It’s hard to believe that I am here. The stress of the application process, the packing, the long flight, and the fear of the unknown are now things of the past. After a nice closing ceremony at Khung Hee University complete with a slideshow of pictures from the week and recognition certificates, I got on the bus to Gangseo-gu. The morning was very stressful. Imagine trying to load hundreds of adults with at least 3-4 suitcases each onto a limited amount of buses. It was pure chaos. But as with everything in Korea, it always works out and comes together at the last minute. I’ve learned to have a lot of faith in the system over here. When arriving in Gangseo-gu with the fellow teachers in my area, we all loaded off the bus and waited for our co-teachers. I looked anxiously for my co-teacher as they started coming one by one with signs with our names on them. Fortunately, I was able to spot her fairly quickly and I was one of the first to leave. She was so happy to see me and extremely welcoming. She majored in English, so she speaks English pretty well. We loaded my heavy bags into her small hyundai and set off for my school-Konghang.
The school is absolutely adorable! I consider myself extremely lucky. At orientation, we were told that we would have 6-7 co-teachers and over 800 students each week with 45 students in a class. This is not the case for me. I am placed in a very small school where the class size is 20 and I have two co-teachers. I will be teaching 3rd-6th graders and I will have morning classes and some afternoon classes. The school spent almost a million dollars on the English classroom. I get my own English room that is huge and comes with my own computer, a smart board, LCD projector, and so many more awesome materials! I can’t wait to start. The focus on English is so great here that schools spend most of their money on the English program. I will post pictures ASAP.
Once I toured the school, my co-teacher, Kim Jeongsin, led me to my apartment. At this point I was beginning to get extremely nervous. I was relieved to get out of the car and unload my luggage and bring it into my apartment! In parking garages here they do not have ramps but elevators for cars to go to each floor. Crazy! So my apartment is nothing special. It is extremely small, but extremely clean. It is plenty of space for me. It is one room with a bathroom. It has a full bed with shelving and closets everywhere and a kitchen with a refrigerator, microwave, washer, TV, AC, and a stove. There are two little chairs and a pull out table as well. Its very cute. When I arrived the cleaning people were finishing up and making my bed. I am on the 9th floor so I have a view of the city and can see mountains in the background.
As Korean culture would have it, my co-teacher and two administrative assistants took me out to dinner and paid. We ate some great dishes and shared all of our food with one another. So far I am amazed at how excited and happy everyone is to meet me. One lady at the school was so excited she couldnt stop bowing and smiling and talking to me, but I couldnt understand a word she said. Apparently she wants to be my best friend. The appreciation that Koreans have for English speakers is so great.
Next on the agenda was a trip to the supermarket to get the essentials, which at the moment I am waiting for. Because it’s a city and I needed to buy a lot on my first shopping trip, they are happy to deliver to me.
So now I am in my apartment for the first time. I do not have to go to school until Friday to meet the teachers and I start teaching on Monday. I have tomorrow all to myself. I think it will be hard to get around here at first but I would like to explore a little and get familiar with the area. So far I have not seen any westerners in the area but I am hoping to meet up with the teachers that were on my bus ride here. At the moment I am feeling a mix of emotions. It is surreal that this is going to be my home for the next year. I will upload pictures as soon as I can! I must unpack!