local drug store. I got my photos done at Walmart for less than $8.

7. Photocopy of passport info page

If anyone has any questions, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll try to help you to the best of my ability! It can be a little overwhelming, but that’s totally ok.

Becoming a Wanderlust Queen

I’ve been afflicted with the wanderlust for as long as I can remember. My mother was a travel agent before she retired, and I was very lucky as a kid to visit places like Greece, England, Italy, and Canada. She instilled in me a desire to travel and explore.

In middle school, I spent my time coming up with detailed itineraries for a backpacking adventure through Europe. Never happened. In high school, I revised those itineraries and planned to travel before I left for college. Still didn’t happen. In college, I vowed I would study abroad for at least a semester and have the adventure of a lifetime. Ha. Instead, I decided to work on a five year program to finish my MA (which I’m still 3 credits away from completing) and my dreams of world travel fell by the wayside.

They’re back, though. And apparently, with a vengeance. Two years after finishing my BA and one year after the expected completion of my MA, 2015 is the year I will finally go abroad. After applying for full-time jobs for the past two years with no luck, I have decided to teach English abroad. I’m already working on becoming a certified elementary education teacher, so what better way to gain experience?

So, right now, I’ve been sending out applications and scheduling interviews with a few different programs. Let’s see what happens.