The Mountain

I have officially completed EPIK Orientation and real teacher life is about to begin. Between the orientation classes, endless kimchi, and occasional bottle of Soju, I’ve barely had time to process the fact that I am actually here. It’s even crazier to think I’ll be here for a whole year (or more). But so far, I am so overwhelmingly excited about this experience.

Before I came here, I tried to picture the type of people who would go on an adventure like this, and it was a little hard to do. But, as a good friend predicted, they’ve all turned out to be people quite like me. There were about 50 other Ulsan EPIK teachers at orientation with me. These people come from 7 different English speaking countries, including Canada, South Africa, and even another Nebraskan. They range from education newbies (like me) to people with years of impressive classroom experience. We are from all different walks of life, the thing binding us together being exactly what we’ll be teaching: English. To me, that is pretty amazing.

If you’ve kept up with me at all over the last year, you know that the application process for the EPIK program has not been easy. The last seven months have had a constant anxious shadow as I waited to find out if I would actually be moving to Korea. Of course, to give myself a little confidence, I told everyone OF COURSE I was going to Korea. But in actuality, I didn’t really know.

Though the application process was strenuous and discouraging at times, I see now that it was absolutely worth it. EPIK is a very competitive program. But it is competitive for a reason. Orientation has been mixture of summer camp and basic training, listening to lectures and working on lesson plans for about 12 hours each day. Though there were many “it depends” situations, I feel I’m about as prepared as I could be. 

I am experiencing a moment-to-moment jump between “maybe I can pull off this whole teacher thing” and “wow I have no clue what I’m doing”, but the excitement and anticipation has failed to cease.

When I arrived in Ulsan today, I was overcome with one million emotions. I was ridiculously tired (don’t worry, I found coffee), nervous to meet my coteacher (don’t worry, he is great), and anxious to see my school (don’t worry, it’s beautiful). Above all, I was astounded that after a year of chasing after this dream that seemed unattainable, it was finally happening. I am in a coffee shop in Onsan drinking coconut bubble tea. I am (taking a break from) writing a less plan. I am an EPIK teacher in Ulsan, South Korea. My home is a cute little one bedroom apartment in Onsan with a yellow kitchen. On one side, I have a coffee shop, a pizza place, and a norebang. On the other side is a massive, beautiful mountain. Just down the street is my school, equipped with all the stickers and colored pencils a teacher could ask for.

My apartment may not have wifi yet and I may not have enough closet space, but those things are minuscule compared to the joy it is to have this opportunity. Every time I want to complain about orientation curfew or the humid weather or the lack of shitty Mexican food in my life, I take a step back to look at the mountain of adventure waiting for me in this new life. And though it may be daunting, I cannot wait to climb it.

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