It’s already been two weeks since I started working as a full-time english teacher. Since starting, other teaching and/or admin staff have been so kind as to ask and even actually giving me a ride around.
An admin staff member helped me move into my apartment, and assisted with the initial shopping needs per my contract. He also graciously gave me a ride the following Monday to go to work. He’s been so helpful with everything although his english is lacking, he gave it his best shot and even at times we were communicating via a translator such as Google or Naver; Naver is better for Korean-English or vice-versa translations than Google in my opinion.
I’ve probably mentioned this before but I teach at 4 separate middle schools. Two are quite out-of-the-way further into the countryside, and on Tuesdays I hitch a ride from a fellow colleague at that school. She’s always worrying about me although I’m the one concerned because I’m freeloading off of her essentially. The first time we met to go to school she was maybe 15 minutes late due to traffic or whatnot and she felt so guilty and was worried about what I may have thought but I was completely fine with it. This week she was only 2 minutes late and that bothered her a lot too! I can’t stress enough how ok it was, but she’s a worrywart.
At my furthest countryside school, 1.5 hours or more by express bus (including a transfer), I was waiting for the bus to go home at the bus terminal after my first day there when someone popped into the terminal and asked if I was the english teacher from the middle school I was just at and offered me a ride. Mind you, I might’ve met her at the office but I honestly couldn’t tell – but she knew me well. And to this day, not that it’s been that long, I don’t remember her face…
This past Monday morning I was waiting at the bus stop when a car pulled up and rolled down its windows – it was the admin I mentioned at first. He gave me a lift since he saw me – so nice of him! I thanked him of course and as we walked towards the office, I realized that it was Monday morning again and that I was due at another school so I walked to that school from there; he probably felt bad, but it was ok! The school is only maybe a 15 minute walk from that one, and he saved me a dollar on the bus fare.
Just a few examples of some korean hospitality in the past couple of weeks! Looking forward to my paycheck next week so I can return the favors back in full!
On a side note, sounds like cats are having the time of their lives outside my apartment building; I guess this can really happen anywhere in the world! NYC, Japan, and now Korea – I can’t recall if I heard any during my stay in Singapore…
This is not converting a driver’s license from your home country to an international license. This is rather actually obtaining a driver’s license in Korea – I do not have my license back at home in America.
Story is my main school offered to help me get my driver’s license since they have a car that I may utilize for transportation to all 4 of my schools within this area – thank goodness I may add; one school is 1.5 hours or more out by an express bus, with a transfer!
The process is similar to how it is in America, but slightly different – it’s essentially a 3-step procedure.
- Written Exam
- Functional Test
- Road Test
The school sent me to an academy to prepare for all sections to get my license. I sat for close to 5 hours reading poorly written English practice Q&As, and then went to the local DMV to take the written exam; not that the American written exam is difficult but I recall one or two questions that weren’t 100% clear – it was much worse here, but that comes with the territory.
The next step is where things deviate quite a bit. Here you are tested on things such as turning on your lights, high beam included, wipers, signals, emergency brake, and suddenly stopping for hazards. It’s a pretty straight-forward section but this time it was not in English. I was panicking on the inside because it was too much Korean to memorize in such a short amount of time. This time I had only 2 hours of practice before taking the test, but I got used to the procedure and managed to pull it off without a hitch. We don’t have this section, and I suppose it wouldn’t hurt but it sort of is unnecessary – I guess they assume our parents teach us those small details.
The road test is very similar but the school has 4 routes that you practice on and you are actually tested on 1/4 routes of which is chosen at random. You follow a computer-operated program telling you when to turn and such, but after 6 hours of practice you should already have memorized all 4 routes anyways. I’m in a small town in the countryside and I turned out to be the only one out of five taking the road test for a car and not a truck so I went last. Man, I was tired of waiting and anxious to getting it over with. Luckily I didn’t rush through the test and all.
A couple of days later, I have the license in my hand! 🙂 This definitely opens up new doors for future travels! Looking forward to converting this to an international driving license someday soon! Here’s to a city-kid growing up!
There are a shitload of sources out there and I wanted to briefly summarize what you’ll need to know.
