It has been so long…

And for that I am sorry. This past few weeks has been pretty rough for me in terms of motivation to do things for a whole list of personal reasons I will not bore you with here.

But fear not, I will be posting once again. I will try and get one or two new posts up today and perhaps another one written. It will probably be another Applying to EPIK post and perhaps the next K.F.C. But now, I got to eat lunch and do a little lesson planning.


K.F.C. – Korean Food Corner: The Fried Rice Experiment!

So, welcome to this first in what I hope is a series of food based posts by me. They will be a mixture of meals I cook at home and the many kinds of delicious foods that I eat when I am out with friends. When I lived in the UK, I loved cooking and counted it as probably the only productive hobby I had. I have finally begun cooking here in Korea over the last month or so and it is a lot of fun.

So, for this post I have decided to talk you through what I call the Fried Rice experiment. I have made this several times here but this time I also included egg in the recipe (for no other reason than I had them and they were going out of date).

I used
One pork cutlet
Six spring onions
Three red chillies
Half a pack of enoki mushrooms
Oyster Sauce
Pinch of salt, pepper and chilli powder
Three eggs (this was too much – I would suggest maybe one or two)
One mug of rice

1: I started by washing the starch off of my rice and leaving it to cook for 20 minutes in my rice cooker. Whilst this was cooking, I began chopping up my vegetables and meat. I thinly sliced the spring onion and chillies. For the mushrooms, I cut these into smaller chunks. I then chopped the chillies into smaller pieces.

2: I then sliced up my pork and seasoned it with a pinch of salt and pepper along with a light sprinkling of chilli powder.

3: By this time, my rice was almost done. I put around a teaspoon of olive oil into a frying pan and added my pork. I cooked it until it was a light brown on the outside over a medium heat.

4: I added my vegetables into the pan and fried them for around three minutes. I also turned off my rice cooker, as my rice was finished cooking.

5: I washed the rice off with boiling water and added it to the pan. After letting it sit for around twenty seconds, I added the oyster sauce and mixed it in. I used around a tablespoon of sauce. I did this over a low heat.

6: Finally, I broke three eggs over the rice and mixed these in. Here, I kept stirring all of the time to ensure the egg broke up properly. This thickened the whole dish and made it have a consistency similar to risotto but the sauce was thicker.

7: After letting it sit on a low heat for around three minutes, I served the meal. It was good (though perhaps too much for just one person). I seasoned the whole meal with some pepper. Next time, I will perhaps use less egg as I think the sauce was just a little too thick.

So there you go. My first food post. If you have any feedback on this at all, let me know. I am always looking to improve my blog and my writing (along with my cooking).

Check back for my next post soon, when I will tell you all about my weekend adventures in Seoul.

Applying to EPIK #2 – That essay

So, I am not going to talk much in this post as I can’t offer you a lot of advice. I don’t know exactly what it was about my essay that got me an interview but they seemed to like it. I just addressed the points they asked for in the best way I could. I have posted it below for anyone to look at:

Why Korea? This is a question my friends and family have asked me on a daily basis since I announced my desire to teach there. I respond by saying that it would be a wonderful opportunity to experience a culture where old and new, tradition and progress sit side-by-side in harmony. Korea is the perfect example of how modernisation does not have to mean the abandonment of valued customs and teaching English in Korea would allow me to witness this on a daily basis.

But it is also a chance to do much more than this. I believe that contact with a native speaker of a language can make a positive difference when learning. I am currently teaching myself Korean, but with no help from a native speaker it is difficult to know how well I am doing or if I have made a mistake. By teaching English in Korea, I will not only get the chance to improve my own Korean skills but engage the students in my own language and customs. I also believe that by helping to improve their language skills, I will be helping to set my students up for a great and successful future. This is something I was able to experience first-hand whilst volunteering to help teach at a local school in the summer of 2012.

It was whilst volunteering here that I was able to develop my own education philosophies. I believe that no two students are the same and that everyone learns in different ways and at different speeds. By using a range of activities (books, games, role-playing or multi-media), students can be given the chance to engage with a subject and develop an interest in what they are learning. This makes the learning of something new much easier and helps the student want to learn. I also believe that a teacher should set an example for his or her students. A way of doing this in an English class could be to make English the ‘official language’ of the classroom. Just as I would learn Korean more easily from becoming completely immersed in the language, my students could learn much more English being surrounded by it in the lesson. As well as this, I believe that every teacher has responsibility for the future of the children that they teach and this is a something that I take extremely seriously. Finally, I believe that learning can and should continue outside of the classroom, whether through a club, camp or trip. This is something that I involved myself in, both at University and whilst I was volunteering at Bexhill High School. In this way, it can be made fun and more engaging for a student that might otherwise find it dull.

However, it is important to remember that I will spend my time in Korea learning new things too. It is a country that is quite different from the one I have grown up in, but I firmly believe that cultural differences are only a problem if we let them become one. By involving myself in the local and school communities through clubs and events (for example, Taekwondo), I will be able to settle myself into life in Korea more easily. It is a way I can get to know my co-workers, students and neighbours. I believe that through shared interests, friendships can blossom even with a language barrier. I enjoy cooking and look upon the chance to visit Korea as a chance to not only expand my own cookery skills but leave a piece of my culture there after I have gone. I am already teaching myself Korean, which will make the hardest barrier I will face seem smaller. I first came across Korean culture when I looked at some modern Korean history whilst sitting my degree. It was studying this that made me believe that many Westerners have misconceptions about Korea and I see the chance to teach English there as an opportunity to learn about more Korean culture and then teach others about what I have seen and learnt. But most importantly, I believe that if I embrace this chance for the great opportunity it is, I will make new friends, have new experiences and be able to make a positive difference to the lives of my students.

I hope this is helpful for someone.

Check back soon for a food based blog post.

Applying to EPIK #1 – One small step for man…

So welcome, intrepid adventurer, to this post about the EPIK application process. If you are reading this, I assume you are aware I came to Korea with EPIK in the Fall 2013 intake, which means that one year ago I was in your shoes. That is to say, wanting to apply but frantically searching the internet for advice at the same time. I am going to begin with a disclaimer – this application will have a UK based bias. Other folks, most of this is general information. It is just some specific things (such as going to the embassy, tax information and that kind of thing) I can’t help you other folks on. US folks, there is a bunch of information out there for you (Shimmering Seoul always offers bloody good advice on this sort of thing and is extremely useful).

Now that is all over, let us begin. For the initial stages, you only need submit an application form and two scanned letters of recommendation. Seoul applicants, you also need to fill out the Seoul Attachment Form. We will start with a look at the application for itself. Having looked over it, I don’t think it is any different from the one they used when I applied. Page one is simple enough and just covers your general information such as name, DOB, gender and nationality. The only bits I will discuss are sections four and five.

Section Four – This part of the form covers Korean heritage and citizenship. The questions here are simple enough (Are you ethnically Korean and does the Korean government consider you to be a holder of Korean citizenship?). As far as I am aware, the only difference this makes to your application is the kind of visa you will apply for later on. I can’t be certain, as I am not ethnically Korean.

Section Five – This section is important. It covers the times you will be available for interview, as well as the way they can contact you for it. Skype is the preferred way of undertaking an interview and I don’t know anyone that didn’t undertake their interview this way. The best piece of advice I can offer here is be as flexible as possible. Yes, this might mean an early morning or late night interview (in fact, that is basically a guarantee). However obvious it seems, the more you are available the easier it will be for them to interview you. On my application, I listed every available time and had my interview around 1pm KST (which was early morning back home in the UK).

The next several pages mostly cover your educational and previous teaching experiences. As you are applying to EPIK, I will assume you are already undertaking a TEFL qualification (now a requirement for applicants). When I applied I was undertaking my TEFL course and had some voluntary teaching experience. List anything you have, even if it is only two weeks. You must also write list the contact information for your two references. I will talk about these letters later in this post.

Placement preference is up next and I would suggest doing some research about the different provinces and things. Many people want Seoul or a similar large city. However, I would say don’t discount the provinces and smaller cities. I live in Cheongju, which is the capital of Chungbuk province. And it is great. Well placed for travel within Korea (central), not too big or small, great travel links (30 minutes from Dajeon) and a range of activities within the province itself. The only downside is it has no coastline at all. But you are never very far from one. Everything else on these pages is self-explanatory. If you have any questions, just leave me a comment and I will do my best to help.

The medical assessment section is up next. My advice would be fill it out as honestly as possible, except maybe for the mental illness section. I know of people here who had certain issues but didn’t mention them on their application, as there is a lot of social stigma attached to them in Korea. I won’t go into that here but it will make the whole application much easier. Again, the next two pages are self-explanatory.

As for the lesson plan and personal essay, I will upload them in separate posts later on today.

The letters of recommendation – I used a lecturer from my university and a teacher at the school I volunteered at. The only real advice I can offer is make sure the person knows you well (though if you have teaching experience, it would be wise to use someone from their as a reference). Make sure they sign and date the letters. With my application, this wasn’t the case and it was missed in the first round. It was not a big deal but added to my stress as I had to re-gather them when I was also sorting out things like criminal record checks.

The Seoul form is something I didn’t fill out, as I applied for Chungbuk last time. The only issue I can see on it is regarding the schools. In Seoul, they are only hiring for elementary schools at the moment. I think this is due to a scaling down of the programme itself within Seoul and other metropolitan centres.

Well, this post has gone on a bit. Check back for the next post soon. And good luck if you are applying. You won’t regret it. Coming here has been a great experience for me.

The Next Six Months (or How I Plan To Go Out And Start Living)

So, when I last left you all, I promised thrilling tales for this next instalment. Well, prepare yourselves. The tales might not be as thrilling as I promised but I hope you read on regardless. First, a quick update on me. This past month, I have spent a good amount in the Steam Winter Sale (but with much to show for it) and treated myself to a new 3DS and Pokemon Y (because growing up isn’t all responsibility and boredom). However, one of the most exciting things I have done is (finally) visit a PC Bang with some friends. For those that don’t know, a PC Bang is a large room (or building occasionally) where people go to play PC games at a surprisingly cheap rate. My friends took me to join them in playing League of Legends, possibly the most popular game here in Korea. It was pretty fun and I would suggest going to a PC Bang to anyone visiting Korea (even if it is just the once). The age range in them is impressive (I see everything from middle school students to business men), as is their popularity amongst both men and women.

Apart from this, I have been up to very little. Many of my friends did something wise (and something I wish I had done) and travelled away for their winter break. Thailand and Hong Kong topped the list of ‘Most Popular Places Visited by People Having More Fun Than Me’. I will offer this piece of advice to anyone reading this. If you come here (or go anywhere else) don’t do what I did and waste your holiday being ill and stuck at home. Go out. Visit things. See people. Create memories and stories. This next semester, I have promised myself I will go out and do things. I will see more of Korea (and finally put my camera to good use). I don’t want to reach the end of my time here with the only thing I have seen being my apartment walls. If I wanted to sit in, I could have just stayed in the UK and continued not having a life there. I am not sure exactly what I am doing yet but I have several things on my list.

  1. Go visit museums and galleries – I did this a lot with a good friend of mine in the UK and one of the things I miss most is walking down the South Bank and going to the Tate Modern. I already told you, but in that respect Rosie, you changed me for the better. In the time I knew you, I went from not understanding art at all to actually missing seeing it (I still don’t understand it, mind you…)
  2. Go to temples and other historic sites – Those of you that know me (which, currently, I assume is everyone reading this blog) will know I am a massive history nerd. Given that my degree is in history, this should not surprise you. But I have not really seen much history since I arrived here in Korea and seeing history was one of my reasons for coming here. So this next six months I am going to wonderfully fun history based things. The biggest thing I want to do? A temple stay!
  3. Finally meet my wonderful friend Hayley – I have known her since I was sixteen years old (thanks to the wonder that is the internet). Unfortunately, we had the major disadvantage of living about as far away from each other as possible (She is a Kiwi and I was based in the UK). BUT this summer, after seven years, I am finally going to meet her. I am pretty excited by this. The internet can be a wonderful thing sometimes and my friendship with her is the best thing to have come out of it.

Apart from this, I plan to write a short series on the EPIK Application process. Although this is of no use to my family, I hope that someone stumbles across it and finds it helpful. I know I spent a large amount of my time when I was applying searching the internet for advice. I am also going to read more (currently working my way through some Hemingway), write more and generally stop dreaming and start living.

Wherever you are, I hope that you all have a great year (like the one I have planned). And if you are thinking of coming to Korea, do it. What do you have to lose? This is the best thing I have ever done, and my only regret is not taking advantage of it more!
I shall sign off now. But I will write again soon.

New post on a new blog…

This is the first post I have done since way back in early January (my last post was on my last blog ( So, I hear you asking with excitement and glee? What have you been up to? To be honest, a lot but nothing all at the same time. Buckle up and prepare for excitement (as well as a long blog post) below.

Like every GET (Guest English Teacher) working at a public school in Korea I have spent the majority of January on Winter Break. However, for the majority of early January I was working on my winter camp. For those that don’t know, winter camp is something that almost every GET has to do. The kind of camp you do, and the length of your camp will vary from school to school and district to district. So, what did I do? Something that was surprisingly fun (and kept my boys engaged…for the most part). Week One of my two week camp was a thrilling adventure into the world of Doctor Who. A great love of mine is Sci-Fi and I was genuinely excited when I showed my boys some Doctor Who at the end of last semester and they loved it. This camp involved them designing a whole universe with a hero and culminated in them writing me a story. My favourite one involved Jesus being kidnapped and tortured so Buddah had to take over as ruler of the world (or something like that). I was pretty impressed with all the work I got, as some of the students tend to be a little lazier when it comes to doing work in my class.

The reaction of my boys when they heard about Doctor Who Camp

For my second week, I had planned more Sci-Fi based fun with a Back to the Future camp (the best trilogy ever made). However, on the last day of my Doctor Who Camp, my co-teacher asked if I could do a Sherlock camp instead. I agreed, remaining perfectly calm despite the fact this meant a lot more work on my part…

Inside, I was doing this…

However, I did get the work done (in part, thanks to an existing and wonderfully designed camp on Waygook) and the boys really enjoyed it. The one downside was that we never actually finished an episode of Sherlock. For the final day of my camp, I showed them Mr. Bean’s Holiday (a great movie and weirdly popular here…)

So, with my camp completed, I was free to enjoy my own holiday. Before it hit, I had all these wonderful ideas about what I would do, but rather disappointingly, I did nothing. Well, almost nothing. I had wanted to travel around Korea and see things that I had not seen. Instead, I spent the majority of my time at home, partly because I was suffering from an awful cold combined with insomnia and partly because I had managed to spend much more money than I realised.

This money (which seems to vanish from my account with more skill than Houdini) had gone on something of a good cause though – the many birthdays that I was celebrating during January (including my own). Several of my friends and I were due to have a joint birthday party in the local hangout/passive smoking room Buzz. But, at the final moment, disaster struck as one friend (who had been home in the US visiting his family) got stuck in Texas as his flight was delayed. Undeterred by this setback, Karen and I went ahead with our birthday party and it was a lot of fun. I got to catch up with people I had not seen in a while, have a great time and generally spend the first day of my holiday relaxing.

Great friends on a great night!

But what about your other friend, I hear you ask worried? Wasn’t he disappointed to not celebrate? Well, the next weekend we went out for his birthday (and also to see one of my friends perform with her band – a bloody good show it was too). This was similar to the previous week, with the addition of some random Austrian engineers (in town for work) and more tequila (never a good thing). Overall, it was a lot of fun and I am glad to have spent time celebrating with such wonderful people.

I will leave this post here for now (as it has gone on a little, hasn’t it?). Tune in soon for more updates on – How I spent a little too much in the Steam Sale, why I now have a 3DS AND how I spent several nights in smoke filled rooms, cursing random people on the internet with my two close friends.

Seriously, these guys are awesome.