Thursday, July 19, 2012


When I first began my job search for teaching in Korea, I didn't know what to look for. Still today, I feel unprepared. But, I consoled myself that I would be making slightly more than several other jobs I'd seen (2.1 mil Korean Won, vs. 1.8-2.0 mil at other schools). But today I realized and admitted to myself that I may have been too hasty in accepting a job. I will be working in a private school, which means...

Pros: smaller class sizes, more foreign teachers to connect with

Cons: significantly less vacation (8-10 days in a year, vs. 4 weeks at a public school), significantly less sick leave (3 days vs. 15 at a public school)

These are only the ones that I know of at the moment. My friend, Tab, is working at a public school and I can already tell she's got a better deal. She arrives 3 weeks earlier than me, but also gets a week vacation before she starts teaching! Ugh...

I hope I am not going to regret my decision to go private. Just telling myself that fewer students means I can connect with them more and make a difference. *fingers crossed...*

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


A few days ago I received my airline ticket itinerary from my school. I will be leaving Houston at 8:50am on Wednesday, August 22, arriving in San Francisco at 11am, continuing to Seoul at 1:10pm on Wednesday and arriving at 5:25pm Thursday, August 23. Basically, I lose 2 whole days, accounting for flight times and time zone changes. It will be 3:25am in Houston when I land. Good grief! 

Seeing my itinerary, with my real name on it, with actual flights, is insane. Is this really happening?! All my preparations are actually paying off. I am MOVING to ASIA for a YEAR! I can't believe it. I also can't believe I will have to pack so little for an entire year!

I looked up my airlines, and the international portion of the flight is through Asiana Airlines. They allow 2 checked bags up to 50lb. Alright,no problem there. However, getting to that flight I have to fly through United which, besides the fact that I hate basically every domestic carrier besides Southwest, allows ZERO free checked bags. So, I must pay $25 for the first, and $35 for the second. Now, most of the time, if you book an international flight and your domestic carrier doesn't allow for the same baggage as the primary carrier, they must accommodate you. However, I did not book this ticket. A travel agent did, who worked with my school and recruiter. So, I have a dilemma... 

If he booked my flights separate (which may have been cheaper), not only must I pay for the bags to get to San Francisco, but if my first flight is delayed and I somehow cannot make my international flight, I am screwed. I will have to attempt to get in contact with my school/recruiter and get another flight, which could take FOREVER (literally). However, if it was booked as one ticket, the airline must help me get to Korea.

Of course, when I emailed my recruiter to ask about how the flight was booked, she had no information. She said that the travel agent will call me this week to make sure everything is good to go. However, I have yet to receive this phone call...

Ah, well, such is life. I am more annoyed about the baggage and more scared about missing the international flight. I could be so screwed! :/ Yikes!

At least now I know that I can have 2 50lb bags, and may or may not have to pay an extra $60 to get them there. Now I can really start planning my packing...

I have read that I should not worry toooo much about clothes. Being a female, and a fairly style-conscious female at that, this is a dilemma. I want to bring ALL my clothes, not a few! I've read that the clothing there is inexpensive; also, if I buy it there, I know I will not make some horrible faux-paus of wearing a low-cut shirt to a traditional dinner or some other terrible ordeal. I still have no idea what my school's dress code is, but I guess I will just find out. So: pack only a week or two worth of clothes. 

Now this is disturbing: Koreans do NOT, I repeat, do NOT wear deodorant. "How is this possible?!" you ask?? I too would like that question answered. But, it matters not. Because I DO wear deodorant. Thus, I will be bringing 3 sticks of deodorant.

I can't seem to figure out if Korean women use certain feminine hygiene products... Sorry, guys! But we ladies are picky about what we use, and if they don't have some Tampax Pearl, I might die. Well, not really. But if anyone can answer that question, I'd be grateful. Should I pack my own preferred brand of tampons?

