Sometimes, getting all your paperwork together to teach English in South Korea can take just a little too long. Or, you may already be in the country when you secure a job and need to head overseas to swap your visa over to an E2. Whatever the reason, visa runs are an inconvenience, but luckily Fukuoka is a mere hour flight away from many cities in Korea and makes for a pleasant enough getaway. Here are some tips to make your visa run from South Korea to Fukuoka as easy and stress-free as possible.
You’ve completed the most important part of the process by merely making the decision to go. You’ve decided to take the leap and move to another country (Korea, in this case!) to teach students your native language of English. What next? How do you make the transition from living at home to teaching English as a foreign language in South Korea? In this guide, I’ll try to give you some insight on how to make that ambition of yours a reality.
Public School or Private Academy?
Before you start applying for positions, be aware that most TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) jobs fall into one of two categories: public schools or private language academies. Each category has its pros and cons, and many people swear by whichever one they prefer. So what can you expect from each?
For the past three and a half weeks, I’ve been lucky enough to be volunteering at the Lotus Children’s Center. I’ve been doing a lot of things to help out, such as: teaching kids and staff proper typing techniques, cleaning out computers, installing new software, catching up on a backlog of emails, and other tasks. It’s been a busy few weeks, but I’ve had a blast.
The main reason has been the kids. As short as my time has been there, I have grown really attached to all the little monsters and am going to really miss them. I’m going to miss kids running out to see me as soon as I walk through the gate, yelling at me and asking if it’s their turn to have a computer lesson today (every teacher’s dream, right?). I’m going to miss building Legos with the little ones and watching kids movies in the library. I’m going to miss hugs from Anand, Tuvshnuu calling me a ‘crazy boy’, and all the other little things that make working there such an amazing experience.
For now it’s on to other things. I’m leaving tomorrow to travel to Hustai National Park in an attempt to see a Przewalski’s horse in the wild. Yeah, I have no idea how to pronounce it either. I’m stoked to start the next part of my journey and get back to exploring, but I know I’m going to think back on my time at the Lotus Children’s Center and miss how it felt to be there.
I’m going to miss the awesome staff there (Stanny, Fritz, Suugi, Tom, etc.) and, of course, the kids. Who knows. Maybe some day I’ll make it back to Mongolia and I’ll get to see how the kids are growing up. I can make it a pop quiz and make sure they remember where home position is on the keyboard. =)
Time for the weekly update! Tomorrow will mark end of the second week of my time at the Lotus Children’s Center and I’m still very excited about the work I’m doing there. For those of you who haven’t heard, I’m staying on for a third week so I can finish the projects that are underway.
What am I working on? Well, first and foremost, I’m still teaching keyboarding classes with the students. I’ve been drilling them on keeping their hands in the right place instead of hunt and pecking the keys. Some of the older students have made it to the point where they are using all the letter keys and only looking at the keyboard occasionally. My fastest student is cranking out speeds of 15 WPM. It’s so awesome to see how fast they’re learning! I’ve also found out I’m a merciless drill master when it comes to proper typing. Mwahaha.
Unlike last week, however, this week hasn’t really been focused on teaching. I’ve been working with the staff to organize and streamline the organization’s communication system. That means cleaning up the inbox, removing the glut of labels that have overrun the inbox, setting up filters to organize future mail, and getting rid of obsolete Facebook accounts languishing in cyberspace. I’ve also been working with the secretary who will be doing all this stuff in the future to be sure she knows how to do everything.
I’ve also been trying to figure out how to fix the website for the Center, which has been hacked. I tried looking into it on my own, but both the problem and the solution are way over my head. Luckily, I have some very knowledgeable family and friends who’ve been very generous with their time and expertise. They deserve a big shout out; so thank you, guys!! You’re the best. I’m hoping I’ll be able to get the information I need soon, so we can get that site back up and running.
