First up, my apologizes for going so long without an update. We’re now at orientation for the program we work for, and they’re keeping us very busy! This post will talk about orientation as well as some of the other adventures that we’ve had while in Gwangju.
A week ago, we left Pedro’s. He was very kind and drove us to our hotel which was amazingly helpful, because we have a ton of luggage.
Orientation has been fun, informative, and positive. Throughout this week, we’ve been reminded of the many perks and benefits to this program, which makes us very glad that we chose it.
There are many schools in South Korea, but some are privately run and others are publicly run. Private schools, or hagwons, tend to have a bad reputation. In many cases, teachers are over-worked (working sometimes until 10PM) and are taken advantage of by the staff in regards to benefits and treatment. We’ve read many horror stories of teachers being promised healthcare (both pension and healthcare are legally required here, but some schools just never fill out the paperwork to get out of paying their share), but they find that they never get it. In many hagwon contracts, only minimum vacation (5 days) is offered and sometimes is not actually given.
We’re very lucky to have found a public program with a great reputation. With a public program, we have many people who have our backs if something does go wrong. In addition, we get healthcare, pension, and a great vacation deal. We get 24 vacation days during the winter school break and 8 during the summer. This is a huge and unbelievable benefit to us because we will be given the great opportunity to travel.
So far in orientation, we’ve learned more about the program, Korean culture, school expectations, lesson planning, and activities and games that we can include in our lessons. We’re in orientation class most of the day for 10 days, but it’s well worth it because we’ve learned a lot!
I’m going to share some pictures from orientation below.
During one of our cultural lesson days, we learned about a traditional Korean wedding ceremony. We did a mock ceremony and Nick and I were the bride and groom.
A couple of days into our orientation we all had to go to the hospital to get medical checks. The hospital was really huge and felt less hospital-like than ones back home. At the hospital, I encountered my first squat potty. I will likely be writing a future post that talks all about Korean bathroom experiences, because there are a few things to say.
We also got to spend an evening exploring downtown Gwangju, which was really cool. Besides Seoul, Gwangju is one of the most foreigner-friendly cities in South Korea. You can find many Western clothing brands and foods mixed in with traditional Korean finds.
We spent another afternoon visiting a park and a bamboo forest. We also visited a culture museum where we learned how to play traditional Korean drums. Nick was so good at the beats that the Korean instructor said he must have Korean blood in him 🙂
We can both pretty much read hangul, the Korean alphabet. It takes us some time to sound out the words based on the characters that we’re reading, but I think with time we will get a lot better. It’s still a challenge because the words are Korean words and we don’t yet have the vocabulary, but we’re working on it!
We’ve been staying at a hotel for a the last week. I checked out the sauna, which was a neat and interesting experience. Korean saunas (jjimjilbangs) are essentially a bathhouse where everyone soaks in different pools of water at different temperatures (no bathing suits). You can also enjoy steam rooms and get massaged. It’s actually a thing here to SLEEP at bath houses and is really quite affordable (ie. $5-$10 USD to take advantage of all of the bathhouse experiences and then sleep there). I think we may go for the whole experience on a long-weekend trip to another part of Korea in the future. After all, my new motto is We’re in Korea — why not?!
We’ve noticed many unique things so far, while in Korea. There are heated toilet seats, couples who dress alike, and karaoke and gaming rooms everywhere. There are also TV channels completely dedicated to video gaming! Here’s a picture that Nick snapped while watching TV early one morning. As you can imagine, he loves watching the gaming channels!
We have another day of orientation left, then a closing ceremony. On the last day, we go with our co-teachers to see our schools and head to our apartments. After living out of suitcases for almost two weeks, we’re excited to get settled into our home. We’re both given an apartment since we teach at different schools and have our own contracts, so we’re going to check out both places and decide where we will live.
I know we’re both anxious for the next few days. We will update again once we get settled into our schools, everyday routine, and home. As always, thanks for reading!