Again, there have been so many blog posts written about EPIK’s orientation process that I feel a little silly adding mine to the mix. However, this year was the first time that EPIK decided to split the orientation up into three different geographic regions, so perhaps it merits a surface pass just for the numbers:
I arrived at Incheon Airport a couple of days before orientation was due to start. Let me just say – I highly recommend this course of action. Admittedly, it’s not cheap to stay in an airport hotel like I did (I specifically saved up for that luxury). But if you’re a little more adventurous (and not coming down with a nasty chest cold like I was) there are plenty of AirBnbs in Seoul for much less. Orientation is a marathon and you’ll want at least one night to sleep and try to start getting over the jetlag before you jump in. Believe me.
On the day we were supposed to be picked up, I met up with some friends at Seoul Station and we took the KTX train down to Gimhae Airport in Busan where the EPIK pickup was. Sadly, you can’t take the train directly to the airport, so we had to get on the Busan subway and transfer to the airport light rail. Not what you’d call easy with five people and twice as many suitcases, but we survived. Once we arrived at EPIK’s check-in desk, they registered us, checked that we had the correct visa in our passports, and (eventually) loaded us onto buses to the orientation site – about a 40-min drive across the city. The buses held maybe 40 people, but we only had about 20 in ours, so we each got a double-seat to ourselves (bliss).
Once we arrived at the campus, we had our temperature checked by the nurse, were given a small snack (juice and a bun), and given our room assignments. Unlike what I’ve heard about previous orientations, our roommates were pre-assigned, and there was much guessing throughout the week about what formula was used to make those assignments. I totally lucked out in that my roommate and I were the same age and general energy level, and we both liked to go to bed around the same time every night. We also got a corner room with a gorgeous view over the city!
We were further broken up into Classes of about 40 people each, based on where we were going to be placed (Busan, Ulsan, Daegu, etc.). I won’t bore you with the details of our schedule, but from Monday – Saturday we had pretty much the same schedule of lectures with a break on Thursday for a field trip:
9:00-10:30: Lecture 1
11:00-12:30: Lecture 2
2:00-3:30: Lecture 3
4:00-5:30: Lecture 4
7:00-8:30: Survival Korean class
11:00: Curfew (everyone had to be back in the dorm building)
That schedule doesn’t leave a ton of time for hanging out, but tbh you don’t really have the energy for it what with running from one lecture to another. You also have to somehow fit in the time to plan out what you’re going to be doing on Sunday, which is a lesson plan demonstration with 1-2 other folks from your class. Still, we managed to get out to have a few drinks in the neighborhood a night or two.
Then, bright and early Monday morning you have to be packed and ready to leave as you’re either put on a bus to your city (for the non-Busan folks) or picked up by your Korean co-teacher in their car (if you’re staying in Busan). We all stood there feeling like puppies in a pet store window, watching hopefully as each car drove up. Thankfully, my co-teacher was very punctual and arrived just a few minutes after the hour. We loaded my insanely heavy suitcase into her trunk, and off we went!