I suppose it's about time I gave a little background information on myself. I think everyone reading this right now has known me for years, possibly even since I was in diapers. (You know who you are.) But, for anyone else that stumbles upon this blog and decides that it's worth reading, well, you might want to learn a little about me.
One thing I've always used to define myself is that I'm a Military Brat. When I was born both of my parents were in the military and I've lived in various places around the country because of that. I think this background is partly what gives me the courage to go and live overseas for a year or longer.
I just graduated this past May from Northwest Florida State College with a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education. My degree came with an ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages) and a Reading Endorsement.
I think I was in my second year of college when I came across the idea of going to teach overseas, but I never really considered it seriously due to the relationship I was in. At the time I only considered DoD (Department of Defense) Schools, but ended up tossing out the idea because my boyfriend didn't want me to go even farther away. We were already in a long distance relationship (6 hours). A few times after that, whenever I was at a low point, I would look at international schools over in Europe. A few times I even semi-joking told my boyfriend that if he didn't propose by the time we both graduated I would look for a job overseas.
At the time I'm sure he thought I was joking and I thought I was too, but, well, there was always the thought in the back of my mind that I was meant to do something different and exciting. I've always prided myself on being out of the ordinary. I can picture myself teaching, but I was never able to picture myself doing it in our public school system.
Okay, if you're just here for information on the visa process and what it's like to teach in Korea, please skip over the next little bit. I ramble a little and delve into some emotional stuff.
Well, some interesting things occurred a year ago yesterday - I may talk about that someday, but right now it hasn't been long enough - and I spent a lot of time writing and soul-searching. One thing I always clung to was my boyfriend, we'll call him Z, and our future together. I had decided that I could teach anywhere once I had my degree and that I'd do that and wait for him to get through medical school. I did falter a little when he told me he wanted to take a year or two off from school and stay in the Gainesville area, but I convinced myself that it was no big deal, I could just find a teaching job there.
Then along comes May and we both graduate. There's no proposal, and he convinces me to find an apartment with him in Gainesville. We find one and sign the lease before I have any guarantee of a job. Sure, he has a job, but it's in a lab making less money per hour than I do at Publix. I convince myself it's fine, that I love him and that it will all work out.
The month of June slowly ticks by, I keep getting emails from the school district saying that this position or that position has been filled. I look into a flight attendant job, just because, nothing happens there either. During my talks with Z I notice that he keeps flipping on what he wants to do. He has no clue. He's perfectly happy working an almost minimum wage job and having his parents still help support him, even though he's not in school and is living away from home. I express my doubts about being able to move to Gainesville and he responds by saying my dad can help me like his parents are helping him.
That's not how things work in my family. Or in the real world.
If I want family support I better be living at home.
So, one night, while being unable to sleep due to doubts I Google "Teach Overseas". I come across more websites I can count and eventually stumble upon teaching in South Korea. I do a bit more research, send out some information, and the next thing I know I'm on the phone talking to a recruiter.
Then I'm getting my fingerprints taken and documents sent off.
I still hadn't told Z.
Actually, I originally told no one in my family. The only person I told was my friend Nicole.
When I told Z he couldn't believe it. I told him my reasons, he still didn't want to believe it.
What are my reasons?
1. I refuse to continue to work as a cashier at a grocery store now that I have a B.S.
2. I refuse to accept help from my family if I'm moving away from home.
3. I can't put my own life on hold while you (Z) figure out what you want to do. You've had four years to figure that out.
4. I want to teach, it's my dream. (Outside of writing)
5. I want to see the world and I won't be able to do that if I'm working minimum wage at a grocery story in a college town in the middle of Florida.
We had some talks, some tears, and some good times over the Fourth of July, but, ultimately, it ended. On July 18th, 2011 our relationship ended after four years, 9 months, and twenty-four days. He was the one that made the phone call, but I'd sort of been hoping for it. I could tell that things were going to end. The only question was when. I just wish he hadn't made the call when I was all alone in town and only had twenty minutes to compose myself before my first job interview on Skype. (Oh, I did get offered that job btw, but they had the funky contract)
Actually, the next day truly showed me who my friends were. I still remember Michael's face when I told him that Z and I had broken up. The first words out of his mouth were, "I'm sorry, how about I come over when I get off work and we share a drink? You look like you could use one." (This was after a nine hour shift at Publix pretending to be happy and smiling at customers) He ended up doing that, and then Kristen (his fiancee) came over when she got off. All three of us work at the same grocery store.
Yes, it was upsetting, but I think it was the right thing. As someone said in a book I read - Our paths crossed without us meeting. We'd grown too apart over our long distance relationship. I think that if things were different we could've lasted, our personalities were compatible and the chemistry was there, but our lives were too different. Plus, I never truly felt like I belonged when we hung out with his friends. Even after all those years I was the outsider. Hehe, from a conversation Z and I had not too long after my birthday, well, they (his newer friends at least) don't like me very much at all.
Now, I think I'm done going on about that part. I probably shouldn't have said so much, but I know I haven't really told anyone the entire story, just bits and pieces.
It's funny, originally I picked Korea because the schools have to cover housing and airfare and the pay isn't bad, but now I truly want to find out everything I can about this culture. I've watched a couple of Korean dramas, read several expat blogs (I follow all the ones I read), and done a lot of research on the country. I'm truly excited about this experience.
Everything with my FBI background check ended up working out. I contacted my Congressman, Jeff Miller, and his office was able to expedite the process. I ended up getting a call from someone in the FBI on Friday, August 26, wanting to know the tracking number. When they called I was at work so my grandfather came rushing across the bridge to Publix. He was super excited and making no sense at first, I think he really confused one of my managers. I had people asking all day what had happened with that angry customer in the morning. It was rather amusing.
Well, once I got the lady the tracking number she found my fingerprints and got them processed and in the mail that same day. I ended up getting them back on Wednesday, August 31. It would've been sooner, but Hurricane Irene got in the way.
So I then got them sent off for an apostille. I used US Legalization. It was $45, which is much cheaper than any other company. I got that back on Tuesday, September 7. And, yesterday, Wednesday, September 8, I sent my documents to Korea.
I had to send:
1. Copy of diploma w/Apostille
2. Personal health statement filled out by you (attached) - no doctor's signature required
3. Photocopy of information page of passport
4. 2 passport-size photos
6. FBI check w/Apostille
7. Signed Contract
I sent it DHL and through tracking I can tell that it's sitting in Incheon, outside of Seoul, at the moment it's waiting to go through customs.
Once they get the documents they'll take them to the immigration office and get me a Visa number. I'll take that number and my passport to the Korean Consulate in Atlanta. I'll get my Visa, and then I'll be off to South Korea!
So, I have four more days at Publix (Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday, and Friday) and then I should be leaving the country by the end of the month.
Pretty much everything is packed, but I'm still sorting through some things. Everything at my dad's house is all packed up and stored under my sister's bed or on the top shelf in the closet, but I still have things at my grandparent's house.
I've donated so many things, it's insane. Since I don't plan to be back for a year, maybe even two or three, I'm really trying to consolidate things. I don't want to leave a lot of junk behind for my family to deal with.
Oh, I am going to Changwon, South Korea. It's about forty minutes from Busan by bus.