I am prone to body-aches and headaches and all kinds of aches, especially when I am not sleeping in my usual bed which has 2" foam padding. Therefore, I have determined to bring my own Ibuprofen. I know it can be gotten in Seoul, but I would rather not take the risk of getting the wrong thing, and would rather not pay through the nose for it. So, Economy-size bottle of pain killers, vitamins, sleep aids, and other necessary medications.

Of course, my carry-on will contain my laptop, iPad, iPod, iPhone, and other various i-Devices. As well as their chargers! The great thing about Apple is their chargers are conveniently already equipped as power-converters. All I need is the Korean adaptor piece. The world travel adaptor kit that Apple sells contains one of these magic items, but with all my iStuff, I really need more. If you or anyone you know owns the travel adaptor kit made by Apple, and do not foresee going to Korea within the next 13 months, I'll happily take it off your hands. I can pay you for it, or return it to you after my time abroad. Please comment if you want to help me get Apple adaptor plugs for Korea. I suppose I will also need a few converter/adaptors for normal plugs, and of course some Korean plugs with USB or Mini-USB input. I am crossing my fingers I can find some either online at an expat buy/sell/trade site or some cheap ones at mini-marts in Seoul. 

I am certain there are more things I will need to remember to pack, but for now, I will leave it at this. If you have any suggestions or ideas of what I desperately need for a year in Korea, comment! :)

I will be on a cruise next week and the following week returning to Houston for the Big Pack-a-thon, and will be updating you all further with my musings and findings of what I will need. Til then...

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Today I got my Visa back from the Korean Consulate. I already began describing all the preparations that go into preparing for a trip such as mine, but receiving this reminded me of all the hard work that went into getting it. 

After all my paperwork was gathered (detailed more in "Redtape"), I had to mail it all to my school in South Korea. I say it again, MAKE COPIES of your papers before you mail them! I mailed my stack of papers via DHL, and it cost $54 to send priority. Holy crap! It is worth it though, because once they receive the papers, the school must submit them, as well as their own paperwork, to the Immigration office. Immigration then reviews everything, makes sure I am not a criminal or a dropout, then gives the school back a visa-issuance number. That process took almost 3 week after the school received the papers. This is not even the last step! That's why I put a rush on the papers' delivery.

The waiting periods during this whole process are obnoxious. Waiting for the background check, waiting for the apostille, waiting for some approval, waiting for a signature. Now I have to wait for the country of KOREA to tell me it's okay that I come.

Finally, I got the email back from my recruiter giving me the issuance number. The email thankfully included lots of other documents about what to do from here. Basically, I fill out 2 more forms, pay some more money, and give the copies of everything as well as the documents to the Korean Consulate. I was extremely lucky because there is a Korean Consulate in Houston. I looked it up and there are like less than a dozen in the country, and one was 45 minutes from my house. Thank goodness! If I hadn't been able to drop my stuff off at the Consulate, I would have had to mail it in, and that just scares me. Lost mail, wrong or incorrectly filled out documents, etc. Yikes! 

The funny thing was that when I took my paperwork to the Consulate, the processing guy told me that all he needed was the application, photo, and the money. (ps - here is where an additional passport photo is needed. You now have used 5/6 photos, 4 in the packet sent to Korea, 1 here) I thought it was hilarious that I went through all the trouble making sure I had copies of everything, gathering all of it up, and triple checking my checklist. He needed basically none of it. If I had mailed my application I would have included all this and they wouldn't have even needed it. So, at least now I still have copies of all my stuff (just in case!).

Once I submitted my application for the visa at the Consulate in Houston, it was ANOTHER waiting game. For one more time, I had to wait and hope they would not stamp my application with a big, fat "DENIED". 

Four business days later, it was ready to be picked up. Unfortunately, it was ready about 7 hours after my flight left for Miami. Really?! Thankfully I have amazing parents who went to get it for me. :) They mailed it to me here in Miami since I will need it on my cruise in a few weeks. So, I finally laid eyes on my long-awaited Korean Work E2 Visa. Wow! All that hard work for a little sticker in my passport (granted, it is a badass sticker!)