Lastly there’s the fundraising. You all blew me away with your generosity. We exceeded the goal I set!!! Thank you so much, you have no idea how much your support means to me. Not to mention what it does for the kids! I’m going to get some cards with pictures drawn by the students sent out to all of you soon, ideally this weekend or next!
Next week will hopefully be a balance between administrative tasks (which are tedious at best) and working with the kids. I can’t believe my time at Lotus Children’s Center is almost up, but it’s certainly been a wonderful part of my journey that will stick with me forever.
Thanks once again for everything, I’ll write more later!
Tomorrow will be the final day of my first week teaching at Lotus Children’s Center. As you might know, I’ve been working with the kids to make sure they know the basics of using computers and, primarily, the proper way to type using a QWERTY keyboard. Up until now my only experience in teaching has been teaching English, so I was eager to see how I would take to a new subject.
Luckily, teaching computer use and typing is right up my alley. The three years I spent selling mobile phones don’t hurt too much. Add to that a maximum class size of four students and I have been in teaching heaven.
After the amazing week I spent in the Terelj National Park, I barely had any time to recuperate before I jumped headlong into the next step of my Mongolian adventure. If you’ve been following this blog, you are probably aware of the fundraising effort I started for the Lotus Children’s Center, an organization here in Ulaanbaatar that is dedicated to giving homeless and orphaned children a better life. Well, today I journeyed out to the center with a fellow volunteer, met the staff and kids, and figured out what my place in everything will be.
The center is located quite a ways outside of town, so we had to take two different buses and walk almost 2 km to get to the orphanage. Luckily for my new friend Leah and I, we were met by a staff member named Sugi who was going in to work for the day. I’m pretty sure I would’ve been desperately lost if it hadn’t been for her help. Along the way we gawked at the surrounding terrain, which had a fresh blanket of snow.
As the days slip away towards my departure from Korea, I can’t help but feel pangs of sadness as I teach some of my classes. Despite coming here for the travel aspect of this life – not the teaching one – I have grown incredibly attached to the majority of my students. I love seeing how they progress in their study of English. I love when they come in and say they’re happy, or bring in some cool toy to show (even if it fairly realistic gun that they shove in my face and say, “BANG!” with). I love asking questions about their lives and just having ‘conversation practice’ which I pass off as part of the curriculum.
I love memories like these:
At the start of every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday; Julia arrives first (always) and jumps onto the back of my chair. We usually spend the five minutes before the bus arrives sharing headphones and listening to whatever I had playing when she bounded up. She seems to like the Senate and the Swell Season. She didn’t care for Five Finger Death Punch too much…
Or when Stuart walks in with his little chest puffed out and gives me that, “Yo wassup, man?” upward nod of his chin as he says tough-guy things in Korean to show off for his friend. Then, as he walks away, he’ll smile and give me some candy, or a piece of gum.
Also in those classes where a lesson plan goes out the window, and I end up talking with my middle schoolers for 40 minutes about pop stars, or current events, or whether or not the girl who’s always laughing in class is crazy. Or when I had the debate with three middle school boys about how the international community can improve living conditions for people around the world.
Granted, there are a few students I can’t stand. I’ve got some in particular who make the entire class so awful… to the point where I dread going in every day. One girl – Cheryl – is the most mean-spirited, malicious, disrespectful sub-human I have ever met. She’s one of those students where you wonder: if she were to die in some horrible, awful manner… would you actually be sad? You think you would because, let’s be honest, you’re a good person; but there is that little sliver of darkness that mutters, “Well you can’t argue with karma…”. Her older brother was almost as bad before he left, but at least he had redeeming qualities. She is just a vile little person. Every day she tells me she hates me, or looks at me in disgust, or asks me to leave and go die. Today, after nearly a year of trying different tactics to improve the situation while the class morale slowly but surely slid into the abyss, I decided I’d had enough. I told her to get out of my class. Then I locked the door behind her and didn’t open it until class was over. It was heaven. I had a good time enjoying the other kids and playing card games while the little hell-cat sulked outside. She is obviously stuck in her ways of being a blight on humanity. Whatever. I’m going to stop trying to change that and just enjoy all the other good kids in the class who I actually care about.
