If you’ve ever considered going overseas to teach, I tell you there is no easier way to take the plunge than by joining EPIK (English Program in Korea.) I don’t want to come off sounding like an ad for the program, but once we received news on what day to arrive, we never had to worry about a thing other than getting ourselves to Incheon airport. We paid for the tickets up front but will be reimbursed with our first pay, and once we arrived at the airport and went to the EPIK check in counter we had nothing more to worry about. They got us to our training site, accommodated us, fed us, and ran us through a week-long series of lectures. They gave us (what we hope is) everything we need to know about teaching in Korea through the week of lectures from Korean teachers, foreign teachers living in Korea, historians, and so on. Basic Korean lessons were provided, and we even had a cultural field trip. On our final day our MOE’s (Minister’s of Education from our designated regions) arrived to greet us and took us to our new locations. If anyone wanting to teach abroad ever had any hesitation about how they might set that new life up, I tell you EPIK is the way to go. You literally have nothing to worry about from the time you arrive in Korea to the time you go to your placement.
It gave us an immediate example of how serious Korea takes its English education program. Here is a country who rose out of complete destruction only 60 years ago to grow into one of the world’s leading economies. They have their eye on the future, and by pumping massive government funds into their English curriculum you can see how serious they also take their role on the global stage. There is a massive movement in Korea to learn English. Not only is it taught in the public school system, there are endless “Hogwans” – private schools, where Koreans can learn English outside of the school system. They have a television station dedicated strictly to teaching basic English. Their newspaper has a supplement to do the same. Their desire to grow is amazing, and it makes me feel for the first time that I live in a truly progressive culture. There are other factors lending to that as well.
Korea’s approach to energy consumption is a refreshing and inspiring new experience for us. Dark hallways lined with light sensors; as you walk down the hall, the lights turn on every few steps, reminding me of the Michael Jackson video “Billie Jean”. By the time you reach your door the lights behind you are already shutting themselves off in the same time that you came down the hall. Kitchens often have one element (and no oven), and gas-powered stand alone elements are extremely popular, available at most stores for less than twenty dollars. Things not in use are unplugged, street lights are seldom used (though the ambient light from the ubiquitous neon signs seem to do all of that), small, energy efficient appliances (what’s a clothes dryer? A bathtub?) and hot water heaters right next to the shower that can be shut off when not needed. As I mentioned earlier, Korea is a country with no oil or gas resources so they are extremely mindful of waste. What a stark contrast to Canada and what I see there.
More in a bit.