Day 1: New Job, New Adventure

Monday was my first day of work/training for my new job. It is really difficult to explain the concept of the English Village, but I will attempt to do that before I tell you about my job. To make a long story short, an English Village is a little town created by the Korean government where Koreans go to experience the English-speaking world in an immersion environment without dealing with the hassle of traveling (too far, anyway). It really is its own village, including a City Hall, Exhibition Center, post office, bank, stores, restaurants, etc. School children, families, and individuals of all ages can come here to practice speaking English for the day, for a week, or for the weekend (we have One Day Programs, One Week Programs, Weekend Programs, and from time to time, Special Programs). Think of it as a theme park whose theme is speaking English. There are several English Villages in Asia and Europe, and are quite popular in those parts of the world. Not only does GEV get Koreans, it also gets groups from China, Japan, Russia, and other neighboring countries. (If you would like to learn more about GEV, I have a few links on the side with some interesting information.)

My role here (and Glenn’s, eventually) is English Teacher. There are buildings with classrooms in the village where we hold morning and afternoon English classes based on provided lesson topics and plans. That’s right, there is essentially no planning involved! Teachers just show up, present the PowerPoint slides, and can choose to be a little creative in engaging the students by interacting with them. There is always some kind of game at the end of the lesson. Each teacher is part of a Content Area (a team, basically) and teaches the same lessons for 6 months before new ones are introduced. This is a good thing, especially at first, as I familiarize myself with the content and begin to get a little creative with it. With permission, teachers are allowed to make their own lesson plans and activities, so our ideas and creativity are never stifled. Also, classes are almost always combined with another, which means there are 2 teachers in the room and that just makes it all the more fun and entertaining! I can’t imagine an easier, more fun job and I feel so blessed to have been given this opportunity!

In addition to English teachers, there are professional actors/dancers/musicians who work here and put on shows throughout the week and weekend. They’re called ‘Edutainers.’ It seems that none of the teachers really mix with or even meet the Edutainers, so one of my goals is to be that staff member that knows everyone in every department, even the cleaning ladies and store owners.

I started today with 5 other teachers: 3 from South Africa, and 2 from New Zealand. They are so lovely and we are already good friends. I was happy to learn to that there is a pretty equal number of staff from different countries, rather than it being mostly Americans or mostly whatever nationality. I met teachers from the UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada, the US, and all the head teachers are Korean, so we’re a diverse bunch and for those of you who know me, know that excites me beyond belief. 🙂

Let me walk you through my first day. We new teachers reported to HR first thing in the morning. We went over some things we have to do (set up a bank account, set up email accounts, etc.) and then went straight over to the daily staff meeting. They discussed the day ahead and any concerns about it. After the meeting, there was a little free time before having to pick up the kids, so we ‘newbies’ (that’s what they call the new teachers) got to mingle and meet the teachers we would be shadowing for the day while they prepared the materials and picked up the books. Mondays are the first day of programs, and this week is a Special Program: 3 days for a bunch of middle schoolers, the largest group they’ve had in quite some time. Around 10:20am, we went with our shadow teacher to pick up our kids.

Pick-up is done at the main entrance where the buses arrive. Teachers stand with a sign showing the class number (students already know what their number is) and come to line up and get their passports (in their nametags, which they have to wear for the duration of their visit, is a little passport in it that teachers put stickers in when students participate or do a good job in class). I shadowed a Korean teacher named Kate who was very friendly and helpful. We picked up our class (17 boys, all aged 13-14… wow, did that ever require a lot of energy), took them to their hotel (right there in GEV), and brought them to Orientation. Before I criticize GEV for having a 2-hour Orientation where rules and behavior are discussed in the most boring way possible, I have to remind myself that this is a different country and culture, and maybe this is how things are expected to be done; it’s quite different from the media/entertainment-driven presentations we give in American public schools. It was long, though, and boring, and I thought it would never end. (By the way, I had been awake since midnight and was already tired and wanting to go to bed.)

