I spent a couple days upon arriving in Busan wandering around on my own, eating street food and hunting down tourist traps. It was so much fun, a sense of freedom I hadn’t felt since exploring Exmoor on my own as a child – the one good thing about living in the middle of nowhere as a kid is you can explore and den build to your hearts content. Needless to say these few days helped me rediscover how much I enjoy my own company and being independent of others.
In contrast the EPIK orientation is not a thing of freedom. I felt like all of a sudden I’d been thrust into boarding school – Korean style. With lessons running 9am – 8.30pm most evenings and an 11pm curfew (if you’re caught out after curfew you get sent home). My biggest gripes with the orientation week were the 11 hour days. It was impossible to concentrate on and absorb the plethora of knowledge and experience the lecturers had to offer, when you’d been sat in a classroom was never just right but instead similar to the extremes of both Mumma and Pappa Bears porridge.
The University campus was magnificent, as soon as I arrived I found myself resenting my time at Plymouth University more than I already did. What a contrasting experience it would have been to have studied with imposing mountains on the horizon and behind the campus, seemingly looming over us like a club bouncer. If I was just traveling through Korea I would have still enjoyed seeing this Uni.
If you have only ever taken a TEFL course and have no teaching experience, orientation will be a godsend by reminding you of all you have forgotten. You will be spoken to by some highly inspiring people and some utter bores *coughs* classroom magic, classroom management *coughs*. Although as you are constantly bombarded with information with little time to reflect you will promptly forget 50% of anything useful.
The meals throughout orientation were average at best. We had two fancy dinners where they seemingly rolled out the red carpet and pulled out all the stops to provide us with a large amount of partially cooked/thawed premade crap. The type of people you see posting rave reviews about it are the type that will sit there and pretentiously talk for hours about how they’ve taken this journey to discover themselves and when they describe each thing it was “literally the best it could have ever been ever” basically telling you that your story pales in comparison.
Undoubtedly the best part of orientation is meeting the other successful EPIK candidates. You can take comfort in the knowledge that even the most introverted of people will be able to kindle new friendships with like minded people – people all seem to come for similar reasons. I’ve relished in the cultural differences between the other English speakers, especially the nuances in pronunciation of certain words. If you like myself like a drink, fear not, even with limited free time you will still find people willing to run to the nearest bar for an hour or two before staggering back just in time for curfew.
In summary it was hard not to have fun on this week; amongst all the dull and dreary lessons I still found a few that resonated with me. I met like minded people I have since shared some great times with. The week was worthwhile although needs to be spread out over 2 weeks so people have a chance to adjust and absorb. The staff are hard working and nothing seems too much for them, it was really refreshing to see people so passionate about what they are doing.