Now I wait for my school to book my ticket to Seoul! I want to say this is my last step, but realistically it isn't. I still have to pack, take a lonnnnng plane ride, go through an extensive health exam, apply for an Alien Resident Card, go through orientation, and then actually begin learning how to do my job. THOSE are my last steps.... Ha!

But for now, I have an awesome addition to my passport. :)

Sunday, July 8, 2012


I have arrived in sunny Miami, Florida! I know this blog is about my experiences in going to and preparing for Korea, but I am so excited to be here! I will be here all of July, taking an extended vacation to spend time with my boyfriend before I leave for Korea in August.

So far, I have managed to be extremely lazy, get a sunburn (curse of the fair-skinned) and eat. A lot. I thought I would use a portion of my obscene amount of free time to continue my blog, which I apologize has been neglected for a week or two... oops!

I certainly do not claim to be a technology guru, but I would say I am a bit of a junkie. Especially following my last job, where I learned about TONS of awesome stuff you can do with your technology, I now have a bit of everything. So I thought I would share my preparations for Korea regarding technology.

I am a Mac. I hope that I do not offend anyone, but if you are a PC, your life probably sucks. ;) JK... kinda. Hehehe
Well, I am a Mac, and following college, I got a desktop iMac (27" if you must know). It is my beautiful wonderful magically baby. I guess it was the extended amount of time spent with my 13" MacBook (white) on my lap in bed in college but I just don't like laptops anymore. I like the big screen, big power comfort of a beast of a machine. So with the prospect of moving to Korea, to a itty bitty apartment, I realize that toting along my iMac is impractical. Actually, it's almost impossible for me. I do have an iPad, but since I am not a 70 year old woman who only uses email, I need a computer. I was lucky enough to be able to work out a deal with my mom wherein she buys a new MacBook Pro (for herself) but loans it to me for my year abroad. While I am away, she is at liberty to use my iMac. Basically, we switch for the year. This works because her iMac (about 6 years old) is getting, well, old. So, after much hoo-ing and haw-ing (ps, where does that expression come from...?) we decided on a new 15" MacBook Pro. It is NOT the retina display (damn! too much money...). I originally wanted the Air, due to the weight, but I simply wanted a larger screen. My mom agreed. We know it is more of a computer than either of us will probably ever need, but oh well! Now I just need to find a Korean plug for the charger. 

By way of a phone, here is where my problems begin. I am spoiled on my iPhone. Absolutely spoiled! As you may have guessed with my introductory sentence above, I am loyal to Apple. This includes phones. I don't understand other smartphones. I'm sure there are good ones, but I don't want to try them. I like my iPhone. However, I use an iPhone 4 (I know, I need to upgrade...) The 4 is NOT a world phone. Mine is also tied to Verizon. I have been desperately trying to search forums and websites about using an iPhone in SouthKorea. Apparently, iPhones are available, but the way their networks work is different from America (and the rest of the world) AND if you bring your own, you have to register the phone with the GOVERNMENT to get the serial number approved to use on a line of service. I found some service plans that would work, and are certainly cheap enough. However, even if Verizon unlocked my phone, I believe the network will not work due to the technology that goes into the phone. So my options are thus: bring the phone and try to get it approved and put on a line of service (about a 30/70 chance of working, not in my favor) OR buy an iPhone there (cons being that i have to sign a 2 year contract which I cannot do, or pay full price for the phone, can't afford) OR buy an iPhone 4S here (world phone!) but we all suspect a new phone in the coming months, plus would have to pay full price which i just cannot do. 

