Tag Archives: ESL

125 lbs to Seoul: 5 Words to Remember When Packing

3 Oct

There are 2 types of packers in this world: the Kitchen Sinkers and the Chemists. I am a chemist, one of those freaks who packs two weeks before the trip, then pack and re-packs and packs again. In my head I’m slowly shaving the fat and assembling the best possible suitcase. In reality my fellow compulsive packers and I are all just waiting for the inevitable moment when we put our bags on the airport scale and receive our final verdicts is.

There are 5 word that will help you in your quest for perfect packing.

1. LimitsThe only good thing about international flights, beside free wine, yes I said free wine and beer, the only thing you pay for is hard liqueur- usually. I digress, the only good thing is you can normally take  125 lbs worth of stuff with you. It’s usually two checked bags weighing no more than 50 lbs per bag, and 25 lbs in your carry-on and one personal item (purse or murse).  Here are the links for the airlines that are heading in the general direction of Korea, Korean Air and Asiana Air . The links will help you figure out your baggage limit.

2. Weather. The easiest thing to do is look up your city on weather.com or even just Wikipedia and check out the annual highs and low for each city for the month(s) you’re going. Can you get any jackets that will do double duty? Nice enough for a night out and possibly snowboarding the next day? North Face has a new line of stylish coat specifically their Grace Trench Coat that can roll up to the size of a parka but has all the stylish of your favorite Macintosh and its half the weight. 

3. Schedule. You should be honest with your self about what your planning on doing during this trip. If it’s all beaches and night clubs, then pack sundresses and flip-flops. However, if its museums, night clubs, and a side job then pack a couple nice shirts, some pants and a going out dress and heels, you get the idea. Personally, I know that as much as I enjoy the great outdoors I will be going out four to five days a week and hiking once or twice a week.  There is no reason I would need to bring five pairs of hiking pants and my hiking boots even my regular work out stuff with sneakers will be just fine. From what I’ve heard Seoul is a city that dresses to the nines 24/7. You should also see how everyone else is dressing before you go if you can. It may sound a very conformist but from what I’ve heard if I dressed the way I do in Seattle in Seoul I would look like a bum. I understand to each his own and all that nonsense but in some countries this isn’t just an issue of fashion.  I am talking about a country’s traditions and views. In many countries all over the world personal appearance is a matter of pride for people. They do not wear ratty t-shirts, and they’ll wonder why you insist on doing so. How you dress can also help you when it comes to security as well. With many crooks targeting travelers it helps to disgust yourself as much like a local as possible not flashing around that fancy new phone or camera helps as well.

4. Duration. This is more for the backpacker question but for me a one year TESOL contract is just the way it is. You definitely want to think about how many seasons your going to go through.  Also you should know if you’ll be able to buy the clothes you’ll need in the country your going. I’ve heard it’s a problem for busty women and giant guys (or vice versa) in asian countries. My rule of thumb is for 6 months+ of travel bring enough clothes for 3 weeks. But when you have more that 2 seasons to pack for I say, for every 7 days you pack for 2 of those should be season specific.

To review the duration equation is:

(7 outfits x 3 weeks) = outfits for <6 months 

[ (5 outfits x 3 weeks)- (2 seasonal outfits x 3 weeks) ] = outfits for <6 months for variable seasons            

Total Days Traveling/2 (or 3 if your feeling really bold)                                                            

5. Money. Not really a rule but an undeniable truth. I don’t know how many times I found cool items at St Vinny’s and other local charity shops for next to nothing. Items that you can guarantee will always be available these are also items you DON’T NEED TO PACK. These “always available” items are typically jeans, shirts, or dresses. Even Helen Mirren shops at charity shops when she goes abroad.

ESL Part 3: Visa Application

11 Sep

Once you receive your issuance number your ready for your application.

  1. Visa Application (and sometimes Interview)

I foolishly thought because I received my issuance number I was all set and my plane ticket was on the way, I was unfortunately mistaken. Your issuance letter is what you need to apply, and believe it or not just because you receive you issuance letter does not mean your guranteed to receive an E-2 visa. It’s all part of the application (which is conveniently linked below).


After filling out the application and attaching a passport sized photo, you will want to run it down to the near South Korea Consulate or pop it in the mail addressed to the Consulate ASAP- do not walk-RUN! TIME IS TICKING AWAY! Below is a link to the current consulates in the U.S (as of 9/10/11).


