I sneak in one last goodbye call to my mom before the flight attendant shakes her finger at me, and we’re off. I’m in the air, going 500mph away from familiar Vancouver International Airport, speeding through the sky towards Seoul Icheon airport, towards what will be my new home for the next year.
Landing. Looking for the bus. The right bus. The right bus to take me to city air terminal in Seoul. Looking for the ticket machine. Wow! Unexpectedly, the machine accepted my Canadian bank card. Up until this point, I had thought that foreigners would only be able use their native cards at Korean ATM’s. I’m off to a good start. The sheer mass of people and buses amazes me. Things are a blur. My bags are so heavy. Why did I pack 6 pairs of shoes?
I arrive at the luxurious 4-star Coatel Hotel, in the district of Gangnam in Seoul. I muse over what has happened so far. I flew across the world. This is it, this is what I’ve been waiting so long to begin. The Great Korean Adventure!
Gangnam district, Seoul.
Monday morning has arrived. Myself and my fellow Chungdahm teaching hotel-mates wake up at the crack of dawn to prepare any last minute details that we may need in the coming day. We are told not to eat anything because our medical exam will be taking place in the afternoon. We head downstairs and are in awe at how many others have made the journey to South Korea to teach with Chungdahm. We are shuttled to the training center, to which the entire ride is spent with my face pressed against the window trying to take everything in; this city is truly monumentally astounding.
Commemorative statue of anti-colonialist activist Kang Woo-kyu at Seoul Station.
We arrive to the training center and find our way to the 5th floor, finally, by taking the fire exit route. Answers the question, how many ESL teachers does it take to find the front door? About 25. We are divided into our prospective groups depending on our allotted programs and begin orientation. Immediately, I grasp how much work is expected of me during training week, I had heard warnings, but now it was reality. Our trainer jumps right into it, showing us the computer programs we will be using during the year, and what we should have prepared for tomorrow. It’s finally sinking in, I am to become an educator. A real live educator. I somehow feel unprepared for this, but my trainer assures us that she will provide us with the knowledge and expertise needed to have a successful first day in the classroom.
Okay, now we are heading to the medical exam. They tell us to dress in robes and wait, to my horror I imagine western hospital gowns which are known for being perpetually breezy, although, to my surprise the robes were very similar to taekwondo uniforms. From there we are ushered through the assembly line. The assembly line of extremely efficient and thorough nurses at the health center. One exam after the other, it was a whirlwind of needles and heart rates. I kept thinking to myself, if this were to be taking place in Canada, with 25 people showing up all needing every possible examination offered, while also conducting everyday patients, it would take weeks, but in just 2 short hours we were all out of there.
The rest of the day and night is spent preparing our mock lessons for the second day of training. Surprisingly, I have not felt the time change at all. Perhaps it is because a 13 hour time difference from my home in Ottawa is a simple switch between night and day.
It’s Tuesday morning, the alarm goes off excruciatingly early. We rise but the sun hasn’t yet. We take the subway to our training center, and arrive without any hiccups, however, we owe our success to the Seoul subway app. The mock teaching sessions were nerve racking but enlightening. I learned a lot today, but tomorrow will be better, there is a lot of room for improvement. It has yet to sink in that I am in South Korea, as all I am focusing on now is successfully completing training. I can't wait until I can finally explore Seoul and experience all it has to offer.