Monday, 9 July 2012

Seoul far, Seoul good

Okay, I've been told it's time for an update as I haven't added anything in a while.
As some of my close friends (and newly formed EPIK friends :D) know, it's official - in just over a months' time, I am going to be heading back to Seoul, South Korea...but this time on a permanent basis as an English teacher!!!
The morning I found out I jumped up and down on the bed! I have so many fond memories of the places I visited in Korea last summer, but Seoul remains my favourite city and I'm so chuffed now I've finally found out I get to live there :D Spending the past few years living and commuting around London, I'm certainly city girl at heart, I'm ecstatic!

So, my final weeks in England are going to be jam-packed with the following;
1) dissertation > need to finish testing & start writing up
2) exercise > have been 30 day shredding like a mad dog

3) shopping > must stock up on trousers, underwear, deodarant
4) packing > simples

Then this...

Quick note about things I remember from Korea
*Restaurants specialise in dishes, so the best ones will only have a few things on the menu - it's best to decide what you want to eat and then find a restaurant that sells it. I can't think of anywhere I went in Korea where the food wasn't fantastic. There was one occasion where we made a mistake and ended up in a 곱창 (gopchang) intestine restaurant on the first day we arrived which obviously was a shock to someone who had previously never travelled outside Europe. Thinking about it, if I plan to eat gopchang this time around as opposed to mistakenly ordering it, then I don't think it'll be an issue at all.
Another thing to add - if a restaurant's popular, expect to queue out the's well worth it!

*Prepare to be one of the few foreigners around....seriously, even in Seoul. We only saw like 4 other foreigners the whole 10 days we were there the first time, and probably the same amount the second time.

*Koreans don't stare at other koreans on the train, but be prepared to be stared at whenever you get on public transport. As well as this, there's some things that koreans do that you won't be used to back home, but I think are awesome...Firstly, they may try to grab your bags off of you when you're standing on a train so that you don't have to hold them - so kind. Also, if you're wandering around looking lost, normally someone will go out of their way to make sure you get to your destination.

*Leaving valuables on show that don't get stolen :S street carts with merchandise left out overnight, phones left on charge at the airport whilst their owners go shopping etc.
It was weird when we got out of the airport to get on a bus to the hotel. We bought the bus tickets and went to the point where the bus would be and this man started grabbing our suitcases and wheeling them away. Again, koreans being helpful and nice but frightening to the unexpecting foreigner :D 

*Usually you get free things with everything, known as 'service'. So you might get free dishes in a restaurant, free phone charms when you buy things in the markets, free water for going into a make-up store :S

*Coffee shops have signs in Korean that spell out English words (e.g. iced latte yum!) so if you learn some Hangeul beforehand it'll make your coffee days easier. This also applies to food orders, make-up shops etc. too.
*Make-up is awesome & so cheap, girls - don't bother bringing nail varnishes or eye make-up.

*Water is cheap, like 15p a bottle

*Socks are everywhere, also cheap

I'd love to add more but I'm exhausted after a long day at uni so I'll have a think about other things and add them in the next post...

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Postgraduate research and birthday planning

To begin....the past fortnight has been completely barren in terms of EPIK progress so I have little to write about. I have heard that some people have received confirmation that their documents have been sent on to provinces/cities now so I hope I will hear soon too. My coordinator reassured me that he'll let me know as soon as he does, perhaps it may be an early birthday present for me! I will be 22 years old on Wednesday and even though I'm getting older, I still get massively excited about my birthday :D I'm being treated to the musical show, 'Chicago' and we're going to eat in a really nice Korean restaurant in London called Asadal. It's one of my favourite restaurants not only because the food is fantastic but because the atmosphere is great. The food is quite pricey compared to other Korean restaurants in London, but if you're celebrating and want to splash out on Korean cuisine I would wholly recommend it - it's around £40 for two people to leave with tummies full of delicious SamGyeopSal (a pork BBQ dish meaning 'three layer') ^_^.

In other news, my postgraduate dissertation project is now in the initial testing phases which is really exciting. I am testing 4 year olds after they have been exposed to different types of television cartoons to see if the cut speed is related to their performance in attention tasks. Last week was my first testing session with a lovely little girl who was very keen to participate! Starting my project has reminded me of how well I interact with children and I just feel completely at ease with them. I find it fascinating to watch them work through problem-solving tasks and I am certainly looking forward to witnessing this with language in the classroom...roll on August!


Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Kimbap holiday

Well, it was a Bank Holiday last weekend in the UK which meant we didn't have to do any work on Monday!
So, in an effort to be productive/make tasty things, I made Kimbap (korean word for seaweed and rice) and decided I'd post here how it's made:

1. Buy some sushi rice and seaweed (kim) sheets, rice vinegar (I didn't have any but just used a smidge of normal vinegar) & your filling ingredients e.g. peppers, tuna, ham, cucumber, crab sticks etc. anything you like!

