Wednesday, July 28, 2010


It goes without saying that I have been stressed. I have been worried sick about getting my work visa, getting it in time, getting to Korea, money for getting to Korea, yadda yadda. I'm pretty much forced to be static until August 16 (my magical day) when I can get my official transcripts and all of that good stuff. Today is my last undergraduate class, well, not even class because we're taking our final. So, tonight is my final undergraduate final. My goodness does that feel good. It's been a stressful summer thus far with studying for my Praxis (teacher certification) exam, being an adult and managing multitudes of paperwork, and taking my last undergraduate class of Geography, none the less (yes Mom, I know Alaska is attached to Canada and not floating out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean...thank you very much). But as this summer winds down and my anticipated departure date inches closer and closer, I can't help but reflect upon my life thus far and contrast it to my life that soon will be. My amazing, intelligent, beautiful souled, and gorgeous sister Kelsey is, as we speak, taking the Bar Exam (I don't know if that should technically be capitalized but the way she's studied for it, I feel that it deserves the respect of a proper noun) and it's incredible to think how we have grown up. It boggles my mind to think that we are actually at "that point" where we say goodbye to the incredible parents that raised us and we spread our wings and fly. It's just unreal to me. I'm sure it will feel a bit more real in a couple of months when I'm on a 12 hour flight to Korea. These sort of reflections get me a bit choked up, honestly, and it's pictures like this one that make me happy. This was posted on my sister's facebook and I'm not sure why I love it so much but I sense right now that it will end up in a frame on my desk in my tiny little apartment in Korea. This. Is. My sister. and she's amazing. One more item of sentiment. I was going for a run this morning (losing weight is on the top of my todo list before entering a country filled with size 0 women) and as I typically do, had my ipod on shuffle. Right on cue, as the end of my run was approaching, I was panting up that last hill using the last bit of strength that I found deep within, as I was leaving the forest and the sun was peaking through the canopied trees, this song came through my ear buds. I kid you not, I looked up at the bright blue sky, spread my arms out wide, grinned up at the rejuvenating sun, and spun around in a couple of cleansing rotations. If it were being filmed, it would have been in slow motion. It was incredible.

My sister and I are having our college graduation party on Saturday (she's obviously graduating as Doctor O'Donnell and I'm...well...I'm Ms. O'Donnell)

I can't wait to see where life will take Kelsey and me and what we'll do. This is an exciting time!

Lyrics: Soar by Christina Aguilera
When they push when they pull, tell me can you hold on
When they say you should change can you lift your head high and stay strong
Will you give up, give in, when your heart's crying out that it's wrong
Will you love you for you at the end of it all

Now, in life, there's gonna be times when you're feelin' low
And in your mind insecurity seems to take control
We start to look outside ourselves for acceptance and approval
We keep forgettin' that the one thing we should know is

Don't be scared to fly alone, find a path that is your own
Love will open every door it's in your hands, the world is yours
Don't hold back and always know, all the answers will unfold
What are you waiting for, spread your wings and soar

The boy who wonders is he good enough for them
He's tryin' to please 'em all but he just never seems to fit in
Then there's the girl who thinks she'll never ever be good enough for him
She's tryin' to change and that's a game she'll never win

In life there's gonna be times when you're feeling low
And in your mind insecurity seems to take control
We start to look outside ourselves for acceptance and approval
We keep forgettin' that the one thing we should know is

Don't be scared to fly alone, find a path that is your own
Love will open every door it's in your hands, the world is yours
Don't hold back and always know, all the answers they will unfold
What are you waiting for, spread your wings and soar

In the mirror is where she comes face to face with her fears
Her own reflection, now foreign to her after all these years
All of her life she has tried to be something besides herself
Now time has passed and she's ended up someone else with regret

What is it in us that makes us feel the need to keep pretending
Gotta let ourselves be

Don't be scared to fly alone, find a path that is your own
Love will open every door it's in your hands, the world is yours
Don't hold back and always know, all the answers they will unfold
What are you waiting for, spread your wings and soar

Don't be scared to fly alone, find a path that is your own
Love will open every door it's in your hands, the world is yours
Don't hold back and always know, all the answers they will unfold
What are you waiting for, spread your wings and soar

Don't wait, no more
You can soar
Spread your wings and soar
Don't wait, no more
Spread your wings and soar

So What you waiting for?
...Don't wait...
...Don't wait, no more...
...Don't wait...
...Don't Wait...

