London: Trips and Tricks

A couple of weeks ago, following the Paris trip, I was in London and looking forward to seeing all the historical sights and everything Harry Potter related. The primary purpose of this post is to outline some of the things I did but to also give other first time England travelers a bit of a head start.

Day one: Traveling from Paris was so much easier by train as it is easier to travel with wine in your suitcase and you don’t have to deal with all the misery that altitude has on your eardrums. The first day was just a quick walk around of sorts as I had an online final to take for school, bleh, but it was one of the most relaxing days of travel.

  •  Travel tip: There is a chain of hotels called Premier Inn and they have a sub-chain called “the hub”. I would highly recommend checking them out as they are affordable AND they are close to London’s main attractions.

On the list of activities for the day was a stop at Westminster Abbey, the London Bridge, Tower of London, and the London Eye (now renamed Coca-Cola London Eye).

  • Travel Tip: If you have apple pay on your phone you can scan your debit/credit card at the turnstile as you enter and exit the Underground you save a lot of money. This is because electronically it picks the best pay rate for all of your travel times throughout the day and compiles it into one payment on your card (at the end of the day). Some trains will also let you use this method!

On our second day we walked around, stopping to have a proper tea and scone, before heading to the showing of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 and 2. If you are a Harry Potter fan this is a must see as it can only be described as enthralling, magically, and unparalleled. If you can’t make the play you can, however, check out the Warner Bros. Studio near London where all of the franchise was filmed! It will take a train (use apple pay) and a bus (2.50 round-trip) to get there but it is completely worth it. We went on our last day and it was an amazing way to end the trip! Between these days, we went to Oxford to check out the University as it is one of the oldest and I love academic stuff. Like many college towns, it has its own unique atmosphere and some of that has to do with the buildings, literature and history of the town itself but overall it should be one of the things to check off your bucket list.

 

Back to Basics

Back to chronicling getting ready to go to Korea and I only have a couple of updates this time around. At the beginning of November I booked my flight to Korea and it was roughly $800 for a one way ticket. I went through Korvia’s partner, Orange Travel, and had them book the flight for me as it would save me about $80 when all is said and done. I have to say that once I got the booking confirmation I went through a range of emotions, ranging from happy to sad to ecstatic to worry. Overwhelmingly though, I have only happy thoughts about going on this journey and getting out there into the world.

Additionally, when I got back from London this past weekend I submitted my passport, travel documents, and the fee for the visa in the final step. If all is approved I will have my visa/passport in hand in about a week and a half. I think that once that arrives everything will feel more finalized and permanent and I’ll go through a similar range of emotions about getting read to go.

It is normal to have this type of range of emotion because no matter how ready you are to travel, explore the world, or live abroad you are still leaving something behind, whether it be friends or family. As long as you have people who can be your emotional support through it all you can conquer anything!

November in Paris

Over Thanksgiving break from school I was lucky to be able to travel to France and England (next post) and it was a wonderful experience. While I have been to England before this was my first time in Paris and it was new and a different kind of challenge. I have been to Italy and England and I never felt a language barrier as I can speak both English and Italian. However, I have no good working knowledge of French so at times I felt overwhelmed and worried I wouldn’t be able to convey what I wanted to or with accuracy. Probably a good indicator of how much I’ll need to work on learning Korean before I head there!

Anyway, I took an overnight flight from the US to Paris and flew into CDG and arrived the following morning. The first day in Paris consisted of getting to our lodging and then finding a nice little coffee shop to consume some caffeine in order to make it through the day. The cafe was quaint and full of greenery and the most amazing quiche!

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Cafe in Square Jacques-Bidaut, Paris

After a coffee and perusal of the city we went back to our hotel and took a brief nap as I am not the best at dealing with jet-lag. Following that we walked over to the Louvre, which on Friday nights is free to everyone after 6pm, to check out some of the amazing art as well as the building itself. It was a great way to end the start of my journey!

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La Louvre

The Big Day (One of Many)

Today was a big day in my journey to get to Korea! I received my form from the immigration office to take to the Korean Consulate here in the U.S. and that is the final step in the visa application process. But that is not the biggest news of the day at all.

The news of the day is that the manager of my school has set my entry date as February 13th and that my ticket has been booked! The cost of a one way ticket was a little under $800 and while that is a bit more expensive than normal it is still a good price. I will be arriving in the middle of the Winter Olympics so that is partially way it could have been more expensive but I know nothing of ticket prices and my school covers up to $900 of a plane ticket so mine was well under that.

Through the ups and downs I have been waiting for a moment like this that is like a chorus ringing through my head singing “Alleluia! Alleluia! Al-le-luia!” and I couldn’t help but chuckle happily to myself!

Next week’s post will be about my week long trip split between Paris, London, and Bristol! See you then!

The wait… and still waiting

Getting all of your documents in on time in order to apply for a visa can be a headache but once everything is in Korea the next step is to just wait. I hate waiting, but hey its a lesson in patience… Anyway, this past week I was able to get all of my documents in and have the manager at my school set a meeting with the immigration office in Daejeon. Once that meeting is set, the manager will go and deliver my documents in person. Simply enough, and once immigration has everything I have to wait 2~3 weeks before I hear about the status of the application. From there it will be another 5~7 business days before I receive the necessary paperwork.

Now some of the things that I want to expand upon are timelines. 2 of the things that take the longest are the apostilled FBI background check and the apostilled degree/letter of expected graduation. That is because in order to get the background check through “normal” channels it takes about 2~3 months to receive a result, send it to be apostilled, and receive it back.  Which if you’re in a time crunch like I was, this is not feasible and was one of the reasons I went through a recruiter like Korvia. For me it took about 2 weeks total because Korvia partners with a FBI-approved channeler and I got my results in about 4 days for $50. Another Korvia partner, Monument Visa Service, helps by expediting the apostille process and from the time I faxed my information to the time I had it back in hand was about 8 days later for $50 as well. I recommend services like this as you receive documents sooner and the sooner you get things the easier it is to get everything in within the 4 week deadline.

Now the Degree/Letter of Expected Graduation is a different story as this is something that is taken care of by the State Department in the state you live in/graduated in. Indiana does not charge for the Apostille (Go Indiana!) and you can walk in and have your stuff done in a matter of 2 days. Unfortunately, I mailed mine in and had to wait about a week and half  before I asked my dad to walk in with a copy and get it done for me (turns out the person in charge of apostilling documents had been on vacation so maybe thats why and my recruiter was not thrilled but hey whats a girl to do!). Go Dad!

Deadlines are very important when trying to get a work visa in any country so remember to start early that way you are not surprised if things take longer than normal to be completed. Also, make sure you read up on the type of visa you should be receiving so that you can have an idea of what will be required of you! Once you have checked off the box, kick back and enjoy the wait (or in my case try to get all my stuff for graduation on order)!

 

Explained: the E2 visa

I realized that while I said what type of visa I was trying to get, I never explained what type of visa it was. There are many different visa type in Korea and the particular one I will be applying for is an E category visa. There are A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, M, and T visa types and each group has sub categories that fit with a specific description of what the applicant can do while on a particular visa. As I am going to Korea as a native English Teacher I will be applying for an E2 visa or a visa for a “Foreign language instructor who plan on teaching conversational language” (Wikipedia). Now under this visa I am not allowed to teach grammar or literature, only conversation.

This is an important distinction as doing more than you are authorized to do can cause you to be deported or issued a 30 days notice to leave the country. This is a current “problem” for some English Teachers in Korea right now as these teachers are finding out that they have been doing things not allowed in the visa description and their school cut corners (sometimes knowingly). While, it is in no way the fault of the teacher as they english contract doesn’t always have the exact translation and therefore all these teachers are seeing is “foreign language instructor”, it still is still illegal.

Now if you are going through a government program such as EPIK, GEPIK, or SMOE this is not something you will have a problem with (after all the government also issues visas). If you are going to work for a private institution you need to ask questions such as “What will my jobs be?” “What type of visa did you plan on giving me?” and then do your own research so you know what you can and cannot do. If you have time you can also search youtube to learn more about these types of things.

Hopefully, this will help all of you as you start along the visa process!

E2, I see what you did there..

There are so many things that go into preparing to live in another country and while some things are easy, others are mini nightmares, like in a holy crap I jumped off the deep end and forgot I couldn’t swim kind of a way.

When you accept a job to teach in Korea you will find that there are many steps in applying for an E2 visa and if you are like me and have yet to graduate this process can get a whole lot more complicated. Thankfully, going through Korvia means that I don’t have to duke it out with the immigration office in Daejeon over the wording of my documents but it is certainly disheartening to be hitting such a hefty roadblock so soon. I have submitting my background check (notarized and apostilled), 2 letters of recommendation, sealed transcript, 3 copied of the signed contract with my school, TESOL certificate, my resume, a copy of my passport, and passport quality photos. All good and then the catch… Korea needs an apostilled version of your diploma or in place of it an apostilled Letter of Expected Graduation. As I will not receive my diploma until the end of December I opted for the graduation letter, only to find out (and though my advisor had copied the language of the example letter) that my letter would not be accepted until my semester finished in December. It is frustrating and costly but I have hope that it will all work out in the end.

Not the end of the world as it only takes 3 weeks from submission to turn around in the visa process but the question remains on if the school I signed a contract with will waited the couple months until I have officially ended college. I want to be a transparent source of information as I had not heard of people having a problem like this. Therefore, as I find out more information about what will happen to my job, I will detail it here so that if other people have to go through this they can see how things were handled through me as an example.

Fingers crossed!

Fast Forward

I have neglected to post in awhile as life caught up to me and proceeded to whack me into shape. Alas, I have gotten it together (as one can try anyway) and am back to update/discuss my journey to Korea. A lot has happened in the 2 months since I decided that teaching in South Korea had to become a reality rather than a dream.

