This post was written post orientation experience, so rather than a detailed account of each day, I’ve gathered some of my thoughts about the experience as a whole to share here.
- Essentially, EPIK orientation is like your entire college experience crammed into 9 days: first-day “who will I sit with in the cafeteria I don’t want to be a social outcast” anxiety; cliques; drinking; days full of lectures, going from class to class and taking notes; stress; group work and a presentation (in the form of a lesson demo) – and ultimately, you come out on the other side with good friends, a graduation ceremony, and a sense of accomplishment and passion for the career you’re about to enter.
- The caliber of people you meet at EPIK orientation is pretty high. These are people willing to uproot their daily lives and come to a new country to live and work, and that takes a certain kind of person. They are adventurous, courageous, intelligent, outgoing, and high energy. (I don’t necessarily put myself in all of those categories, and I’m not saying all of those traits are requirements; it’s just a general trend I noticed among the EPIKers I met.)
- I can’t think of another time I’ll have the opportunity to meet such a wide variety of people from so many different English-speaking countries – from Canada and the UK to South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. It’s a fascinating experience.
- For the duration of orientation, I rarely felt like I was actually IN Korea. 95% of the time we were on campus and enclosed in a foreigner bubble. Even venturing out into the city of Daejeon didn’t feel too different because we were with English-speaking friends. On the final day, that safety net drops from underneath you as you meet your co-teacher(s) and are left in their hands to start your new life in whichever city you’ve been placed in.
Overall, I’m grateful for the EPIK orientation experience. The lecturers (all of them current or former EPIK/ESL teachers themselves) were absolutely fantastic. Although I had doubts at first, it really did help me feel better prepared to enter those middle school classrooms come Monday. And in spite of my introversion, I managed to make some awesome friends as well.
And now, life in Korea begins for real. 시작!