2. Cook the rice, I used about 2 cupfuls for maybe 8 sheets - I usually just make it as I go along so I don't waste any. Add a teaspoon or two of vinegar, pinch of sugar and pinch of salt to your rice, depending on how much you've cooked.

3. Let rice cool down, I usually put it on the lid of the pan and spread it out.

 4. Whilst rice is cooling, chop up or prepare your ingredients. I made 2 types of kimbap - one had crabstick, omelette and peppers, the other had tuna with mayo, cucumber and peppers. Of course, my choices were quite standard and possibly plain, so if you're feeling inventive you could try adding stuff like ham, egg mayo, cheese spread etc.

5. Lay out rolling mat covered in clingfilm, then put a sheet of kim on top with the shiny side facing down.

6. Spread rice out evenly over the sheet, leaving a small gap at the bottom (or you won't be able to seal the roll!) and a gap around the edges (no point putting rice there because it'll be wasted when you cut off the ends).

7. Place your ingredients in a line about 1/3 down the sheet

8. Begin the rolling! Carefully lift the top of the rolling mat and pull the top of the kim over the ingredients, apply a little bit of pressure to keep the roll tight. Keep rolling until you have a complete and sealed kimbap roll. If the kim at the bottom of the roll won't stick, try rubbing a dash of sesame oil along the bottom or if you don't have any, then water is fine.

9. Your sealed roll should look like this:

Then, slice off a little bit at the first end and either eat it or throw it, the ends of the roll won't be filled with ingredients like the rest of it - that's why there's no point in putting rice up close to the edges of the sheet.

10. Slice up the roll into 1cm sections and enjoy your Kimbap!

We ate ours with Ramen noodles and some radish Kimchi....delicious! There was still loads of kimbap left over for the next day too.

EPIK UPDATE: One person has received an offer now, so I'm hoping to hear within the next few weeks :D
EDIT: No offers have been received yet, false alarm...but hopefully we'll hear before the end of May where our documents have been recommended to!

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Gifts for co-teachers

There has been no advancement on the EPIK application process since my last post - a lot of people have now submitted their documents and we are all anticipating our notices of appointment which should start rolling out in a month and a half+! There are also a lot of people waiting to be interviewed - so if you're one of them then good luck, think positive and be yourself :D

I've been spending most of my evenings reading blogs or forum posts left by the EPIK intakes from previous years (mainly Fall 2011) and one common suggestion has come your co-teachers a gift from your home country! So I thought I'd write this post to highlight some of the suggestions that I have read:


I have read from many sources that honey is highly priced in korea. To quote one source -
"Another big surprise of the day was The Honey Incident. Like many kinds of food in Korea, the price of honey is outrageous. It is not unusual to see a jar of honey for W20,000 up, though others of lower repute may be had for W10000 or so."
(found at
For those of you in the States, that's nearly $18 or in UK pounds = £11, so this would certainly be a welcomed gift. In fact, there are a lot of Korean teas that are based on fruit that is preserved in honey as it is known for it's medicinal properties in Korea. For example,  유자차 Yoojacha is made from citrus fruits preserved in honey and was given to me by a Korean friend as a cold medicine - it was tastes both bitter and sweet at the same time!


You may think it is tacky or junk, but some of the people you meet in Korea may have never been to your country or even heard of the area that you are from if you don't live in a big city, so this is one of the best ways to introduce yourself to them and will save from any awkward introductions by serving as a starting topic of conversation. Ideas include: t-shirts, mugs, stationary, shot glasses for soju with motifs on, tea towels, travel card holders...have a look at your local tourist shop for ideas.
It's also a good idea to stock up on little touristy keyrings, stickers, badges etc. as kids of all ages will love receiving them as prizes for good work :D

One of the 'safe' gifts that you usually bring back from holiday for relatives and friends, biscuits and sweets will be easy to share around the staff room and will always go down well. Same goes for things like toffees, nuts and cakes that are popular in your home country. Don't really need to elaborate on this, these types of gifts go down well with everyone but if someone is particularly fussy, you know it'll get passed on to someone who appreciates it!


Coffee shops are very popular in Korea, so it is likely a coffee-based gift would be well-received. Think ground coffee or flavoured syrups that you could leave in the staff room at school.
Another gift choice is tea - I'm not sure if you have these ^ in other countries but in the UK you can buy tea in little tins. This is brilliant because when the tea is gone, the tin will serve as storage for stationary on a teacher's desk or you can buy ones that are money boxes that can be used afterwards too!


