Heading Out

Today we wrap up the EPIK orientation and head out to our province, Gangwon-do.  I’m glad to be done with training, but there was a lot of useful info presented.  Still a bit nervous about the placement.  Evidently the placements we were told on Monday are not set in stone.  The coordinator with whom we interviewed is not really the boss, and nothing is certain.  We were told that couples would “almost certainly” get placed where they were told, as there are not many couples placements in Gangwon-do.

I won’t breathe easy until Erin and I arrive at the same apartment, however.  Some couples (in other provinces) have been finding out that they are housed separately.  That one would be a deal-breaker for me.

Anyways, I won’t have internet atmy apartment until I can obtain my Alien Registration Card (ARC), which will take a week or two.  I’ll be checking in from school or internet cafes, but there may be fewer updates in the next couple weeks.

Wish us luck!

Got my city placement!

Erin and I interviewed for our city placement last night, and it went perfectly!  Prior to the interview I had jotted down the name of a few places that looked good, mostly decent-sized cities on the coast.  The regional director was a great guy, and happy to work with us, but he only had a few locations available for couples.  Most people were interested in the largest cities, Chuncheon and Gangneung.  He had placements available in Gangneung and Donghae, and assumed we wanted Gangneung.  However, Donghae was actually at the top of my list going in.  He seemed really excited when we told him that, and was happy to place us there.

Erin will be teaching at an all-girls middle school.  I have another middle school, maybe all-boys.  We’ll probably be teaching at several schools, but these will be our primary locations, where we’ll have co-teachers to assist us with anything we need.

The location looks fantastic!  About 90,000 people, which is small by Korean standards but decent-sized for this province.  We’ll have access to all of the stores, restaurants, and recreation we need.  It’s right on the coast, with gorgeous white-sand beaches.  It’s mountainous, and close to Olympic-class skiing.  (Evidently the nearby Yeonpyeong ski resort only missed out on hosting the 2010 games by only 3 votes.)

Here are some photos to make you jealous:  (pictures borrowed from the excellent Donghae City website)

A Post About Money

It might be rather rude to write about my finances in Korea, but I’m sure people are curious.  I know I would have liked to have more information when planning.

Keep in mind that I’m still at orientation and haven’t actually received or spent any real money.  I have learned a few things from talking to returning teachers, however.

The lowest level salary for provincial EPIK teachers is 2.0 million won/month, or about $2000.  Doesn’t sound like much, but included with the contract is airfare both ways and housing.  Depending on where you live and how frugally you spend, I’ve heard that you can spend all of that, or save half of it.  Maybe even more if you’re really tight.   Erin and I are housed as a couple, and one of the EPIK coordinators said that should save us a lot of money.

Also, in rural provinces, you may end up teaching at multiple schools, in which case you are paid slightly more.

US citizens get a better deal than most.  All teachers are exempt from Korean taxes for the first 2 years of their employment.  Most other teachers have to pay taxes in their home country (or may opt to pay Korean taxes).  US citizens, provided they make less than some large figure (I think 75K/year) are also exempt from US taxes.

Total annual payment (including severance pay, settlement allowance, and rural bonuses) should be between $26,000 and $28,000.  Doesn’t sound like much, but with the tax benefits, provided housing, and a (seemingly) lower cost of living than the US, this isn’t a bad financial move for me.

This ends my discussion of money.  Enjoy some photos:

Jet Lag sucks

Well, it’s 3:45 in the morning, and I’m wide awake.  I managed to get a fair bit of sleep, but I expect I’ll be tired tomorrow.  Probably shouldn’t have started reading.  Finished Ender’s Game, which was a lot of fun.  I should know better than to pick up a tacky sci-fi novel in the middle of the night.

Yesterday Erin and I (and a couple other friends) met a Korean businessman in the hall at the University.  He was finishing some business course here, and asked about our pink t-shirts.  He was really friendly.  He spent 6 months in Texas on business, and drove around half the country.  Gave us his card and said we could contact him if we were ever in Busan.  Erin e-mailed him, and he responded.  He seems like a good guy.  People have been really friendly, which makes things easier.

We picked the right province when we chose Gangwon.  Not only is the vacation time amazing, but we also get to interview with the regional office of education to express preferences for our placement.  Other locations get placed more or less at random.  The other teachers going to Gangwon seem like a good bunch as well.

I’ve met a few returning teachers, who have been helpful.  I’ve been able to get some questions answered about paperwork and money.  All-in-all, things are going well.

First day, and some photos

Had the first day of orientation in Seoul.  We submitted our flight receipts for reimbursement.   The actual training starts tomorrow.  Not sure how much they can teach us about teaching in a few days, but I’m thankful for all the help I can get.  We wandered around before lunch; here are a few pictures of Seoul near the university:

Edit:  I should probably add some details.  We flew into Incheon International Airport in Seoul.  I’m not sure how long the bus ride to the university was, but pretty long.  At least 1.5 hours.  We’re staying at Konkuk Univesity.  Accommodations are pretty nice for a dorm.  Everything seems brand-new.   As I mentioned in my last twitter update, my stomach is still adjusting to the food, but things are going well.

Made it to Korea

Made it safely to Korea.  We’re housed in dorms at a University.  It looks pretty much like any dorm, except there are buttons and switches for everything.  We have 10 days of orientation here, then we get shipped out to Gangwon province.

Lots to say but no time to say it.  Breakfast time!

General Updates

So I’ve done very little writing on here lately, and lots has happened.  There have been plenty of important events in international relations in the past month, from the collapse of the Doha round to the Russian intervention in Georgia.  My (few) readers can expect more posts on topics like these in the future.

In personal news, my girlfriend and I are getting ready to move to Korea for a year.  We’ve signed a contract with EPIK, and will be teaching English in Korean public schools for the next year.  Expect updates and photos about this adventure.

I’m looking forward to a sweet Korean internet connection; the last few weeks at home (and on dial-up) have been frustrating.  I think we’ll be pretty grateful for the internet over there.  Given that we don’t speak a word of Korean, and we’ll likely be in a small town somewhere in Gangwon-do, I expect we’ll be spending lots of time with our computers.  I’ll be using it as an opportunity to make this blog a higher priority.  I miss writing, and even this informal BS is enjoyable.

Check back soon for more info, and if you’re privileged enough to have my Skype info, please give me a call now and then.