Pre-Departure Teaching English in Seoul, South Korea

by Zoe Ezechiels

Paige MillerPaige Miller recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Physiology from Florida State University in August of 2018. While at the university, Paige was an active part of the Hallyu Wave Club (the Korean pop culture club) and the Korean American Student Association. She participated in learning and performing k-pop dances, some of which include “Bboom Bboom” by Momoland and “Mic Drop (remix)” by BTS and Steve Aoki.

Because of her interests in both Korean culture and teaching, Paige decided on teaching English in Korea after graduation. In February 2019, she began to teach in Seoul, South Korea at Seoul Dongho Elementary School. Keep reading to find out her initial process and how to apply to the same EPIK program Paige did.

How long have you known that you wanted to teach in Korea?

“I have been interested in Korean culture since I was in high school. However, it wasn’t until my junior year of college when I found out about the job opportunity from a family friend who had previously studied abroad. After further research and a burst of courage, I started to pursue teaching in Korea in my senior year of college.”

What is EPIK? (Are they a recruiter for foreign English teachers in Korea?)

Teaching in Korea“Firstly, EPIK is an acronym that stands for the English Program in Korea. Essentially, they are a government program that seeks to improve the English-speaking abilities of students while also facilitating cultural exchange between the students and English teachers. So while EPIK is not exactly a recruiter, I did use a recruiter called Korean Horizons to help facilitate my application to the program.”

Where were you placed and what type of school will you be teaching in?

“As of now, I only know that I have been placed in Seoul. EPIK will not alert me of my exact school location until the last day of our new student orientation on February 27.”

How was the passport process when you were updating or applying for one?

“I received my passport in January of 2018. I had to apply in-person and receive a new one. This was because I hadn’t updated it since I was a toddler. The overall process was pretty easy. I showed up with an old passport, a money order, and a passport-sized photo in hand. I completed a passport form at the approved location. From there, they sent it off to the U.S Department of State and I received my new passport less than a month later.”

How was the visa process to begin teaching English in Korea? Did EPIK help you apply for a visa?

EPIK teaching English in Korea

“For the visa process, as throughout the entire overall process in applying and receiving the teaching job, my recruiter with Korean Horizons helped facilitate it. Once the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education approved my position under EPIK, they sent my contract and my notice of agreement certificate to my recruiter. He then mailed these to me, alongside a visa application form. Upon arrival, I signed my contract, filled out the application with an attached a passport picture, my passport, a return envelope, and a $45 money order before mailing it to the Korean Consulate in Atlanta, Georgia. I received my passport back with the visa less than a week later.”

Did you need to get an apostille for your diploma? If so, how was that process?

flying to korea“I was required to get an apostille for my diploma. I filled out another application form as well as a criminal background check before sending my diploma to the Secretary of State to have it both notarized and receive an apostille.”

How far in advance did you book your plane ticket?

“After I received my visa, I booked my ticket two weeks before I left. It didn’t fully hit me that I was leaving for Korea until a few days before I left. That’s when I started to pack and get everything ready to begin the adventure of teaching English in Korea.”

What are you most looking forward to when you arrive and begin teaching?

“I am most looking forward to finally knowing what school I will be teaching in. I can’t wait to begin building a good relationship with my students. I’m excited to go to concerts of artists I’ve been following since I was back in America. Plus, I can’t wait to go on trips around Korea and other parts of Asia!”

food on flight to korea



What I Know Now Before Studying Abroad

I have 75 days until I depart for my study abroad journey in London, England. After years of planning and replanning, the time has finally come. Having been in the pre-departure stage for three years now, I am extremely prepared for my upcoming trip. I’ve been accepted to my program, I’ve completed all my documents, and I’ve purchased my flight. All of the big stuff is settled, so what’s left? The following tips offer advice on what to do before studying abroad.

1) Reflect on Hopes and Dreams Before Studying Abroad

What are your goals personally, academically, and professionally? Take some time to really think about why you are studying abroad and what you hope to get out of it. Of course, you want to travel and experience a new adventure, but what else? When I study abroad in London, I want to meet as many new people as possible, listen to their stories, and learn about their lives. I also want to expose myself to different cultures and embrace what they have to offer. Finally, I want these experiences to inspire my art to be diverse and inclusive and I want to follow that inspiration into my career. What do you want? Try taking some time to sit in a quiet place and reflect. Take out a journal and write down your thoughts as they come. You may be pleasantly surprised by what you discover.

2) Acknowledge Your Fears and Worries

Get these thoughts off your chest. It’s important to address your worries so that you can prepare for them and relieve yourself from any stress. Maybe you are a nervous flyer, or maybe you are concerned about finances. Take the time to confront these feelings and try writing them down. Speak with close friends and confidants about your worries and consider their advice. Once you put your fears down on paper or say them out loud they may seem less daunting than when you were harboring them in your mind. After you’ve realized your fears and worries you can work to resolve them.

Try reaching out to members of your program who may be experiencing similar difficulties and see if you can support one another. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your program directors or program assistants. They are knowledgeable about studying abroad and will likely have some great guidance and resources to offer. I’m nervous about making new connections and meeting new people in an unknown place. I’m acknowledging those feelings so that I can make authentic connections when I arrive. By embracing my feelings and seeking advice I will have the opportunity to set my worry aside before I study abroad in London. Acknowledge your fears so you can welcome your opportunity to study abroad with open arms.