Another online suggestion is to buy skin cream from a well-known cosmetics shop either when you get to korea or from your home country. I know that the 'The Body Shop' is popular with koreans, although I'm not sure how this gift would be received by men. It may be worth waiting until you get there if you want to buy something like this, just to check the age and sex of the person you're gifting. Body Shop stores can also be found in Korea, as well as 1000s of other brands :D I am addicted to korean cosmetic shops and their freebees too!
In the UK you can sometimes get handcreams with things like lavender or royal jelly that are reasonably priced but would come across as generous gifts in Korea, soaps make nice gifts too like the ones with flowers inside.


You may want to wait until you get to Korea for this one as your co-teacher/school may be offended due to religious/personal reasons or simply because you may need the spare luggage allowance :P
If you are buying before you fly, buy some local produce like an ale (UK), wine or whiskey. If not, then SoJu is the drink of choice and you can find higher-end/'posh' SoJu in bigger supermarkets like E-Mart.


Of course, with the cost of flights and the spending money you'll need during the first month you're there, you may want to wait until your first pay-check before you splurge on gifts. It's common for teachers to bring in pizzas or cakes to share with other staff members at lunchtimes or after classes. You could also suggest taking the members of staff who you have the most contact with out for lunch and treating them.

Gift giving in Korea is a part of the culture and is not just limited to holidays or birthdays which is something that I love because I love to give presents! You might also find that your co-teacher brings you little things like stationary or small sweets (if they are nice!) so remember to return the favour, they'll appreciate it!

Anyway, I hope that was useful to at least one person...It's certainly been useful to me, if not more confusing because I now have too many suggestions to choose from! My favourite options are honey, a mug and some about you guys?


Thursday, 26 April 2012

Documents arrived!

This morning I woke up to good documents have arrived and have already been processed by my coordinator at the EPIK Office!
I am so relieved that they actually got there, but now it's time for the waiting game to see what SMOE say, so fingers crossed :)
I have to say that I am really impressed at the speed that EPIK have done things, from arranging interviews to processing my docs, all in under a month - I guess people working in Korea don't mess around! If only the service was like that in the UK...
Thanks team EPIK!

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

My journey begins

To friends, family and anyone else who finds their way here...
Like many others have done before me, and like many others will do after me, I have decided to make a blog to document my journey through the English Program in Korea (EPIK) and ultimately outline my life whilst teaching and living in South Korea!
My name is Lindsey, I will be 22 years old in May and I live in London. I have lived here all of my life, and before I travelled to South Korea 2 years ago, the nearest country I had travelled to was probably Spain! My interest in Korea started around 2-3 years ago - I studied beginners Korean at the Korean Culture Centre UK in London (for free!), and the more that I discovered about Korea and it's culture, the more I wanted to be there experiencing it first hand.

For those who are interested in my process of applying to teach in South Korea, I am going to outline my experience so far; I decided to apply to EPIK because it is a government run program, which means that I am employed by the Korean government and therefore my contract is with the Ministry of Education (MOE) that they choose to place me with. Each 'province' or 'metropolitan city' has their own office of education, where you are 'recommended' to by EPIK after you pass your interview. The alternative is to apply privately to different schools or hagwons (small schools with classes of about 10-20 that are set up for private-profit), which means that your contract may be a bit dodgy, but of course this doesn't always happen to everyone!
Anyway, after contacting someone who works for EPIK, it was suggested that I apply direct to them as it "cuts out the middleman" aka recruiters - if applying through a recruiter, you ship your documents to the recruiter and they sort it out for you and check your documents for errors (bonus!) but, it also means your documents aren't directly in the EPIK office's hands until the recruiter forwards them on...
So, after deciding to apply direct I began to start collecting documents and fill in the application form as found on EPIK's website (: to start in Fall 2012 (August). The application form process was quite straight forward, with the exception of the personal essay and lesson plan outline! It was hard for me to put into words how having a degree in psychology and (soon another in cognitive neuroscience) would be helpful for teaching English, but I think the most important part of the process is asking yourself if it is really something you want to do and essentially whether you are committed to the idea of TEFL in korea. If you are someone who is thinking about applying to EPIK for the next intake then I'd advise starting a course in TEFL asap so that when it comes to writing your lesson plan you will have a rough idea of what to write! There are also many resources online with lesson plans for TEFL, so I did a google search and researched what is expected in a good plan - one good website I found is:
The process of sending off the application was a bit nerve wrecking for me because I was on holiday at the time (2nd April) and worried about time zone differences. Thankfully it got received and my interview was scheduled for 6.30am on Thursday 12th April.