So, being the devious little imp that I am, I start talking to my crazy-smart coworkers about my dilemma. One of the suggests, in a tone which implied that I should have already known this, that I could use Google Voice thru Talkatone app to make free calls to US numbers (also texts and voicemail). This is so unbelievably brilliant, I can't help but doing a happy dance. Now my only problem is to get data on my iPad. I will need to obtain the same approval from the government for my device (I do NOT understand this process) and then purchase a SIM-card for the iPad. So far, I am not 100% sure I can do this, but it is possible in almost every other country in the world, so I am crossing my fingers. If this works, I will buy a cheap flip-phone for local use over there, but keep iPad with data to make international calls to America (taking away the need for calling cards or international calling plans). Can I just say that technology is INCREDIBLE. Seriously, it just keeps getting better! 

What do you think of my plan? If you have any insider knowledge that I need to know, please comment! I want to cover all my bases before I get there. BUT please do NOT comment that I need to stop being so picky and get a phone over there, that that is the land of technology, or some other negative-nancy comment. I know what I want! So there :P

Oh, also, this is neat. I bought an AirPort Express router (Apple also). This little baby is awesome! It is about the size of a deck of cards, and I expect will be extremely helpful over there. When I get my internet hooked up, my American AirPort Express will be able to use English (without the horrible attempts at translations). I am excited to have an English router. It just hooks up into my modem or my ethernet and broadcasts my internet :) I can control it in English settings from my iPad. This way, when I am at my apartment, I can use the iPad (or iPhone in WiFi-only settings) to call home, thru google voice also. Finally, I can take the AirPort Express with me when I travel. Anywhere that has ethernet, I can plug this baby in and create my own little WiFi network. Brilliant!

If you don't speak techno, I probably just simultaneously bored and confused the hell out of you. But, if you can follow that, I hope I gave some good information. Please feel free to comment questions or advice! I welcome all help! :)

Thursday, July 5, 2012


After the excitement of actually getting a real job offer, I had to start collecting all my paperwork. Actually, before I had my interview I started this process because it is a somewhat long and tedious one. I just REALLY had to make it happen once I had signed a contract. My recruiter sent me a list of things to get done...

I suppose for those out there who don't have the benefit of a recruiter, I will go into some detail here.

First thing to request: Background check from the FBI. This takes the longest to complete, so request it straight away! I got my fingerprints done at the local police office (check with your station because they may do fingerprints only on certain days). They have official fingerprint cards there, but you do have to pay a fee to have them done. You will later need to get an apostille from DC of your completed background check, so be sure to request a "pre-authenticated" check. I typed out a short letter to "whom it may concern" requesting it, printed and signed. Include that letter, your background check request application (found here the FBI website), and your fingerprint card, and payment (no personal checks accepted, you can print a cc authorization form from their website which is probably easier than money order or cashiers check). Include all this and a completed FBI checklist in a priority mail envelope (I believe you need to include a prepaid for return envelope, but check on the FBI checklist!)

Second most time consuming process: requesting an apostile copy of your diploma from the Dept. of State. You must take a photocopy of your actual diploma to a notary, each of you sign and date, and send that off to your capitol, Austin in my case. Unfortunately, the first time I did this, I forgot to sign (actually, I didn't forget, i just didn't know!) This process should take a few weeks or less (mine was about 2 weeks).

Make sure you have 2-3 copies of your transcripts

You should definitely have ALREADY obtained your passport (you want to work OVERSEAS, right? hehe) You also need several copies of a passport photo; HOWEVER, most countries need it in their standard form. For this, rather than trying to get the Walgreens photo specialist to understand why I didn't want US-standard sizes, I went to the website here. You can select the photo size you want, upload your OWN photo (yay!) and choose how many. For the standard 2 photo sheet, the prices is about the same as Walgreens. But I needed 6 photos, so their "best value" of 6 photos was DEFINITELY cheaper! I was very happy with this service.

To be honest, this is a process I went thru about 2 months ago, and I am now staying in Miami (rather than Houston) so I don't have immediate access to all my paperwork to refer to. I will try to go back and edit this post when I get all my information back at hand. 

Oh, don't forget - make photocopies of EVERYTHING! Make 2 copies just in case! You will need copies for the Visa office later down the road... ;)

Subscribe via email

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner