21Mar

Unlocking the Gateway to Adventure: Traveling Asia as an English Teacher in South Korea

Hey there! So, you’re gearing up for an exciting journey to South Korea to teach English – congratulations! Get ready to dive into a world of cultural wonders, delicious cuisine, and unforgettable experiences. But guess what? Your adventure doesn’t stop at the borders of South Korea. Nope, in fact, it’s just the beginning of a whole new chapter of exploration in Asia!

First things first, let’s talk about South Korea itself. From the bustling streets of Seoul to the serene landscapes of Jeju Island, there’s no shortage of sights to see and experiences to be had right here in Korea. Whether you’re hiking up picturesque mountains, sampling mouth watering street food, or immersing yourself in ancient temples, you’ll never run out of things to do.

But wait, it gets even better! Living in South Korea opens up a world of travel opportunities to neighboring countries in Asia, and trust me, you won’t want to miss out. Let’s take a look at some exciting destinations and what you can do there:

  1. Japan: Hop on a quick flight from Incheon Airport to Tokyo, and you’ll find yourself in a world of bustling streets, ancient temples, and futuristic wonders. Spend your weekend exploring iconic landmarks like the Senso-ji Temple, indulging in sushi at Tsukiji Fish Market, or strolling through the quirky neighborhoods of Harajuku and Shibuya.
    Travel Time: Approximately 2 hours by flight from Incheon to Tokyo.
  2. Thailand: Escape to the Land of Smiles for a weekend of tropical bliss. From the vibrant markets and ornate temples of Bangkok to the pristine beaches of Phuket and Koh Samui, Thailand offers a perfect mix of culture, adventure, and relaxation.
    Travel Time: Approximately 5 hours by flight from Incheon to Bangkok.
  3. Vietnam: Immerse yourself in the rich history and natural beauty of Vietnam. Explore the ancient streets of Hanoi, cruise through the stunning landscapes of Ha Long Bay, or indulge in mouthwatering street food in Ho Chi Minh City.
    Travel Time: Approximately 5 hours by flight from Incheon to Hanoi.
  4. Philippines: With its breathtaking beaches, crystal-clear waters, and vibrant culture, the Philippines is a tropical paradise just waiting to be explored. Swim with whale sharks in Oslob, island-hop in Palawan, or explore the bustling streets of Manila.
    Travel Time: Approximately 4 hours by flight from Incheon to Manila.
  5. China: Embark on a journey through the ancient wonders and modern marvels of China. Visit the Great Wall in Beijing, marvel at the Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an, or explore the futuristic skyline of Shanghai.
    Travel Time: Approximately 2.5 hours by flight from Incheon to Beijing.
  6. Taiwan: Discover the hidden gems of Taiwan, from the bustling night markets of Taipei to the stunning landscapes of Taroko Gorge and Sun Moon Lake. Don’t forget to indulge in some mouthwatering street food along the way!
    Travel Time: Approximately 2 hours by flight from Incheon to Taipei.

So there you have it, folks – a glimpse into the endless adventures that await you as an English teacher in South Korea. Whether you’re exploring the cultural delights of Korea or jetting off to neighboring countries like Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, China, or Taiwan, your journey is bound to be filled with excitement, discovery, and unforgettable memories. So pack your bags, buckle up, and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime! Safe travels, adventurers! ✈️🌏

21Mar

Cherry Blossom Chronicles: A Friendly Guide for South Korea’s Newest Teachers

Welcome to South Korea, future teachers! So, you’re gearing up to teach in South Korea – how exciting! Let me tell you about one of the absolute highlights you won’t want to miss: cherry blossom season.

Picture this: late March to early April, when the air is filled with a sweet, floral aroma and every corner of the city bursts into a riot of pink and white petals. Yep, you’ve stumbled upon one of the most magical times of the year!

woman, on a beautiful outfit sitting on stairs under cherry blossom trees

Now, here’s the scoop – you don’t need a treasure map to find these beauties. Nope, they’re sprinkled all over the cities, turning even the simplest streets into breathtaking scenes straight out of a fairy tale. But hey, if you’re looking for the cherry on top of the cherry blossom experience (pun totally intended), let me introduce you to the Cherry Blossom Festival in Jinhae.

Oh, Jinhae – it’s like stepping into a painting. Imagine strolling through avenues adorned with cherry blossoms as far as the eye can see. Yep, that’s what awaits you. And the best part? It’s not just about the visuals. Nope, they’ve got you covered on all fronts. Gift shops? Check. Street food stalls? Double check. You’ll find yourself amidst a vibrant tapestry of colors, flavors, and experiences.

Cherry Blossom Streets
cherry tree on busy street

Let me share a little anecdote from my own adventure. Back when I was living in Busan, I decided to spice things up and joined a tour group called Enjoy Korea (nope, not sponsored, just spreading the love!). And let me tell you, it was a day for the books. We kicked things off with some good ol’ strawberry picking, followed by a delightful session of decorating chocolate-covered strawberries.

After all that, we made our way to the Cherry Blossom Festival in Jinhae. Iit was everything I’d hoped for and more. The vibrant hues, the buzzing atmosphere – it was like being in a dream. And the best part? I got to share this incredible experience with friends.

friends under cherry tree

Now, I know what you’re thinking – do I really need a tour group to experience all this goodness? Well, the short answer is nope. You can totally DIY your way to cherry blossom experience. A quick bus ride here, a scenic stroll there – you’ll get there just fine. But hey, hear me out – joining a tour group isn’t just about convenience (though that’s a big plus). It’s also about the people you’ll meet along the way. Trust me, there’s something special about bonding over cherry blossom sightings and shared awe.

cherry blossom map

So, there you have it,  – a little sneak peek into the wonder that awaits you in South Korea. And hey, if you’re curious about when and where to catch those cherry blossoms in full bloom, I’ve whipped up a handy-dandy prediction map for you. Yep, consider it your personal guide to cherry blossom paradise.Safe travels and happy cherry blossom hunting, friends!

20Mar

How to survive your first month as an English teacher in South Korea

korean city

The first month of living in another country is the strangest combination of wonder, confusion, excitement, frustration, discovery, and learning experiences. You’re living in a whole new freaking country!!! Life is crazy!!! My first month was equal parts good and bad, but I feel like it was because no one really told me what to expect in my first month living in South Korea, especially during a global panini. So, I’m here to be your fairy godmother and tell you exactly what you need to do, no matter how trivial it may be. Buckle up, get out a notepad, and don’t freak out. It’s a lot, but YOUR capabilities are so much more. Take a deep breath, you can do this. 

So without further ado, here’s the ultimate guide for surviving your first month as an English teacher in South Korea

Schedule your appointment at the immigration office for your ARC

FIRST THINGS FIRST. The most important thing you need to do in your first month as an English teacher in South Korea – even before you arrive into the country -is to schedule your appointment at your local immigration office so that you can get your Alien Registration card immediately. THIS is the website you can use. I waited to schedule mine until I was here and in quarantine, and I’m not 100% positive if it was because of COVID or if it’s always like this, but they were, to my absolute and utter chagrin, booked out for two months. This is definitely less than ideal, as you need your alien registration number for just about everything: ordering groceries, getting a phone plan, opening a bank account, food delivery apps, the WORKS. I was over here struggling for quite a while, and this all could have been avoided my simply scheduling my appointment farther in advance. The manager of your school will get you all set up with all the documents you need to make the appointment run as smoothly as possible. Mine cost 34,000 won, which is about 30 USD. Make sure you don’t schedule it for the week you arrive, however, as you need to go to a local hospital for a health check.

Health check

Speaking of, the next thing you need to have on your radar is the health check for the Alien Registration Card. You’ll go to a local hospital (ask the director of your school which one is best! The one closest to me charged 160,000 won, while the one a little farther away was 80,000 won (67 dollars instead of like 130). They’ll check your eyesight, hearing, take a chest x-ray (wear a sports bra, otherwise you’ll have to change – also they made my friend take her nipple piercings out just so you know what to expect), have you pee in a cup, and take a blood sample. This has to be done at least 8 days before your appointment at the immigration office, so plan accordingly! They are also very particular about health check results that are a few weeks old, so try to schedule them as close together as you can without cutting it too close with receiving your results.  I just walked in to the hospital, and it took about an hour. You’ll have to bring 3 passport pictures as well as some sort of I.D. (I brought my passport), and you’ll have to go back on the specified day to pick up your results! Bring these results to your appointment at the immigration office.

korean bbq
korean temple grounds

Go to a GS 25, CU, or 7/11 with cash to get a metro card

Public transportation in Korea is really just the greatest. Busses, taxis, metros, you name it – South Korea has it. You can get a public transport card at any convenience store, and you can refill it at any time. One thing to note, however, is that you can only load it up with cash, which is a little bit inconvenient, but it is what it is! You can use this card on the metro as well as the bus system. To navigate, I recommend the Kakao Metro app, Kakao Maps, Naver Maps, and Google Maps. If I can’t find an address on the Korean apps, I head over to google maps, get an idea of where it’s located, and then simply drop a pin on Kakao Maps. Google maps doesn’t have public transportation info and sometimes it’s really hard to find things with the Korean apps, so I always use a combo no matter where I’m going. It’s a hassle, but you’ll get used to it.

Acclimate to your teaching schedule

Getting adjusted to your new schedule as an English teacher can be really tricky! I was given a physical schedule, but it was really confusing and the labels didn’t tell me anything about my schedule. I ended up completely making my own throughout the course of the next few weeks, and now I know exactly where I’m supposed to be and when. It’s a learning curve, and thats okay! You’ll get it in time. Lots of people say that they don’t even like their job until after month 3 – so if you don’t know how you’re going to survive being an English teacher in South Korea – just keep pushing through.

Go to Daiso first, and then Homeplus or Emart

As far as your apartment goes, I made the mistake of starting off by going to Emart. I didn’t have a whole lot of furniture, and was given nothing from the teacher who came before me, so I was starting completely from scratch. I had to buy dishes, pots and pans, bedding, decorations, EVERYTHING besides a bed and a small table, so I thought Emart was the way to go. Turns out, it’s way more expensive than somewhere like Daiso. Daiso is like the dollar store of South Korea, but way better. Whenever I go to Daiso, I’m just like a kid in a candy store. It has everything you could possibly need, including the cutest decor, better quality dish-ware, and practical things like laundry baskets – just way cuter. 

As far as online ordering, you can’t get a Coupang account (which is like the Amazon of Korea) until you get your ARC. Until then, you can order off of G-market. Korean addresses are a little tricky, so it took us a few tries to figure out. Just keep at it! One thing that you’ll probably want to order if you’re starting from scratch is a mattress topper. Something about Asian mattresses is just so wrong. They’re always hard as a rock and super low to the ground, so a mattress topper will ensure you get a good nights rest after those long days of dealing with crazy kids. 

I bought a coffee pot and a tea kettle off of G-market as well that I use every day, and made a trip to the local IKEA for some curtains, bedding, and decorations.

korean islands
korean temple roof

Buy a prepaid sim card to tide you over

So obviously you can’t get a permanent phone plan without your ARC, but you CAN get a prepaid sim card! I made the mistake of trying to use a 7 day E-sim card, where the company would send me a QR code for 7 days of data, but honestly it was SUCH a hassle and 100% not worth it. I also bought a sim card from a convenience store, but it ended up asking me for my foreign registration regardless. I was at my wit’s end, but then I ended up ordering THIS sim card that has 30 days of data on it, and it was a physical sim card that got mailed and delivered right to my apartment door. It was only 25 ish dollars and has been the greatest find of my entire life here tbh. Phone plans really are a hard time until you get your ARC, but save yourself the hassle and just get one of these right off the bat – or even better, buy a SIM card and have it shipped to your house before you even leave!

Bumble Bff, Facebook groups, everything you need to know about making friends

I was so paranoid about not being able to make friends when I got here. Honestly, the location of where I live is pretty disconnected from the rest of Busan, which I was initially really bummed about. Before I left the United States, I joined a few facebook groups and tried to introduce myself in them in an attempt to find like-minded, similarly-aged people that I could meet up with. I even messaged a few youtubers I knew who lived in the city and asked to hang out with them — they even said yes! 

As far as facebook groups go, I joined Every Expat in Korea, Women in Busan, Girls Gone International Busan, and Hiking in Korea. I’ve been able to meet up with a few people through those groups, as well as find the answer to just about any question I had, no matter how random it seemed. Some of the groups even held events pre-covid that helped expats meet other people who speak their languages and share their interests. 

Surprisingly, however, the biggest saving grace for me since coming to South Korea has been Bumble BFF. I know right?? Who woulda thought? not me, that’s for sure. I initially downloaded it with very low expectations, but it’s honestly let me meet my best friend here, and in turn meet all the rest of our friends, as we had much more confidence to go out and make new friends and experience new things together. Don’t knock it til you try it! My male co-worker gave the boys version a go and we are sorry to report that the mens Bumble BFF scene in Busan is not poppin’, but feel free to give it a go regardless! 

Don’t worry about making friends:)  They will come! It takes a little while, but they will come. Give it time! Foreigners are coming in and out of Korea perpetually, so maybe your new best friend just hasn’t made it in yet. Keep the faith!

friends hiking in korea wearing facemasks

Once you get your ARC

Once you get your ARC, there are so many things that you can now do. for example: Get a permanent Korean phone number, finally open a bank account, buy from Coupang, Etc.

Buy an actual phone plan

One of the main reasons you need to rush to get your ARC is because it’s actually really difficult to get a phone plan in Korea with a contract that’s less than two years, although you ~can~ find plans for 1 year. I got my bank account two months into being here, and I can’t find a monthly plan, but I also don’t want to pay for 12 months when I’ll only be for 10 more? It’s a dilemma I’m currently in, and will continue to update this section as I find information! 

The main phone carrier here it KT, and there are KT stores everywhere. Once again, if you go with your employer everything will go wayyyy smoother! It’s definitely an irrationally difficult thing to do, and I’m just considering sticking with my prepaid SIM card, even if it means I can’t register for any food delivery accounts or Coupang. I might just suck it up and save the money lmaoooo

Open a bank account

Even before you get a phone plan, you have to have a bank account to link your monthly payments to. Setting up a bank account in Korea is really tricky if you go by yourself, so make sure that your employer either goes with you or sends someone to help you. While there are some more foreigner-friendly banks, the in person branches typically don’t have many people who speak English. Make sure that while you are setting up your bank account, that you ask for internet banking to be an option for you; the only way you can get online banking is if you set it up along with the initial bank account set up. Additionally, make sure you clarify that you need to be able to send money home. If you don’t get a remittance account set up as soon as you set up your bank account, it becomes a little bit of a nightmare. 

I us KB, but I asked my employer for KEB – it definitely got lost in translation, they’re so similar! Oh well, so far it’s been okay. KEB is the typical foreigner bank because of the English hotline that they have, but sometimes you just need to take whatever your employer has so that they can easily get you your money.

Random useful tips to help you survive your first month teaching in South Korea

This isn’t anything revolutionary, but just a few tips that would’ve made me feel much more in the know than I was when I arrived! Maybe you already know this, maybe you’re clueless like me. Either way, heres 2 or 3 tips to help you out! 

If you can’t find any silverware or napkins at the table in your restaurant, make sure you look underneath the table for a drawer! A lot of restaurants keep everything in a small drawer attached to the underside of the table. 

Always give and receive with two hands! Especially when you’re buying something at a store and dealing with money, it’s a really culturally aware thing to do, and something that I thought wouldn’t be as big of a deal as it is. You don’t want to offend anyone! 

There are special seats in the subway reserved for the elderly, handicapped, and pregnant, and even if every other seat is filled and all of those are open, you DO NOT sit in them. You just don’t. You will get yelled at. Its typically a group of three at the front of the train car – it has a sign above it with pictures so just keep an eye out! 

Everything else is pretty similar to the west in terms of modern-ness, but although it is a very developed country with a huge emphasis on English in the school system, the language barrier is one of the most intense I’ve ever experienced, so get you a talk to me in Korean textbook and start learning some phrases! (bonus points because all my students absolutely LOVE me telling them what I learned in my Korean lesson that morning – they absolutely die over it).

I know it sounds like theres a thousand things to do to survive your first month as an English teacher in South Korea, but trust me: Once you get all the annoying adult-y things sorted out and all set up, it’s smooth sailing from there! Life in Korea is pretty tricky in the first few months, but please don’t get discouraged. 

Chances are you’re doing this straight out of college too, and even adulting in a familiar setting without a language barrier is hard! Give yourself grace to make mistakes, not figure everything out the first time, and to just adjust to this new chapter in your life! 

Think of all the funny stories that even the failures will give you to tell your kids

You’ve got this <3

20Mar

The Wonders of Living in Daegu

Why you should consider living somewhere other than Seoul

If you look up “must-visit” places in South Korea, there are a few cities, temples and beachside destinations that often come up. The bustling city of Seoul, the ancient Hanok village in Jeonju, and the beautiful beaches of both Busan and Jeju Island are some of the most popular destinations. While these locations are definitely worth visiting, anyone who is considering teaching in South Korea might want to look elsewhere when deciding on where they want to live.

Despite being the fourth biggest city in South Korea, Daegu is often left off of these must-visit lists. While it may not have the amount of shopping you can find in Seoul, the nostalgic, historic feeling of Gyeongju, or the stunning black rock beaches of Jeju, living in Daegu has a plethora of perks on its own. I lived in Daegu for two years in the gorgeous Suseong-Gu area, and I miss it all the time.

Daegu is known for being set in a low valley with lush green mountains all around it. It was wonderful to have such greenery close by all year long, and to be surrounded by that view no matter where I went. The summers were hotter than anything I’ve ever experienced (the locals often call it Daefrica due to the humidity in the summer months) because of its location, but the view made it worth it. The gorgeous Geumho river flows through the city, and was one of my favourite places to rent a Kakao Bike to ride alongside. There are small parks, trees, and flowers everywhere, which makes the city a perfect combination of metropolitan mixed with nature. It’s busy but not overwhelming, with a bustling nightlife downtown and a thriving music scene. 

(The Geumho River)

One of my favourite things about Daegu was the main train station. Dongdaegu Station is one of the most well-connected stations across the entire country. In just one hour, you can get to Busan on the KTX; in just over two hours, you can get to Seoul. There are buses that will take you to many nearby towns in just an hour or two, including Gyeongju, Geoje, and Tongyeong, as well as direct buses to popular sites such as Haeinsa Temple. If you’re okay with longer bus rides, you can also get buses to further destinations such as Andong, Yeosu, Gwangju and some bigger cities in Gapyeong and Gangwon-do. There are sometimes transfers in Seoul for these longer rides, but they are always quick and easy (and cheap). The Daegu Airport also flies to Seoul and Jeju directly!

(Okyeongji Lake)

While it is definitely a transportation hub, the city of Daegu itself has lots of cool places to visit. Among these are the Yangnyeongsi Oriental Medicine Culture Center, the cable car on Apsan Mountain, Suseong Lake, the Daegu Arboretum, Okyeongji Lake and of course, E-World. My personal favourite place in Daegu was Palgongsan, and the breathtaking Donghwasa Temple that’s nestled within its mountains. I took the hour–long bus trip into the mountains on multiple occasions, both alone and with friends, and loved it just as much each time. The downtown core, which revolves around Dongseong-ro, is full of both Korean, European, and North American brand clothing stores, as well as thrift stores, restaurants, bars and shops.
(Palgongsan Mountain, entrance to Donghwasa Temple)

(Daegu Arboretum)

(View from Apsan)

Another thing that I loved about Daegu was the number of cute cafes. While South Korea is known for its quirky and beautiful cafes, most people only know of and visit the ones in Seoul. There are so many more cafes outside of the capital! I frequented many of the cafes in my neighborhood and across the city, even making friends with some of the local owners who would sneak me free treats and drinks. I’ve lived in both France and Italy and visited many other countries, and have never seen so many beautiful cafes in one place! I didn’t drink coffee before I moved to Korea, and now I definitely do.

(Daegu Cafe)

(Christmas at Suseong Lake)

In conclusion, while more popular cities might seem more exciting and enticing, there is something to be said for picking a place to settle down in that’s a bit lesser known. I consider myself to be a big-city girl with a small-town heart, and Daegu very quickly felt like home to me. It has everything you need, including a state-of-the-art metro and bus system, art galleries, museums, local shops and cafes, high-end stores, and amazing food. While English may be less commonly spoken in Daegu than Seoul or Busan, I didn’t find that it hindered me at all. In fact, learning basic Korean, using Papago Translate, and just simply trying to communicate landed me with some wonderful Korean friends and wholesome interactions. So if you’re thinking about moving to Korea and aren’t sure where to look, consider taking a chance outside of the main cities, because you just might fall in love with a place like I did.

18Feb

Essential Apps for Your Move to Korea

Are you gearing up for an adventure teaching English in South Korea? Moving to a new country can be exhilarating yet daunting, especially if it’s your first time. But fear not! With the right tools at your fingertips, navigating your new life abroad can be a breeze. Here’s a curated list of must-have apps to download before you hop on that plane:


Papago: Bid farewell to language barriers with this handy translating app. While Google Translate might be your go-to back home, Papago is your new best friend in Korea. Its accuracy will make communicating with locals a breeze.


KakaoTalk: Think of KakaoTalk as your lifeline to the Korean world. This texting and calling app is a staple in Korean communication culture. Get connected with colleagues, friends effortlessly.


Kakao Maps and Naver Maps: Say goodbye to Google Maps – in Korea, it’s all about Kakao and Naver Maps. Whether you’re exploring Seoul’s bustling streets or navigating the subway system, these mapping apps have got you covered with accurate, up-to-date information.


Kakao Taxi: Need a ride? Skip the hassle of hailing a cab and opt for Kakao Taxi, Korea’s equivalent of Uber or Lyft. With just a few taps on your phone, you can summon a ride to your doorstep and zip around the city with ease.


Kakao Metro: Navigating Seoul’s extensive subway network can be intimidating at first, but fear not – Kakao Metro is here to help. This user-friendly app provides detailed maps, real-time train schedules, and essential travel information to make your commute a breeze.


Coupang Eats: When hunger strikes, satisfy your cravings with Coupang Eats. With a plethora of food delivery options at your fingertips, you can indulge in delicious Korean cuisine without stepping foot outside your door. It’s a game-changer for busy days or lazy nights in.


BucaCheck: Avoid the dreaded “insufficient funds” scenario with BucaCheck. This handy app allows you to check the balance on your T-money card – essential for seamless travel on public transportation. Simply tap your card on your phone, and you’ll know exactly how much credit you have left.


With these essential apps in your arsenal, you’ll be well-equipped to navigate the ins and outs of life in South Korea. So go ahead, embrace the adventure, and get ready for an unforgettable experience teaching English abroad!

10Jan

What to Pack

Hey there, fellow adventurer! So, you’ve made the bold decision to pack up and jet off to South Korea for a year-long adventure. Before you start envisioning all the bibimbap and K-pop concerts awaiting you, let’s talk about the essentials you’ll need to bring along for the ride.

When I embarked on my own South Korean escapade, I thought I had it all figured out. Two checked bags, a carry-on bursting with vacuum-sealed clothes – I was ready to conquer Seoul with my entire wardrobe in tow. But little did I know, South Korea had a shopping scene that would make any fashionista weak at the knees.

So, here’s the lowdown on what you really need to pack:

  1. Starter Outfits and Lounge Wear: Bring along a few outfits to kickstart your South Korean journey, especially if you’re headed straight to work. Don’t forget some comfy lounge clothes for those lazy weekends. But trust me, save your money for the shopping extravaganza awaiting you in your new city.
  2. Universal Converters: Your electronic devices and hair styling tools will need some love too. Pack more than one universal converter to keep your gadgets juiced up and ready to capture every moment of your adventure.
  3. Travel-sized Toiletries: Leave those bulky shampoo bottles behind. South Korea’s got you covered with an array of skincare and beauty products that’ll make your head spin. Embrace the local brands and indulge in some K-beauty magic.
  4. Face Makeup- I had no idea how limited the shade range would be in Korea. Every time I went to Olive Young, I came out looking a little bit like a mime:/ I found myself going into Chicor (western makeup store) way too often. I recommend bringing a few foundations in your shade from home! 
  5. Self Tan- If you are a self tan enthusiast, definitely bring a few bottles from home because you will not be able to find it in Korea.
  6. Heat Protectant- If you are someone who frequently uses heat styling on your hair, I would recommend bringing a couple bottles of heat protectant from home. I was not able to find any the entire time I lived in Korea. 
  7. Deodorant Stockpile: Now, here’s a pro tip – bring along a stash of your favorite deodorant. While Koreans seem to possess a magical anti-body odor gene, us mere mortals might need a little extra help staying fresh. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.
  8. Towels: Don’t underestimate the power of a good bath towel. In a land where bath towels resemble hand towels, having a couple of full-sized towels from home will feel like a luxurious embrace after a refreshing shower.
  9. Consider Your Size: If you’re taller than 5’9″ or larger than a medium US size, you might find it challenging to shop for clothes in South Korea. The “free size” trend, which typically fits S/M, dominates the fashion scene. Consider investing in vacuum seal packs from Amazon for your larger-sized clothing items to ensure you have options that fit comfortably. Also if you have a foot larger than a US womens 8 or US mens 9 you might want to bring a few extra shoes with you! Luckily, I decided to bring a carry-on roller full of my favorite shoes.

And here’s what you can leave behind:

  1. Tampons: Contrary to popular belief, South Korea does have tampons. I am not sure if this is a new development, but I never had an issue finding any.  Save yourself the suitcase space and rest assured that you’ll find all your feminine hygiene needs catered to.
  2. Tons of Cosmetics: When I went to Korea I brought a ton of eyeshadow, mascara and blush. I ended up throwing it all away and buying new products from Olive Young. The products are so cheap and of great quality in Korea. Save the space in your luggage. 
  3. Birth Control- Birth Control: If you’re on hormonal birth control, consider leaving your stockpile at home. Surprisingly, the contraceptive pill is available over the counter in South Korea, offering a convenient solution for those in need. You’ll find a variety of brands to choose from, and the best part? It’s often much cheaper than what you’d pay back home. Simply visit any pharmacy and ask the pharmacist for the contraceptive pill. Don’t worry if you’re nervous about the language barrier – a quick Google Images search for the product can help you communicate your needs effectively. So, save space in your luggage and rest assured knowing that reproductive health care is readily accessible during your South Korean adventure.

So, there you have it – the ultimate packing guide for your South Korean adventure. Embrace the unknown, dive headfirst into the vibrant culture, and get ready to make memories that’ll last a lifetime. Who knows, maybe you’ll return home with a whole new fashion sense and a suitcase filled with treasures from the streets of Seoul. Safe travels, fellow explorer!

04Jan

Choosing Your Ideal Location: A Guide for Future ESL Teachers in Korea

So, you’ve made the decision to teach English in South Korea—congrats! Now comes the exciting part: choosing where you’ll call home during your adventure abroad. While most ESL teachers don’t get to pick their location, here at Kolaris, we want to make sure you have a say in where you end up. Let’s dive into the top locations and what each city has to offer!

My Personal Journey:
When I applied to teach English in Korea, I wasn’t exactly a seasoned traveler. In fact, I didn’t even have a passport! Coming from a small town in North Carolina, I felt overwhelmed by the idea of living in bustling Seoul. But then I stumbled upon vlogs about living in Busan, and when I found out the vlogger shared my birthday, I took it as a sign. Fast forward to today, and choosing Busan was one of the best decisions I ever made.

City Breakdown: Now, let’s talk logistics. Here’s a rundown of the benefits and quirks of each location we offer:

 

  1. Seoul: As the bustling capital of South Korea, Seoul offers a dynamic blend of modernity and tradition. From towering skyscrapers to ancient palaces, this vibrant metropolis has something for everyone. ESL teachers in Seoul can explore trendy neighborhoods, indulge in delicious street food, and immerse themselves in the city’s rich cultural heritage.
  2. Incheon: Located adjacent to Seoul, Incheon is a bustling port city known for its vibrant atmosphere and historical landmarks. ESL teachers in Incheon can enjoy scenic waterfront views, explore bustling markets, and take advantage of the city’s convenient transportation links, including its international airport.
  3. Gyeonggi: Surrounding Seoul, Gyeonggi offers a mix of urban and rural areas, making it a great choice for those seeking a balance between city life and countryside tranquility. Many ESL teachers find Gyeonggi to be an ideal location due to its proximity to the capital while still offering a more relaxed pace of life.
  4. Daejeon: Known as the science and technology hub of Korea, Daejeon boasts a vibrant cultural scene and easy access to hiking trails and natural parks. ESL teachers in Daejeon enjoy exploring its innovative museums and lively downtown area, all while being surrounded by picturesque green spaces.
  5. Gwangju: With its rich cultural heritage and vibrant arts scene, Gwangju offers a unique blend of traditional and modern attractions. Plus, its central location makes it a convenient base for exploring the southwest region of Korea. ESL teachers in Gwangju have the opportunity to immerse themselves in Korean history and art, all while enjoying the city’s bustling markets and lively festivals.
  6. Gangwon: Nestled in the scenic mountains of northeastern Korea, Gangwon province offers stunning natural beauty and outdoor recreational opportunities. ESL teachers in Gangwon can explore picturesque hiking trails, relax on pristine beaches, and experience traditional Korean culture in charming mountain villages.
  7. Sejong: As the administrative capital of South Korea, Sejong is a modern city known for its innovative urban planning and cultural attractions. ESL teachers in Sejong can explore futuristic architecture, visit world-class museums, and enjoy the city’s vibrant culinary scene.
  8. Ulsan: As the industrial powerhouse of Korea, Ulsan is a bustling city known for its thriving economy and modern amenities. ESL teachers in Ulsan can enjoy shopping in trendy boutiques, dining at gourmet restaurants, and exploring the city’s scenic waterfront.
  9. Busan: South Korea’s second-largest city, Busan is a coastal gem known for its stunning beaches, vibrant nightlife, and fresh seafood. ESL teachers in Busan can relax on sandy shores, hike scenic coastal trails, and explore bustling markets in this dynamic city by the sea.
  10. Geoje: Located off the southern coast of Korea, Geoje is a tranquil island known for its natural beauty and maritime heritage. ESL teachers in Geoje can unwind on secluded beaches, hike scenic coastal trails, and immerse themselves in the island’s laid-back atmosphere.
  11. Jeju: Often referred to as “Korea’s Hawaii,” Jeju Island is a breathtaking destination known for its volcanic landscapes, pristine beaches, and unique cultural attractions. ESL teachers in Jeju can explore lush forests, relax in natural hot springs, and discover the island’s rich history and folklore.
  12. Daegu: Located in the heart of South Korea, Daegu is a vibrant city known for its dynamic arts scene, bustling markets, and historic landmarks. ESL teachers in Daegu can explore ancient temples, shop in bustling markets, and experience the city’s lively nightlife.

No matter where you end up in South Korea, each city has its own unique charm and opportunities waiting to be discovered. Trust your instincts, do your research, and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime. Happy exploring!

There you have it—a comprehensive guide to choosing your dream location in South Korea. Whether you’re drawn to the bustling streets of Seoul or the tranquil countryside of Gangwon, there’s a perfect place for every ESL teacher. 

03Jan

What I wish I knew Before Moving to Korea

So, you’re thinking about making the big move to South Korea, huh? Buckle up, because I’m about to spill the tea on all the things I wish I knew before jetting off to the Land of the Morning Calm. Trust me, hindsight is 20/20, and I’ve got some juicy insights to share with you.

  1. The Cost of the Process:

Alright, let’s talk money. While using a recruiter to smooth out the moving process won’t cost you a dime, there are other expenses to consider. You’ll need to cough up some cash for things like background checks, document apostilles, health waiver appointments, visa applications, and postage. The prices of these things vary based on what location you call home.  Oh, and don’t forget about covering your flight upfront (but hey, you’ll get reimbursed later).

  1. Say Bye-Bye to Your Old Style:

Listen up, fashionistas! Your wardrobe is about to undergo a serious glow-up. I wish someone had warned me about this before I stuffed my suitcase with clothes I never ended up wearing. Between all the walking and healthy eats, I shed pounds and my fashion sense did a complete 180. Pack light and get ready to embrace a whole new look.

  1. Welcome to Your Empty Apartment:

Picture this: you land in Korea, excited to start your new chapter, only to find yourself mattress-less on a Saturday night. Not cool, right? Don’t make the same mistake I did. Use websites like Gmarket to order essentials before you arrive. Pro tip: splurge on a comfy mattress—it’s worth every penny for those precious ZZZs.

  1. Navigating Daily Life:

Let me save you some major headaches. Ordering delivery food or online goodies without your ARC card number? Total nightmare and basically impossible. Get familiar with Gmarket because they will let you order things without an ARC number. Get ahead of the game and download essential apps like KakaoTalk, Papago and Naver Maps before you touch down. And don’t forget to snag a T-money card for hassle-free public transportation. You can buy a T-Money card at the subway station or in the nearest convenience store.

  1. Trash Talk:

Okay, so here’s the lowdown on trash etiquette in Korea. Familiarize yourself with the rules ASAP to avoid any drama. Trust me, getting fined for tossing recyclables in the wrong bin is not a vibe. Snap pics of those trash signs in your apartment complex and use translation apps like Papago to decode them. Oh, and keep those food scraps in the freezer to keep things from smelling. You can buy bags to throw out your trash at any mart or convenience store. You will have to ask the clerk for them (scary, I know) just use Papago if your not familiar with Korean just yet.

 

Alright there you have it—my ultimate guide to navigating life in South Korea. Moving abroad is an adventure packed with twists and turns, but armed with these insider tips, you’ll be ready to tackle anything that comes your way. So go ahead, seize the moment, and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime!

08Dec

Learning the Language

Moving to a new country can be both exciting and overwhelming, especially when it comes to setting up your new home. After living in South Korea for two years, I’ve learned firsthand the importance of certain essentials to make your transition smoother. Here are the first things you should consider purchasing upon arrival:

  1. Quality Mattress: One of the first things you’ll notice upon moving into your apartment is the empty space waiting to be filled. Investing in a good mattress is crucial for your well-being, as quality sleep is invaluable. I recommend browsing Gmarket for a comfortable mattress that suits your preferences. If budget constraints are a concern, start with a bed mat temporarily and upgrade once you receive your first paycheck. Trust me, a good night’s sleep is worth it.I recommend ordering this as soon as you receive your address. 
  2. T-money Card: Upon landing in Korea, one of the first tasks on your list should be acquiring a T-money card. Available at convenience stores or vending machines at subway stations, this card is essential for navigating public transportation seamlessly. It’s a convenient way to pay for buses, subways, taxis, and even some convenience store purchases.
  3. Shower Filter: Hard water is a common issue in Korea, which can lead to hair fall out and skin irritation. Save yourself the hassle by purchasing a shower filter from Daiso or a local store. For a super low cost of around 5,000 won, you’ll protect your hair and skin from the harsh effects of hard water.
  4. Trash Bags and Recycling Bin: Korea has a strict recycling system, and proper disposal of waste is essential. Head to the convenience store to purchase specific bags for disposing of non-recyclable items. These bags are necessary for using communal trash bins, and you’ll need to ensure you have the correct type for your city. Additionally, consider investing in a small bin for carrying recyclables to make the process more manageable.
  5. Drying Rack: Korean apartments typically don’t come equipped with dryers, so a drying rack is a must-have item. You’ll be hanging your laundry to dry, so pick up a drying rack from Daiso to make this task more efficient. It’s a small investment that will save you time and energy in the long run.

By prioritizing these essential items, you’ll be better prepared to settle into your new life in South Korea comfortably. From ensuring a good night’s sleep to navigating the intricacies of the local trash system, these purchases will streamline your transition and help you feel at home in your new environment.

Learning Hangul:

Hangul, the Korean alphabet, was a game-changer for me. I took the time to learn it before moving, and am I glad I did. Being able to read things like subway stations and signs when I arrived made life so much easier. I even found that sometimes English words were spelled out in Hangul, so knowing how to read really came in handy.

I learned Hangul by watching a YouTube video that broke down the characters and their sounds. It’s been years since I watched it, but the lessons are still burned into my brain. If you have the time, I highly recommend giving it a go. Here the video Learn Hangul 한글 (Korean Alphabet) in 30 minutes – YouTube

Moving Beyond Hangul:

Once I got the hang of Hangul, I started using apps like Duolingo to expand my Korean skills. But until you’ve mastered the basics of Hangul, I wouldn’t recommend diving into language apps just yet.

Language Exchange:

One of the best decisions I made was jumping into a language exchange program once I arrived in Korea. Not only did I get a tutor to help me improve my Korean, but I also made some incredible connections. Making Korean friends can be tough if they’re not your coworkers, but language exchange opened up a whole new world for me.

Survival Phrases:

To help you get started on your Korean journey, here are some survival phrases to get you through those first few weeks:

  • Hello: 안녕하세요 (annyeonghaseyo)
  • Thank you: 감사합니다 (gamsahamnida)
  • I’m sorry: 미안합니다 (mianhamnida)
  • Yes: 네 (ne)
  • No: 아니요 (aniyo)
  • Where is the bathroom?: 화장실이 어디에 있어요? (hwajangsil-i eodie isseoyo?)
  • Do you speak English?: 영어 할 줄 아세요? (yeongeo hal jul aseyo?)
  • Help: 도와주세요 (dowajuseyo)
  • I’m okay: 괜찮아요 (gwaenchanayo)

Remember, learning a new language takes time and patience. Don’t be too hard on yourself, and enjoy the journey!

12Nov

What You Should Buy ASAP for Life in Korea

Moving to a new country can be both exciting and overwhelming, especially when it comes to setting up your new home. After living in South Korea for two years, I’ve learned firsthand the importance of certain essentials to make your transition smoother. Here are the first things you should consider purchasing upon arrival:

  1. Quality Mattress: One of the first things you’ll notice upon moving into your apartment is the empty space waiting to be filled. Investing in a good mattress is crucial for your well-being, as quality sleep is invaluable. I recommend browsing Gmarket for a comfortable mattress that suits your preferences. If budget constraints are a concern, start with a bed mat temporarily and upgrade once you receive your first paycheck. Trust me, a good night’s sleep is worth it.I recommend ordering this as soon as you receive your address. 
  2. T-money Card: Upon landing in Korea, one of the first tasks on your list should be acquiring a T-money card. Available at convenience stores or vending machines at subway stations, this card is essential for navigating public transportation seamlessly. It’s a convenient way to pay for buses, subways, taxis, and even some convenience store purchases.
  3. Shower Filter: Hard water is a common issue in Korea, which can lead to hair fall out and skin irritation. Save yourself the hassle by purchasing a shower filter from Daiso or a local store. For a super low cost of around 5,000 won, you’ll protect your hair and skin from the harsh effects of hard water.
  4. Trash Bags and Recycling Bin: Korea has a strict recycling system, and proper disposal of waste is essential. Head to the convenience store to purchase specific bags for disposing of non-recyclable items. These bags are necessary for using communal trash bins, and you’ll need to ensure you have the correct type for your city. Additionally, consider investing in a small bin for carrying recyclables to make the process more manageable.
  5. Drying Rack: Korean apartments typically don’t come equipped with dryers, so a drying rack is a must-have item. You’ll be hanging your laundry to dry, so pick up a drying rack from Daiso to make this task more efficient. It’s a small investment that will save you time and energy in the long run.

By prioritizing these essential items, you’ll be better prepared to settle into your new life in South Korea comfortably. From ensuring a good night’s sleep to navigating the intricacies of the local trash system, these purchases will streamline your transition and help you feel at home in your new environment.