If you're ever going to take a leap of faith, now is the perfect time to do it! These words kept playing in my mind as I embarked on my journey to move to South Korea as an EPIK teacher. Leaving my home, family and friends back in South Africa to move abroad is possibly one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make. Sitting here today, I can thankfully say that I made the right choice.
I landed at Incheon International Airport, full of hope, fear and excitement. My fear was soon overtaken with relief after successfully finding a group of friends I had met on the official EPIK Facebook group before my arrival. A few days after our arrival, we departed for our EPIK orientation which was hosted at Kankuk University campus in Chungbuk. Orientation was a whirlwind of remarkable lectures; fun-filled field trips and beneficial networking opportunities. I often left the orientation lectures with a wealth of knowledge about South Korea, teaching techniques, effective communication skills as well as an idea of what to expect for the year ahead. After a jam-packed 8 days, we left the University to be dropped off at our relevant MOE and POE's. This was a seemingly bittersweet day for both the EPIK teachers as well as staff members. The novelties of our cushioned environment at the University started to wear off as we realized this was the official start of my own EPIK teaching journey.
Arriving in Daegu felt like a dream. The only introduction I had to this bustling city was a series of YouTube videos, blogs and online Google searches. So far, Daegu has lived up to my expectations and is everything I had imagined and more. The city of Daegu is beautifully nestled between surrounding mountain ranges and hills. As a nature lover, the scenic views of the mountains provide me with joy and tranquility on my daily walks home. I consider myself as seasoned hiker, but hiking in Daegu is definitely not for the faint hearted. My first hiking attempt up Apsan Mountain was both challenging and invigorating. I had the opportunity to watch the sunset and overlook the city from the Apsan observatory. My best description of Daegu is that it is a little gem. There are so many beautiful little hidden things to do and see.
The teaching aspect of my time here in South Korea has been the most rewarding. No matter what type of day I am having, seeing my student's faces is sure to always brighten my mood. The children here are energetic, polite, focus-driven and excited to see you every time without fail!
Even though I have only been living abroad for a short while, I can say for certain that I have been challenged and grown in ways I never imagined. I have met such amazing people, eaten the most delicious Korean food and seem some of the most beautiful sites; it's hard to believe this is just the beginning! I am reminded that every day will present an opportunity for me to learn something new.
None of this would've been possible without the help and assistance from Alistair and Korean Horizons. Alistair made every part of the application process smooth, stress-free and manageable. His dedication, passion and hard-work made moving countries seem like a piece of cake!
As a teacher, one of the first things you need to do in Korea, is get your bank account set up. Luckily, your school has provided you with a co-teacher whose main directive is to help you get settled in. The assigned teacher will pick you up from the bus, and take you to the immigration office to apply for your Alien Residence Card (ARC). Depending on the time of day, they will also make sure introductions have been made with the Principal, Vice Principal and at least a few of the teachers at your school before taking you to your apartment, and letting you unpack (if you arrive in March, make sure you ask how to use the heater before they leave).
From the date of application, it can take roughly 3 weeks to get your ARC and until then, there won't be a lot you can do. The ARC is needed for EVERYTHING. It is possible the person processing the application might give you your ARC number, which is helpful for setting things up online, but just be aware, most places will want to see your physical card to do bank accounts, mobile phones, internet, cable TV or utilities (if your school doesn't have an account for your apartment).
Back to your bank account. You will need the following:
From there, you have to physically go to the bank to set up the account. It can be time consuming, and there are forms to fill out, which your co-teacher can help you with if you don't read Korean. The teller will highlight the important parts for you, it might take between 15 minutes to an hour depending on your teller, then bang! You are walking out with a new bankcard and bank book ready to spend the money you haven't been paid yet.
Why? Because local branches only give limited access to banking facilities. It is the difference between having a card limited to EFTPOS and ATM withdrawals, or one that can be used for online shopping, travel (T-Money), organizing your holidays, international transfers (you still have to ask the bank to set that up), and everything else we take for granted with our regular bank cards at home. Only an account from the Main branch can do this for you. Further, by going to the main branch in the first place, you won't have to cancel your accidental local account (including bank book and card) which also means changing account numbers with your school and anybody else who is set up for automatic payments.