Roughly a month ago I received an email from a lovely lady named Jessie, a consultant at Korvia, about a position that she thought would be a good fit for me. I was impressed by the fact that although she was not “my” consultant she had looked through other consultants’ teacher profiles to fit what the school was looking for. Long story short, I got an interview with the school and on the day of my Skype interview Jessie was there to help me along. I was able to Skype with her beforehand to check the audio and video feedback and to ask any questions about the interview. Once that was done the real interview started and went fabulously! One week after the interview, I heard back from Jessie and was thrilled to be offered a job in Daejeon, South Korea for an affiliate of the International school in the area. Now I had known that if I was offered a job I would sign the contract in no time at all but I also knew that I would need a bit of time to process the fact that, assuming everything went as planned I would starting a new life in 5 months and that thought was, in all honesty, a bit scary.

I am a worry-wart by nature and as fun loving as I can be, I can get tripped up along the way. Once I accepted the job I, like many others, thought it would be smooth sailing from here on out but if you have lived in another country before you know that the visa process can bring you back to reality VERY quick. In an effort to keep this from trailing on I will talk more about the visa process in tomorrow’s post!

Anecdote: Being a student in the last semester of University can be daunting as you try to navigate the world and secure a job for the future. However, over the years (and other jobs in-between) I have learned that being true to who you are as person makes you shine in interviews and that humility in admitting to the things you don’t know shows that as a human you have flaws but you can overcome them as you grow! So pep-talk aside hah You Can Do It!

 

The Interlude- A Dream

After dealing with a family matter over the past weeks I found myself back here and wondering where to start again. Loss makes us stronger as we move forward with our lives but it also makes us evaluate the way we have lived our lives up to the present moment. Deep stuff, I know, but I have found my path to be even more enforced. Whether you want to teach abroad or you already live abroad away from family, you have to take on a different mindset as if a family emergency happens you may not be able to drop everything and go in a instant (if you can, you are a very lucky individual). You also come to realize that even worlds apart the love from family is the strongest pillar to support you.

Sometimes its easy to get caught up in your dreams and you fail to take into account the reality/entirety that every part of that dream entails. And while people have said to me that dreams are blinders to living a full life, I disagree. Dreams are ways in which we find the things we love and they should grow as we do. Dreams don’t always come true and they are not always what we envision but they are rays of hope when we struggle, when we fall, and the lights that keep guiding us to the peak after the long metaphorically climb.

My initial dream was to teach English as a second language and I wasn’t picky as to where I would teach (this was Grade 9 mind you). In Grade 11, my growing love for Korean music and culture made my dream grow to perhaps teaching in Korea. My dream grew as my likes grew and I grew. So to all those dreamers out there, dream with full hearts and starlit eyes as the future is only limited by you. You are the ones who are the masters of your own fate and as long as you are true to yourself, you’ll find the lights even in the darkest of places. [That was a little Dead Poets Society/Harry Potter mash-up for you all :)]

So Dream On~

Until next time!

The Recruiter

Many people start the teaching process on their own and while I commend you, I also think that going through a recuiter can save you time and a future headache. The recruiter I am going to talk about is Korvia, and as they are the only one I have contact with, they are the only recruiter I can give accurate information on. That being said there are more than one channel/recruiter to go through and I would advise you research which one is the best fit for you.

Korvia Consulting is a recruiting company based in Seoul, South Korea that helps to place native English speakers into both private and public school as an ESL teachers. Korvia has connections to EPIK, GEPIK, and SMOE and as such you get the chance to decide which one to apply for. One of the big reasons I picked Korvia was the fact that they have access to both private AND public schools, they help with the Visa process when you are matched with a school, and will get you from the airport when you arrive.

Now onto the specifics~ the time from when  I applied to when I was contacted by a recruiter was about a day and a half. Which is a very fast turn-around time if I might add! Anyway, from there I scheduled a skype interview for a couple days later. I had my interview with a recruiter named Victoria Bae and although the alloted time for the interview was 30 minutes, we talked for about an hour.

Before I went into the interview I googled what types of questions would be asked and what it was like. Overall the reviews were across the board, with some people saying it seemed unprofessional and there were other voices in the background, etc. Yes, I could here voices in the background but it never took away from the conversation and it didn’t bug me in any way. Victoria went over my resume and asked my clarifying question on things she wanted to understand better, if I was healthy enough to work in another country (Korea wants drug-free, healthy teachers in their schools), and why I wanted to go to Korea. This interview was more or less a talk about myself and why I thought I should be a teacher. It was a straight-forward interview and from there I got the green light to continue on.

The continuation consisted of obtaining 1~2 letters of recommendation, creating an introductory video (will be discussed in a following post), and making sure I had the right timing to get my FBI background check done and sent in.

Stay tuned for Friday’s post about creating an introductory video!

 

 

Image from http://www.korvia.com