You may also need to interview and or bring a copy of your transcripts. I personally didn’t not need to to either, but its best to be prepared.  I’ve heard the interviews can go from a few minutes to 30 minutes and can cover the obvious, “why do you want to go to Korea?”, to “what is your teaching experience?” and even “do you enjoy taking drugs?”.

On Tuesday I dropped off my application in person to the lovely ladies at the Korean Consulate in Seattle with my $45 (remember cash or money order only).  I waited about 3 days and picked it up this past Friday. After you’ve gotten over the shock of seeing your visa and holding it in your hot little hands, its best to letting you school/recruiter know your visa number ASAP. I received my travel itinerary over the weekend. Because I left things so late I only have about 2 weeks till I leave, I’ve found most people have between 4 to 8 weeks. So now its time to get some farewell drinks in before you head off.

P.S. Learn Korean!

Now that the hard parts are over its time to try to learning as much as you can because no one like being the a**hole who can’t even say “hello” or “thank you”. With a quick trip to iTunes you can find plenty of FREE ESL podcasts and lessons. Most with come with links to websites where they want you to pay  for more lessons. That being said it’s still cheaper than Rosetta Stone. Since I’m a cheap-skate I opted for KoreanClass101.com, the website is great and the dialogue shows up on my iTouch while I’m listening. So far I can say:

Hello: Ahn-nyung-ha-se-yo

Thank you: Kam-sam-nida

Korean BBQ: Bul-go-gi

Delicious: Mas-is-seo

It’s a work in progress…

Packing List for Korea

6 Sep

(provided by a well travelled totally awesome ESL teacher friend of mine – without her permission)

– sheets (I’d go full-sized, just in case you get lucky with your bed situation…the sheets here SUCK)
– feather bed pad (if you like a soft bed…if you like hard beds, then Korea is definitely the country for you)
– pillows
– towels (hard to find anything bigger than a hand towel here)
– robe
– shower loofa
– deodorant
– toothpaste
– lotion (it’s expensive here)
– tampons
– bras & underwear (sizes can be an issue here…as can quality)
– shampoo & conditioner (only if you’re brand-sensitive…I’m doing okay with what I have, but I do miss American brands)
– medicine (like ibuprofin, birth control, etc)
– favorite, non-perishable foods (mac & cheese, oatmeal, etc.)

ESL Part 2: Gathering the documents

4 Sep

After you’ve received your contract or even before you received it you can start getting your documents in order.

2. Rounding up the following documents:

  • Apostilled* Criminal Background Check certified by the FBI and apostilled by the State Department (Secretary of State). Your CBC is invalid after 6 months.
  • Apostilled*copy of your bachelors degree must be apostilled by your State Secretary. You should plan on bringing your original with you to Korea
  • A copy of your passport
  • Five passport sized photos
  • Signed contract with all pages
  • Self Medical Check (your recruiter will send you with your contract)
  • Two sealed copies of your Official Transcripts

It’s best to start as early as you can, even before you receive job offer. You will spend a lot of time waiting for your transcripts (3 weeks), your diploma copy must be apostilled by your State Secretary (4 weeks), and you all important Criminal Background Check will be  processed (6 weeks-8 weeks) and then apostilled by the State Department (3 weeks).

The Federal Criminal Background Check (CBC) is easy enough. I went down to the Seattle Police Department and had my finger prints done, took 5 mins then dropped in the mail with the cover letter provided by the FBI on their website (see the link below)


When you send your prints off be sure to included a self-addressed envelope with adequate postage. This process can take up to 8 weeks, mine took 6 weeks. After you receive your FBI certified CBC pop it in an another envelope and mail it off to the State Department, yes, all the way back to Washington. It will take about 3 weeks and around the same time you should also received your apostilled diploma copy from the State Secretary in Olympia, WA.

You have to keep an eye on the calendar because the CBC is invalid after 6 months. I waited 2 months after getting all my documents together to find a job. Now I’m 6 weeks shy of that 6 month mark.

ESL Part 1: Finding a Job

4 Sep

The next few posts will outline  the steps you need to follow in order to get your E-2 and start teaching.