- Shit happens all the time – Korea is a fast-paced economy and has the same kind of lifestyle so changes happen very frequently so the specifics may vary when you’re reading this
- You need your ARC (Alien Registration Card), or at least the print-out receipt from the office when you applied, and a bank account
- There are about 3 major providers – KT (Olleh), SKT (TWorld), and LG
- The whole process takes at least 20 minutes
- You’ll need to pay 25,000 KRW (may vary) since you’re a foreigner and they need some assurance
You’ve got a lot to choose from if you’re thinking of purchasing a new phone. Used phones depends on the store’s inventory. You can purchase used phones from some stores and/or online in Korea, but I took a look and they’re not quite up-to-date; I was looking for a used iPhone 6 but there were none out – however I’m sure you can find some in America’s used market. One thing you should know is that just like in Japan, the camera’s shutter is designed to display the shutter sound and there’s no option to turn it off, not even in silent mode is it off, but you can download an application to get rid of the annoying sound once and for all so I’ve heard.
From the stores that I’ve checked-out, the posters displaying their options of phone plans are just a piece of what is available. I spent maybe an hour or more at one store looking at plans and more than half-way through he realized that there were more options that better suit my interests; see I was interested in a low-minute and high-data plan for cheap. In the end I settled for 100 minutes and 6GB of data per month. It’s running me about $80/month, including the phone’s price. Now, this is on a two-year contract. I heard and saw something briefly on one-year contracts, but they’re rare and limited to my belief. I think they’re only available for certain phones. You may be able to get a one-year contract if you already have an unlocked phone. Also, I was hoping to only get an unlimited 3G plan but they told me that it was unavailable – I don’t know if it’s because it’s paired up with an iPhone 6 or if they got rid of their 3G plans when LTE started to become prominent. I read a couple of articles on it but they were a bit confusing to be honest; yeah, they were in English too – maybe it’s me… Best bet is to find someone who can speak English to review all your options, if you’re trying to be smart that is. One other thing I should mention is that since it is a two-year contract, if you cancel after only one year you will have to pay the rest of your phone off. And based on your phone plan, the price of the phone varies; the more expensive your plan, the more expensive your phone is. This is because they give you some sort of discount based on how much your plan is and every month you’re paying off your phone for a total of 24 months – so if you cancel after 12, you have half left.
I confirmed that they will automatically withdraw the monthly bill from your bank account on the 21st starting from the following month. Remember the “foreigner assurance” fee I mentioned before? That’s all you have to pay for a brand new phone and contract, for the moment that is. As for opening a bank account, you’ll also need the ARC or the number at least, and your passport. I went with a co-teacher and they did all the talking while the teller kept marking signature locations on a bunch of documents all in Korean. I must’ve signed at least 15 times in 20 minutes – awfully a lot in my opinion. The pattern I see is that they like confirmation for each significant section of a contract, and not just the full contract where you sign at the bottom.
KT seems to be #1 in Korea and you’ll see the Olleh wifi spots everywhere. I asked around to see which was the best in my area and they told me SKT so I just went with them.
Have fun navigating Korea’s wonders!
The English teachers at one of my schools took me out to a nice lunch, and when we got back there was an alarm ringing outside; you could barely hear it inside but could tell that it was piercing outside. One of the teachers said that we have to head out, in Korean of course, and I sort of get the gist and start following.
It was a fire drill, of course, so I asked, but NOPE! It was a North Korea drill! This goes to show how serious South Korea is about defending itself against its evil-half.
Still amazed by the news, I followed the teachers out to the tennis courts where all the students had already gathered amongst other teachers. The Principal started to lecture all of the kids, in Korean obviously, and I clearly did not understand anything. The funny thing though is that it was like a military lecture. Always asking to see if the students heard/understood, and the kids would shout, “Yes,” back at the Principal each time. I know that men have to serve at least 21 months in the military here in Korea, but starting in Middle School is a bit early don’t you think?
By the time I got back to my desk and checked Facebook, many other native EPIK teachers had already posted about the new revelation. I mean, think about it – we have drills for fires, and natural disasters, but not for imminent attacks from hostile foreign countries; but then again, we are from the United States of America.