Finally, it ended a little after noon and we took the kids to the Cafeteria for lunch. I ate upstairs with the teachers (some of them eat there, some of them prefer to go home or eat out) and got to know a couple of the ‘oldies’ (teachers who have taught here for a while). I experienced my first Korean buffet: rice (always), kimchi (always), a bean sprout medley, and cooked bamboo shoots. Though the oldies insist that the Cafeteria food is not the best, I LOVED everything I tried and couldn’t get enough of it! (I so wish I had batteries to use my camera and take pictures….) If that food is supposedly not the greatest, I CAN’T WAIT to try some “good” Korean food!!! I’ll just stay away from the seafood, especially the live octopus that wiggles and whose suction cups stick to your mouth and throat, as described as my colleague, John…. (shudder!)

After lunch, we still had some time and I walked around with the other newbies to figure out where we were going next. Lunch is an hour every day, and after getting 25 minutes for lunch in public school, I wasn’t sure what to do with myself after I ate. I figure I’ll be mentally preparing for afternoon classes once I start teaching… or maybe I’ll just mingle with my colleagues. 🙂 Anyway, we met the kids back at their hotel and took them to their class. Both teachers and students change classes every hour (for the most part), which is nice and keeps things fresh and exciting. I shadowed different teachers for the 3 afternoon classes and enjoyed every one of them. However, by the last class of the day, I was so exhausted that I could barely keep my eyes open. That’s why, after clocking out, I came straight home and passed out at 7:00pm and have been awake, yet again, since midnight.

Despite being overly tired after work, I was so excited about my job and I’m so eager to start! We get to shadow teachers for the rest of the week, but I’m hoping next week I get to do some teaching. OH! And since this week we have Special Programs, this one ends early Wednesday and we’ll have just a half day! I’ll probably use that time to set up my bank account and do some of the other chores on my list (like buy dish soap so I can wash the dishes left by the previous inhabitants of my apartment…).

One more thing before I end this post: I learned my first Korean word at the Emart the other day. ‘Thank you’ = “Kam-SAHm-ni-dah” …the most useful phrase one can learn, I’m sure.

Now, to get some sleep and have new adventures tomorrow!!!

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12 Responses to Day 1: New Job, New Adventure

  1. Hieu says:

    Hey there! You know, I swear I’ve heard “thank you” in Korean a ton of times between visits to H-mart and everything else, but this is the first time I’ve actually seen it written out phonetically. It just made things click in my head. Thanks for this, and I’m glad your first day went well! ❤

    • Haha, I’m glad I could help! Thanks for reading, Hieu! I can’t wait to meet up with you and Tracy on this side of the world! 🙂

      • Hieu says:

        We have to figure out where’s the best place to try to meet: Singapore? Hong Kong? Ho Chi Minh City? (I kind of want to save that last one for a family trip.) Kuala Lumpur? I don’t know! Maybe whichever one is the biggest travel hub?

      • Oh man, there are too many places to choose from! I have a contact in Penang, Malaysia (my friend’s dad) who LOVES having visitors… perhaps there? Let me know what your timeline is for going to Australia/New Zealand and when you guys would want to meet up!

  2. Raul Marin says:

    Love the conversational writing that you’ve done with this post Rachel. Almost felt like I was right there with you as you were explaining what you were doing. Also love the whole concept of English village, and getting different classes every hour. It all sounds so exciting, and I’m looking forward to reading more of your posts. Cheers!

    • Wow, thank you so much, Raul! Coming from an accomplished writer like yourself, I appreciate the compliment! It is all definitely very exciting for me and I can’t wait to share more about my job and impressions of Korea. 🙂 Thanks for reading!

  3. Grandpa and Grandma Heim says:

    Thanks for this introduction to “life in English Korea”. We love your style! Good reading material for those of us who will never be able to travel there.
    LOVE,
    G&G Heim

  4. Dan LaRusso says:

    Great storytelling, Rachel! I’m glad you made it there safely and that you’re enjoying your first days. Can’t wait to read more!

  5. marian LaRusso says:

    Hi sweet Rachel, we are having so much fun reading your stories. Love the way you
    write. It is interesting and it will help all of us learn about S.Korea. Keep on informing
    us about your days. Love, Grandma and Grandfather…………

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