1. Finding a job

  • Dave’s ESL Cafe (www.daveseslcafe.com), this site have forums, multiple job boards and even lesson plans. This where most people look first, however there are a lot of scams out there. The #1 rule I’ve learnt is you should never pay for recruiting services. I’ve had friends go to other countries and paid for the TESOL certificate and with that came a guranteed job- that is a different case.
  • It is also worth looking in to government sponsored programs like EPIK (Korea), JET (Japan), NET (Hong Kong), etc.
  • I found mine through http://www.goodenglish1st.net

In Korea there are three different types of employers for prospective ESL teachers: public schools (government run programs usually), private schools, and hagwons (private language institutes). When I was searching I didn’t find many private school programs, and if I wanted to work for a public school I needed to go thru EPIK, which only accepts teachers around September and February- it is also highly competitive and doesn’t seem to pay as much for a first time ESL teacher, how ever you do have the job security and more public holiday off than working for a hagwon. Most first time teachers work for a hagwon. In a hagwon there are typically two shifts- an AM and PM. My contract states I will be working from 2:30pm to 9:30pm Monday thru Friday. I get 10 paid vacation days and most public holidays off. The typical salary for a first time teacher is between 2.0 and 2.7- this is based on the lowest and highest I was personally offered, you will also usually get a private studio apartment- usually furnished (video to come).

Back in the U.S.AAAAAAA

25 Apr

cooplands on my days off

hollyoaks, emmerdale, home and way, neighbours, corrie

pints and the old men that drink ’em

cheap flights to europe

train trips to leed and other places

british music (kaiser cheifs, VV brown, klaxons, etc.)

duvet days

ham and cheese toasties

cheeze and onion toasties

knowing people

trips to my favorite surf shops


the beach





double decker buses

gossiping and texting with my friends

emailing with louise

dinners/lunch with nicole

going out with sarah (first person to ever get me to wear a dress out to a club!)

steak pasties

rugby games with mark and lucy

over salted and over starched meals

potatoes (I swear they don’t taste the same)

nights out in the ‘boro

whirl-wind-never-thought-it-would-ever-happen weekends away

Milano continues…

18 Apr

so this is supposed to be about Milan but Paris is still nagging at me- I’ve fallen hard and I know its because nothing like this has ever happened to be before.


If I go back seeing him will be top on my list and thats just something I can’t lie to myself about. But I dont’ know if thats a good idea- one of 2 things is going to happen: a. I’m going to go and met him and see the sight and just be smitten all over again or b. its going to be shit and I’m going to hate it and never want to come back.

If with the amount of time I’m taking to think about it, I’m feeling drained.

If there was a soundtrack to paris it would be:
Eyes on fire: blue foundations
When you touch me: freemasons
Love Story: Taylor Swift
your Love: the outfield

So apparently I’m the only loser who goes to bed early. I’m just not stoked about traveling alone after having a weekend with someone. you know? Ugh! I was so amped abotu doing Paris on my own and then whatever happened happened and then the next day I just felt like one half of 2 out on my own for the day but I knew I’d be able to go back to being one. If that makes any sense at all. God you can really tell I’ve been lone for most of my life.

So laying in my cam bed in the coolest hostel I’ve ever been to i realized this trip may have been a huge mistake. Cramming 3 trips into 3 weeks leaving 3 days between each may have been a huuuuge mistake. I love traveling but I also looove sleeping.

I think the best way I travel is moving to a place and then getting some non-career job. i’ve noticed at the jobs you meet the nicest people- the REAL people who will invite you out and you can go out and have a fab time the way the locals do, like working at the ambassador I had the best summer!!! really just awesome nights out! at the mansion house- no so much.

Anyways- back to Milano-I’m in the suburbs about a 10 minute walk from Loreto- so tommorrow I’m going to the Duomo and see everything else tommorrow. So far the best part of Italy has been the people. The 2 old guys in the watch store and Christina the baker 🙂 But like a said it the suburbs- I’ve started noticing the big city centers are the same everywhere- full of non- locals and all trying to be from the city their now living it. It sound hypocritical but I hate that. I love the culture big cities offer, muesums, great sights and stuff but uuugh if I wanted to get proposioned by a guy from Argentina and Uganda I’D GOTO THOSE COUNTRIES!!! Just LEAVE ME ALONE!!!!

Ah! whatever- tommorrow will be better and i’ll get to see the Castello and hopefully take some amazing pics!!!

In he back of my head I keep thinking about Paris (the louvre, Pantheon, Catacombs and Versailies)- alll of it! You know when something is just nagging at you? Paris is nagging at me, like you didn’t already know this. I’m going- no more dancing around it- I’m foregoing Barcelona for Paris and who knows what else?! I just need to get my tickets and hostel booked and I’ll be sorted!

Ciao Bella! Milano

30 Mar