Bad experience aside, today was an awesome day full of laughs, playing, and a small amount of studying. I received a fox costume in the mail and wore it for the entire day, to the delight of most of the children. They laughed, pointed, shrieked, “FOX TEACHER!”, and incessantly tried to grab me by the tail. It got to the point where I had to hold the tail in my hand so they didn’t get their hands on it. We played Uno, Home Base, the Zombie Game, and countless more. I took pictures of each class, of every student. Some hid from the camera, some made funny faces, some stared into the lens with a stoicalness that only a Korean can manage. But I’m capturing memories. These ones, to be precise:
For better or worse, you help shape the identity of everyone you interact with. I hope I changed some of my students for the better. Maybe it was all the stupid dances I did. Maybe it was how I always sang Jason Mraz and Gangnam Style and Electric Shock whenever they came on. Or maybe it was, by some miracle, something I taught them… or something I said. I hope there was something, because they definitely changed me. And I’m gonna miss the little buggers!
Well… except for Cheryl…
Ladies and gentlemen, concerned citizens and ignorant fellows, I bring you grave tidings. There is an epidemic running rampant in South Korea, an unmitigated disaster caused by a desire for comfort and a cool breeze. Yes, you heard me, the fans we use to keep cool during the hot and humid summer are picking us off one by one. It’s something unknown in other parts of the world, as Korean fans seem to be bred with a particularly vicious streak that is only active if they are sold domestically (and not in global markets). It’s something many a person will sleep in terror of… known matter-of-factly as: FAN DEATH!!!
I had a narrow brush with fan death today that almost claimed the precious life of one of my particularly hypochondria-afflicted students. I had a fan going since, being July, the weather is hot, humid, and determined to make my shorts stick to my rear whenever possible. All the other students in the class were hot as well and supportive of me activating the fan/AC. Not Edward. No, he went into hysterics. Literally… coughing, clawing at his throat, flailing to open the window, throwing a shoe at another student who said something to him in Korean to the effect of, “Dude, freakin’ chill out, alright?”
Since Edward is a notorious attention hog and frequently has little outbursts, I bellowed, “QUIET!” and tried to go on with my lesson, but to no avail. The fan was wreaking its malevolent will upon the respiratory system of my young pupil, and it was up to me to do something. So I sent him out of classroom and locked the door, thereby separating him from the menace and – at the same time – sealing myself and the other students inside with the homicidal fan. But, alas, we didn’t die. Heck, nobody even coughed. I guess we dodged a bullet there…
So what’s the dealio with fan death, yo? Well, let me tell you…
See, when fans in South Korea are left on they can cause your body temperature to plummet, which can result in hypothermia. Or it can cause a massive displacement of oxygen, which can lead to asphyxiation. You can read more about it here. This is serious stuff people. It was a message propagated by government sponsored interest groups and hysteria-fueling news reporters a few decades ago. And it DEFINITELY wasn’t started to discourage people from wasting energy by leaving fans on. No, definitely not that… Governments and the media never lie to people! They’re honest, and upstanding, and…. alright… so they kinda screwed people over on this one.
Careful with your fans, people… They can be almost as fatally vicious as a blindly spread upchuck of misinformation!
By far one of my favorite classes to teach is my youngest. It’s two little boys and a little girl: Ben, Henry, and Julie. They’re young enough to where I can goof around without them thinking everything is stupid, but old enough to handle basic conversation.
Ben is pretty shy and quiet, and usually needs some prodding to participate. He’s quite fond of mumbling his answers in an unintelligible voice. Also, whenever we color, he uses one crayon and blankets the entire piece of paper in one color. Every time. Maybe he just hates coloring…