Tag Archives: Pre-Departure

Half a year update

It’s been a little over 6 months since I’ve arrived in Korea.

I have felt so many emotions. There were times I struggled, but I’ve conquered so much. I am, undoubtedly, thriving.

There are times I feel like I’ve lived here for an eternity. Times where I’ve almost completely forgotten my life before Korea.

The year leading up to before I left for Korea was a difficult time for me for a multitude of reasons. At times it was a struggle juggling a full course load at college, working, student teaching full time, and completing my EdTPA certification. There were times when my personal life wasn’t doing the best either. I remember getting all of my materials together to apply for this Fulbright grant. Despite 16+ hour days I found it in me stay up late and rewrite my essays over and over again to perfection. I had less than 2 months to prepare and submit my application, while some people have an entire year to get feedback from university faculty and recalibrate their efforts. I wanted this so. badly. When I would get tired or discouraged, I would take a moment to close my eyes and imagine myself walking through different Korean landscapes. And it would ignite something in me to keep pushing through those sleep deprived nights.

Nowadays, all of that seems like a distant memory from a past life. I am completely reaping what I’ve sewn and loving every minute in this country. However, with my brief trip to America coming up soon, all of this is flooding back to me. I’m remembering how hard I worked to be here, and when I do that, my time here seems so small. These 6 months have flown by and I know the next 6 months will do the same. Although I’ve really taken advantage of my time here, I’m not sure if I’ll be ready to leave yet when the time comes. I still feel like I have so much life to live here.

Cheongju, my city that I’m placed in, has really transformed into a sort of a 5th appendage of myself. It has become a home to me and I find myself wanting to protect it so dearly. It’s personal and precious to me, and I can’t help but even feel a little possessive over it. It watched me flourish and adjust to this new job, new family, and new culture. When I take the bus at night around town I feel at peace looking out the window and seeing the city. My city, it feels like. I can’t bear the thought of leaving and never seeing it again. I’m not sure if, at this point in time, my heart could handle it.

I’m halfway through. Right now, I’m on a long winter break from school. I’ll start teaching classes again in March with new co-teachers and a fresh set of first year high school students. And then in mid-July, I’ll be done. Finished. I’ll return home and it’ll be like this entire year didn’t even exist. People back home will ask how my year was, but they won’t really understand, even if I explain myself as articulately as possible. I’ll get a full-time teaching job and probably stay at the same district for 30 years. And I will never be able to experience another Korean autumn with beautiful golden rice fields again. Or wear hanbok while walking through cherry blossom trees in the spring.

And it hurts. It’s very painful to think about everything in such finite terms. But it’s the truth. I can always briefly visit Korea again in the future during the summer, but after I leave in July, I will never be able to live in Korea, to thrive in Korea again.

Here’s to another 6 months.

5 more days

This weekend my brother came home from Long Island so we could all have one last dinner together as a whole family! We ate at a place in my hometown where I had my last meal at before I studied abroad to Korea in 2017. We also ate here when I was notified of my Fulbright finalist status! It will be over a year until I see my brother again.

The goodbyes have started. I’ve been staggering my goodbyes with different friends every few days and although it’s been emotional, it’s been positive and hopeful. Although I have some apprehensions leaving for a year, my friends have all remained super supportive and have expressed how proud they are of me. It makes me so happy to know that I have such thoughtful, close-knit friends in my life. They mean the world to me and I’m happy that they’re only a text away.

I also had my last goodbye with the faculty at the high school I student taught at this year. We went to trivia night at our local bar. There’s this digital jukebox at the bar where you can use an app to add songs to. After multiple failed attempts, my co-workers were finally able to get the Korean national anthem to play over the sound system at the bar, which is honestly nuts. But we felt triumphant. I would ask for no other kind of send off from them.

As for other business, I only just got half way through with my TEFL course, so these next few days will be spent grinding through the entire course. It’s a little bit upsetting because I rather be spending this time with friends and family that I’m not going to see for the next year. I’m going to pick up my visa tomorrow in NYC. I sent the tax exemption form out but have gotten no response. I also redid my fingerprints for the FBI and received my results back within the day. Now all I have to do is apostille it and I’ll be good to go. I still need to make a few copies of my passport photos to give for my ARC at Incheon airport. I also made a little shopping list of some small things I need to pick up before I fly out.

This time next week, I’ll be starting my new life on the other side of the planet with a new group of friends. A new family. A new school.

11 more days to go

Time is flying by and I honestly feel super unprepared! This past week I took a vacation to Hilton Head Island with my mom, which was super beautiful, but also accounted for time spent away from completing my TEFL course. Almost every day the skies were super blue, and I took a few photos so that I could look back whenever I feel homesick and miss blue skies in Korea.