The interview
I logged into Skype at around 6.10am, waiting for an add for what felt like hours! At 6.30am on-the-dot I got added by 'EPIK coordinator' and was promptly called...the guy was really nice and down to earth. First off we went through my application and he gave me some corrections to make, then it was on to the actual interview - I can't remember all the questions I was asked, but the best thing you can do to prepare is to just be yourself. I did write down possible questions but in the end when I was being asked, the answers just came because I had mentally prepared so much for that moment and I felt passionate about what I had to say.
The questions lasted about 20 minutes, during which the line cut out because of the amount of people doing interviews in the EPIK office! Luckily, I was called back and he went through some final things such as: whether I was aware I have no control over where I'm placed; that I know marijuana is illegal in Korea; that I am willing to commute up to 60 minutes to my school; that I can be placed in multiple schools etc. < these things were also in the application form so it was all easy going.
For me, the interview went quite smoothly (apart from the cut-out!) even though I was mega nervous. The coordinator was really nice and I felt like he really enjoys his job which is good! Overall, the interview lasted me around 35 minutes.

The results
I was told it would take up to 3 days or so before I heard the results of my interview, but thankfully I heard the day after (Friday 13th)! I passed and could begin collecting my documents to be shipped.

The documents
The coordinator attached:
- a contract for Seoul MOE (where I will hopefully be recommended - as it is first-come-first-served for places, you don't get recommended until they have all your documents at the EPIK office).
- a sworn declaration that I would finish my TEFL course (it is compulsory this year to have 100 hours at least)
- an agreement outlining things like I won't drink during orientation, won't take drugs, be sexist or racist etc.

As well as 2 copies of each of the above, I would need to include the following:
- 2 copies of the application formA copy of university transcripts that are sealed, I had ordered them beforehand and they cost me £15 for 2 sets (might need one for the VISA process)
2 copies of the Seoul consideration form (sent with original application form)
- 2 recommendation letters (must be from different people, and places usually e.g. uni and work)
- An apostilled copy of my degree and a photocopy (cost £33)
- An apostilled criminal background check (original) and a photocopy (cost £35 for the CBC and £33 for apostille)
- Proof of TEFL course (luckily I've completed so I just photocopied all my PDF certificates, cost was around £150 I think). If you haven't completed, then you'll need a 'letter of enrolment' and you'll need to finish the course by a date outlined by EPIK for the term you're applying for.

All documents that require signatures need to be physically signed in pen ink (not printed signatures)

The postage

After trying for ages to book postage with UPS or FedEx, I found out you need a special login that they send you so opted to send with Parcelforce. Big mistake. Although Parcelforce postage cost £50 with discount, they did not even show up to pick up my documents, and didn't call me to say they wasn't coming!
So...I decided to call up UPS (should've done this first) and they quoted £65 for 2 day delivery. As I'd spent a lot of money already, the extra £15 seemed like nothing for the peace of mind that my documents would actually get collected from me and be sent so quickly as positions with EPIK are 'first come, first served'. I am currently tracking the process of my little packet of documents - it has flown from Stansted, UK, stopped off at Germany and is now currently waiting in China...wish it was me actually!

TEFL Course

I saved this till last because I don't really know where to put it. Well, I started my TEFL course mid-January and have just finished it (23rd April). I took the course with i-to-i ( and it cost me £150 because I bought it on GROUPON ( You get 3 months to complete and then you have to pay for an extension if you can't complete in this time. There are always deals for TEFL courses on groupon so if you're planning ahead, you can keep checking each day until a deal pops up. The course with i-to-i covers all the basics of teaching English, from grammar to constructing lesson plans. Although it is quite repetitive in content (e.g. the main 60 hour course has elements of the 20 hour grammar course too), it ensures that the information you are learning sticks in your mind. I completed 5 of the 6 specialist modules (each 10 hours), all were fairly interesting and the majority involved constructing a lesson plan for each of the circumstances (e.g. teaching business english, large classes etc.). Assignments get marked promptly - the quickest time I had mine marked in was 10 minutes! Overall, the course was challenging but not too complicated - I guess the most important thing I learned was that the English language is mega complex and I can definitely sympathise with those who are learning I hope I can be a good teacher and explain it well!

Timeline: EPIK Fall 2012 application process 
April 2nd - Application sent via email
April 5th - Interview notification
April 12th - Interview
April 13th - I passed! (Friday 13th is lucky for me :D)
April 24th - Documents sent
April 26th - Documents arrived at Incheon, await confirmation from coordinator that they have been received!

Total money spent so far
1) Transcripts - £15 for two sets
2) CRC from Disclosure Scotland - £35 incl. postage
3) Solicitors signature of certification before apostille process - £10 for CRC and degree copy
4) Apostilles for CRC and degree copy - £66 incl. postage
5) TEFL course - £150 (This doesn't apply to me, but if you take the course with i-to-i and need a letter of enrolment, it will cost you another £10)
6) Postage with UPS - £65
= £341!!! Wow, make sure you are serious about going to Korea and teaching before you apply!

All in a month's work ^_^