EPIK: Orientation Tips

Some things to know as you prepare for orientation…

For my full recap of orientation in Busan including some other tips, please see this post.

Orientation is long. It’s going to be tough. Days go from 7:30am (start of breakfast) until 6:30pm (end of dinner) on some nights, but can go even later until 8:30pm if it’s a Korean class night. There are already posts out there that talk about how to prepare, but I didn’t read any of them before going to orientation. Here’s what I wish I’d known (or am glad that I did):

  • Pack your orientation clothes in a separate suitcase. This way, you don’t have to unpack everything to get to the clothes you need. I didn’t do this because of the luggage I’d chosen (my carry-on was an overnight bag and would not have fit 9 days’ worth of clothes), but it will be easier to re-pack in the end if you do not have to rearrange everything. Since my carry-on was small, I packed my “key items” that would be hard to replace on short notice, like the outfit for the MOE/POE meeting and at least three tops. Otherwise I trusted that my luggage would all arrive safely – and they did. Some people were not as lucky.
  • Arrive a few days early! Your body has more time to adjust to the time difference and you’ll be grateful for it. Orientation is nine days of non-stop activity so you’ll need your energy. If you arrive on the designated day and can’t fall sleep that night, it will be a struggle to get through the next few days.
  • Stay at the Airport Hotel. It was more money than I’d wanted to spend but it was super convenient and I didn’t have to worry about getting a taxi or transporting my bags alone. A group of nearly 40 teachers also booked this hotel and those of us who arrived a few days early had a blast exploring Busan together. Book early because the hotel is small. Try to “buddy up” and split a room with someone. The rooms are huge and can easily accommodate two (or more) people.
  • Take the orientation shuttle unless you absolutely cannot do it because of your flight time. It is so convenient and it’s another bonding opportunity. Plus, you won’t have to carry your luggage far since you’ll be taken from Point A to Point B directly.
  • If you arrive a few days early, go back to the airport for an early shuttle. You’ll have the first day off since everyone is arriving and there are some places to walk around and find food, nightlife etc. near campus. You’ll also want time to relax.

BUFS

  • Check-in/registration: I mentioned this in my recap post, but get consecutive numbers with your friends at airport check-in to get on the same bus together. Your roommates in the dorms are assigned based on the order you are checked in.
  • Bring a pair of nice shoes. I debated whether to bring nice shoes for work/special events since a lot of schools (but not all) require indoor slippers. This means you wear whatever shoes you want to get to school and then change your shoes once you get inside. I didn’t want to waste the space on shoes I wouldn’t wear during the year, but at the last minute I’m glad that I threw in a pair of nice black flats into my bag. You will have to dress nicely for your MOE/POE meeting so make sure you have appropriate footwear!
  • The dress code might be thrown out the window. We were told to dress business casual for the entire orientation, with the exception of the excursion day (casual) and the last day’s lesson demos and MOE/POE meeting (formal dress). Your shoulders should also be covered as this is not really appropriate for work attire in Korea. I followed these rules on the first day and I felt really over-dressed! I wore business casual clothes I used to wear back at work in the US, but I saw so many people wearing tank tops, shorts, and flip flops. I observed what others wore on the first day and then opened my bag of dresses to find more cute/casual clothes, rather than looking stuffy compared to others. I carried a light cardigan that I could wear if anyone told me to cover my shoulders.
  • Extra tip: MAKE SURE YOUR SHOULDERS ARE COVERED FOR YOUR MOE/POE MEETING. Although I didn’t see this enforced during the rest of orientation, you want to make a good impression during this meeting.
  • Consider weather when selecting clothes for orientation. I totally forgot about the humidity which is a bit of a foreign concept after 2.5 years of Arizona’s dry heat. The humidity makes the temperature feel hotter and you feel slightly sticky all the time, especially in August! Aim for light materials, flowy/loose clothing, and skirts or dresses instead of long pants.
  • You can wash your clothes. If you’re worried about wearing all of your nice clothes during orientation and not having enough time to do laundry before school begins, don’t be! You can wash your clothes at the dorms. There are laundry rooms in the basement. Washing takes a long time (at least an hour) and there are no dryers, only metal bars on your dorm window, so do this a few days before you have to pack and leave.
  • Go to meals early since food can run out. Be mindful of your food waste; you can always go back for more.

meals

  • Consider bringing: a travel pack of tissues (none will be provided in the dorms), indoor/shower slippers (a pair is provided per bathroom but I wore my own), and a big towel. EPIK provides a towel that is like 1/3rd of a full towel, so while you’ll be in luck if you didn’t bring any towels, it is not easy to use for drying your body and will be soaked quickly because it is small. I also brought two small microfiber towels with me and these came in handy; I laid out all of my wet items (shampoo etc.) on the towel each night so they could dry overnight.
  • Don’t stress if you forgot to bring something! There are at least two convenience stores on campus and more stores down the hill (~15 min walk to get down there). Some people in our group bought shampoo, conditioner, adapters, sun screen, etc.
  • Wi-fi is only accessible in the dorm lobby. It will be slow because everyone’s trying to use it. If you wander around on the first floor, you might find other wi-fi networks that are unlocked….
  • Bring a small notepad. You can take notes in your orientation handbook but it’s nice to have a central location for your notes. EPIK recommended that we bring laptops for the lesson demo prep, but I only saw one person in my class taking notes on her laptop.
  • Mac users may run into issues with internet. We were provided LAN cables but a lot of newer and/or slimmer Macs don’t have the same ethernet port.
  • Start working on your lesson plan ASAP, you’ll only stress out about it later. Even if it seems like the demo is days away, preparation and practice take longer than you think it will. The computer lab and printers will be limited and in high demand when everyone is working on their demos at the same time.
  • Going out is fun, but know your limits and don’t overdo it. I went out twice during orientation on the nights before our “easier days” since my body needs a lot of sleep. However I do know of people who went out almost every night.
  • Be flexible. Schedules will change – just go with it. Sometimes you might receive conflicting information, make sure to clarify if you have any questions.
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