We drove down about 13 hours each way, and I was kind of reminded of how just traveling to a different state can feel like being in a different country. Especially by looking at the billboards all the way down I-95. While in Hilton Head, I briefly visited the Hilton Head Coastal Discovery Museum and learned about conservatory efforts in the marshlands around there. I also learned about the Gullah people for the first time! I was kind of astonished that I had never learned about this group of African Americans on Daufuskie Island before. While at the museum, I bought a book of animal folklore passed down through the Gullah people. I love this book because on one side it has the English translation, and on the other side it is written in the Gullah language. The English part is digestible enough for a non-native speaker. I can’t wait to bring it to my classroom in Korea and show my students writings from a different cultural group in America. Even American students often don’t get to read works written by non-white Americans, so hopefully this book will be something I can bring back to my classroom in America. If anyone is interested, a link to the book is here.

I also bought some local peach tea from South Carolina for my future boss in Korea. I’m planning to get my host family some local Raspberry Moscato from a farm near me in addition to some American board games. I also bought a cute glass alligator wine stopper from South Carolina to go with the wine.

less than a month until departure

27 days to go!

I’m kind of freaking out because my fingerprints were rejected by the FBI for being “too messy”. They recommend I get them digitally scanned since there’s less room for error, but I’m not really sure how to do that since I have to print them on a specific fingerprint card. I reached out to some people in my Korea cohort to see what they did and I got responses within minutes! Many used an FBI channeler, which usually costs around ~$50. I think I might just spend the money and go the same route considering the free way did not totally work out for me :/ Using an FBI Channeler would be faster and also more secure.

I also still need to fill out IRS Form 8802. A lot of people in my cohort have been having issues with understanding it and filling it out. Someone in our group posted this guide to completing it. It goes into a lot of details and de-mystifies it a bit. Better finish that up soon…

I still haven’t applied for my visa yet (I know, there’s been a lot going on, ok?) so hopefully I can do that this Monday. Last time I applied for a Visa at the Korean Embassy in NYC it was pretty simple and I received it about a week later, so I’m not too concerned?

And the biggest, most daunting thing is to finish my 120 hour TEFL course in time before I leave! I only just started Unit 3 and it’s 20 units!

Yeah… you could say I really have my work cut out for me…

Aaaaaand I haven’t even started packing yet

Orientation site revealed!

A few days ago we got our 2019-2020 Korea ETA handbook! It’s like 60 pages long and it’s filled with all the answers I could’ve asked for!

When I saw it in my email, the first thing I did was scroll all the way down to where the orientation information was. It looks like I’ll be staying at Yonsei’s Incheon campus for my first six weeks! I’ve actually been to Incheon before and visited the boardwalks on the water there. Not to mention Incheon is where I’ll be flying into, so I’ll have a pretty short bus ride from the airport to our orientation site! If I remember correctly, Incheon is about an hour away from Seoul via subway so hopefully I’ll be able to sneak into Seoul one weekend!

I also found two other South Korea ETA Fulbrighters in my cohort that are going to be on the same flight as me! Hopefully I’ll get to know them a bit during the 14+ hour flight. Each day, leaving becomes more and more tangible.

If anyone’s interested, I’m attaching the 2019-2020 South Korea ETA handbook here. It has tons of information about teaching attire, homestay life, and way more.

(P.S.- The part where it says the South Korea ETA program was revered as the “gold standard” of all Fulbright ETA programs really made me smile)

blue skies

Back when I was in Korea in 2017, bright blue skies were what I missed most about America.

Today in New Jersey, the sky was so blue with beautiful wispy white clouds. While driving through my town, I made sure to commit every image to memory and pack it up in my America memory bank. I’m trying to soak in as much of my country as I can before leaving. I made sure to pay extra attention to the shining glimmers on the lake by my house today. I memorized the colors of the flowers in our garden.

Yesterday I officially got my flight information! I’m taking a non-stop flight on Korean Air and arriving in Incheon at 4:20 AM. Apparently, we’re all meeting at the airport at 5 AM to take a bus to our orientation site, which is still TBA. This trip is becoming more and more tangible with each passing day, and I’m really starting to feel like I’m leaving.

It’s bittersweet. I love my life here because this is my home. It’s hard imagining an entire year without my friends, family, and community where I have a place. Still, I’m looking forward to forging my new path in Korea, and creating my new home with a new family.

My first post!

(I’m really jamming to this song rn)

I’m going to try SUPER hard to keep this blog maintained while I’m in Korea.

Not Fulbright or Korea related, but I figured I should get used to writing my thoughts down either way so I’m going to talk about graduating!

Yesterday I graduated Ramapo and everyone keeps asking me how I feel. Is it bad that it hasn’t really hit me yet? I had a bit of an anti-climactic end to the semester. Because I was student teaching, I was only really there once a month to meet with my teaching cohort. And not to mention, this is the first time ever that I had absolutely zero finals. So going to graduation just felt a bit… strange. Part of me feels like I already left Ramapo a while ago.

A lot of big things are changing, and for once I’m kind of just enjoying the ride. I definitely have my work cut out for me in completing all my docs and forms for Fulbright (which I’m honestly falling behind on). Tomorrow is my graduation party and I promised myself that after that, I’ll register for the TESOL course and get my fingerprints done for the FBI background check. Honestly, it’s kind of hard to feel like I “graduated” when I still have a pile of work to do…

Maybe it’ll hit me later. For now, I’m going to try to make posts at least once a week. Hopefully that carries on throughout my time in Korea!