3) Take Some Time to Visit Some of Your Favorite Places at Home

There will be a variety of new restaurants to go to and stores to explore in your study abroad location, but you may find yourself missing your local diner or shop. Spend some time eating at your favorite restaurants and doing some of your favorite things. I recently discovered that Target stores do not exist in the United Kingdom and it broke my heart. Target is my home away from home and my one-stop-shop. If there is any place that feels like home besides my own home, it’s Target.

Needless to say, I’ve been spending a lot of time shopping there lately. It’s hard to tell whether it’s more time than usual, since I spend a lot of time there, to begin with, but I am definitely making the most of it. Think of your favorite store and try researching if there is one in your study abroad location. If there isn’t, stock up on whatever it is that you can only get there. If you can’t live without it for four months or so, pack it.

4) Spend Quality Time With Loved Ones

This, of course, includes pets who are simply furry members of the family. Be present and take the time to enjoy them while you are with them. Spend an extra hour walking and playing tug of war with the dog, or helping your parents with the dishes after dinner. Soak up every moment. I will be studying abroad for four months. It’s my first trip abroad and it’s the longest consecutive amount of time that I will be away from my family. I learned recently through the passing of loved ones that you never know how much time you may have with someone, so it’s important to make the most of each day. In the days leading up to my departure, I will be spending as much quality time with my family as possible.

While you’re studying abroad you will be extremely busy. The time difference and hunt for WiFi may make it difficult to keep in touch as often as you might like. You also never know what kind of doors an opportunity like study abroad may open. Who’s to say I won’t extend my travels abroad beyond the four-month deadline? Life is unpredictable. Live in the little moments and embrace the present.

5) Gather Pieces of Home to Take With You

Accommodation for studying abroad is likely to be similar to a college dorm. The rooms will be pretty plain and the decorations sparse. Take the time to gather little mementos from home to make your new home more comfortable. This may be a favorite knickknack or poster. My favorite mementos are photographs. Leading up to your departure, take some photographs with loved ones. I love to take photos on my mini Polaroid. The pictures are tiny, so they are easy to bring along and they hold a special sense of nostalgia.

Polaroids are also really easy to dress up as room decor. Purchase a cheap set of twinkle lights or a long string of yarn and clip the photos along it. You’ll have a reminder of home and some style in your room. For an added personal touch take a photo with each member of your family before you depart and then have them write a heartfelt message to you at the bottom. When you look at the photos while abroad you will be reminded of your support system back home. If you happen to look at a photo with a certain person, go ahead and give that person a call, or send them a message. This will help soothe any homesickness you might begin to feel.

Take a deep breath and just be. Enjoy this time before you embark on your journey. Studying abroad will no doubt change your perspective, it may even change your life. Take the time to enjoy life as you know it. You may look back on this period of pre-departure with the same sense of nostalgia that your photographs inspire.

by Marina Schipani

Pre-Departure From Kuwait to the United States

As a soon-to-be student, there were a few things I had to do prior to my departure date. I had to get my papers documented from the Kuwait Culture Office (Kuwait Embassy) and I had to do some research. Before I left, I wanted to learn more about the place where I’d be spending the upcoming few years of my life in: Tampa, FL. I felt it was a good idea to familiarize myself with Tampa Bay’s surroundings.

Beginning Steps

Before I came to the United States, I looked for an apartment online, ahead of time. I wanted to make sure that I found one that fit my needs (before the good ones were filled and booked by my fellow students). Also, I began to look for car dealerships online in order to compare the prices. I knew that I would have to have a car to get around. Since I was going to be in Tampa for a long time, I decided to get a car.

Closer to the Trip

Kuwait moving study abroad looking apartment

I booked the airline ticket that would get me to the United States and, of course, the domestic airline ticket. The first flight would land in New York, and the second, domestic flight would take me to Florida. There were a few days between my flights and move-in day at my new apartment, so I booked a hotel room to spend the first few nights in.

Packing to Leave Kuwait

When it came to packing, I avoided making the mistake of packing a lot of things. I took only the essentials that would be hard to find in the United States (head scarfs, for example). When it comes to bathroom essentials that we Muslims use, there is good news! The handheld version for the toilet is found in Home Depot (in-store or online). There is no need to buy different types of bidet sprayers to bring with you from Kuwait (like I did) in order to see which one fits your apartment’s toilet. In short, relax; the one sold in the United States fits all bidets!

Bring Reminders of Home

One last thought; since I was about to embark on a new journey that would last up to 5 years, I wanted to collect personal souvenirs and mementoes from all of my family members and friends. I bought blank, white cards and different colors of Sharpies so I could collect their thoughts. They wrote words of inspiration and motivational quotes to help get me through the next few years. Then, I put all of the cards in sealed envelopes. I am to read one every time I feel homesick or sad. If you try it, it will surely give you a sense of warmth! You can also personalize a wall in your apartment with beautiful writings from your loved ones!

quotes from friends study abroad kuwait

by Dalal Boland