EPIK Orientation – Feb 2017

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:


7:30-8:40:  Breakfast

9:00-10:30:  Lecture 1

11:00-12:30:  Lecture 2

12:30-1:40:  Lunch

2:00-3:30:  Lecture 3

4:00-5:30:  Lecture 4

5:30-6:40:  Dinner

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!






Packing for Korea

There are about a million how-to-pack-for-Korea posts out there, so I’m not going to try to reinvent the wheel. This is mostly for my own amusement when I look back at it in six months and think “Why on earth did I think I needed to bring that?!”.

So, my quest to fit almost everything I could need for a year in South Korea into one large 50 lb suitcase failed – but I did manage to fit in almost everything I think I need:


  • 2 pairs of jeans
  • 3 pairs corduroys
  • 2 pairs dress pants (I brought far too many pants)
  • 3 short-sleeve tops
  • 4 long-sleeve tops
  • 2 work-appropriate dresses
  • 2 blazers
  • 3 casual t-shirts
  • 1 sweatshirt
  • 2 sweaters
  • 2 cardigans
  • Enough underwear and socks for 2 weeks
  • 4 bras
  • 3 pairs of tights
  • 3 pairs of Uniqlo Heattech leggings (school hallways aren’t necessarily heated)
  • 3 Uniqlo long underwear tops
  • 2 pairs pajama pants
  • Black boots
  • Flats
  • Heels
  • Sandals/flip-flops
  • Raincoat
  • Winter coat
  • Gloves/scarves


Other Items

  • Misc office supplies (post-its, paper clips, scissors)
  • Gifts for my co-teachers (I’m bringing maple sugar candies)
  • Extra toothpaste with fluoride (not sure how available that is in Korea)
  • A few DVDs (in case I can’t get Netflix to work)
  • 4 sticks of deodorant
  • Umbrella
  • Korean plug adapters 
  • Extra contact lenses
  • And probably a few other things I’m forgetting…


The real challenge for me was having to revamp most of my wardrobe around Korean dress codes. Most of my professional wear conformed to American standards of decency, meaning no cleavage but a modest v-neck or scoop neck. Apparently Korean standards around the neck/chest area are much more modest, and I heard stories of teachers being reprimanded for wearing a shirt that even showed too much collarbone. So I had to hunt (and I mean hunt) through American stores to find work-appropriate shirts/dresses that wouldn’t make me look unprofessional in the eyes of my coworkers. And since I won’t be able to fit into any of the clothing in shops over there (other than, perhaps, a few stores in the foreigner district in Seoul), I have to just guess and hope for the best!

Because I’m taking a somewhat circuitous route to Seoul (by way of visiting my cousin in France) I decided to ship my luggage rather than drag it through seven different airports. I priced out several options and read so many reviews that my eyes started to glaze over, but I finally settled on Luggage Forward. It’s a bit more expensive than I’d like, but they were wonderful at answering my thousand and one questions. Plus, they track my luggage and take care of any hangups that happen with customs, etc. so the convenience factor makes it absolutely worth it to me for this trip. I’m just crossing my fingers it gets there in one piece!



My not-so-little suitcase, just before I handed it off to be shipped




Damariscotta, Maine

I took a little break over the 4th of July holiday to escape the hot and humid city for the gorgeous cool(er) coastal towns of Maine. My family used to vacation up there all the time when I was a kid, so it was great to reacquaint myself with the tiny little villages, the gruff but friendly attitude, and the abundant lobster!


Pemaquid Point lighthouse







Because what is Maine without lobster?



…very fresh lobster.


And now, back to the grind. 🙂



London (again)

I wanted to get at least a few photos up from my trip to London and France this past August before I dive into epic EPIK preparation. I’ve had to cut down from the hundreds of photos that I came back with, but here is a smattering from the city that’s really starting to feel like a home away from home:


Flew in on Wow Air – not a bad first impression


My traditional welcome-to-London meal at Jen’s Cafe, just off Trafalgar Square




A fun tour of the BBC


Complete with Daleks


If you’re ever in London, Daunt Books is a must-see!


I can’t believe the Criterion closed just days after I stopped by for a drink. So sad…


But I cheered up with a trip to the Barbican for a little Hamlet


Trip to Bletchley Park on a gorgeous day


…and one of the rebuilt Bombes


Food that was both pretty and delicious


Roasted peaches and clotted cream ice cream


I even managed to catch a game! QPR v Cardiff


Took a tour of Emirates Stadium, even if the boys weren’t there


Don’t worry, I didn’t steal them…


White Cliffs of Dover!


A random alley that may become my new desktop background…


Now, when can I go back? 😉




I just spent a lovely long weekend at my old summer camp in Maine. The weather was perfect, the people were friendly, and the food was delicious.

Ah, nostalgia:

The main cabin at twilight:

Hanging around the campfire:

And gorgeous Maine days:


I miss the woods already…

Springtime in London

Looking back at my trip to London almost a year ago now (May 2014), with some belated photos…

I miss that city so much. Can’t wait to go back!