Monday, July 26, 2010

Am I applyinig to be Govenor or to teach in Korea??

I am slowly discovering the meticulous, multi-faceted process of applying for a work visa. woooww. With the number of times I've been fingerprinted and the amount of official documents I've obtained, I feel like this is more than trying to teach small children the difference between a verb and an adverb in Korea. When all is said and done, it will be a great learning experience but in the midst of it all, in the eye of the tornado, in the axis of the hurricane, in the heart of the's just a tad bit overwhelming. Ok so maybe my analogies where a bit of a hyperbole as this process has not been completely destructive but rather just confusing, frustrating, and nerve-racking. I've never suffered from anxiety until this point in my life. My heart has yet to reach its normal rate of pulse and my hands have not experience the relief of dryness in three days. As painful as it is right now to reflect back on my not-so-distant memory of how I have been working to obtain my work visa, I know that I will be happy that I recorded the process later in my life. Plus Justin needs me as a resource so this is partially for him too. (Rrreeed... ^.^)

Alrighty then. In order for me to get my work visa, I must have the following documents to send to my recruiter in Korea: GEPIK application form, (GEPIK is the program that I am working through, Korvia is the recruiter that got me signed on with GEIK.) Resume, Copy of my passport, 2 passport photos, apostilled copy of notarized University degree (this will be explained further down), 2 sealed transcripts, 1 apostilled record check, 2 reference letters, 3 copies of the signed contract, 1 health statement for immigration. All of these documents need to be sent in the mail to Korvia. Once they have all of these documents in hand, THEY then do the necessary work for me to get work visa. I will then get my work visa once I arrive in Korea.

You're probably asking, what the heck is apostilled??? I was asking the same thing about 2 weeks ago. Microsoft Word doesn’t even recognize it as being an official word in spell check for God’s sake! After some deep Google searches and some general Q&A with different people, I found out that getting a document notarized (signed, stamped, approved with an official person that works through the government like a bank) is at the state level; getting something apostilled is getting it signed, stamped, approved at the Federal level. This can be done a couple of different ways, it really depends on what you're trying to get apostilled. Background checks must get apostilled in your State Capitol city at the Secretary of State office. Diplomas...well...I'm not sure yet but I will be sure to let you know when I do! I'm sure you can call your University Registrar and ask them, that's what I'm going to do.

Words of wisdom/advise/insight for those that are trying to get a work visa.

If you're going to Korea:
As of September 1, 2010 it is a new law that you must get an FBI background check to get your visa instead of just getting a state background check. My ETA for my documents in Korea is right on the borderline of August and September so for me, this meant getting both the FBI and the state background check. The FBI background check can take up to 12 weeks to get back so get that sent off IMMEDIATELY when you are applying to teach in Korea. As long as it's 3 months recent, it's good. This is a fairly easy process. Go to this link, which is the FBI page for getting background checks. Fill out the form, print it out and take it with you to your local police station. Once at the station, request a fingerprint card. These are free and are relatively easy to obtain. You just have to fill out the card with some information. MAKE SURE TO WRITE ON THE CARD WHY YOU ARE GETTING THESE DONE! My reads, "FBI background check for work visa to teach in South Korea" This information is important. Then they take you to the little station and roll each finger in ink and yadda yadda BAM! you have your fingerprint card. Mail the fingerprint card, a check for $18 and the form you printed to

FBI CJIS Division – Record Request
1000 Custer Hollow Road
Clarksburg, WV 26306

then wait for them to send back the results in the mail.

I had to get a state background check as well. I got that in the same day but assuming that anyone who reads this for advice will be going to Korea post September 1, I'll just skip that story.

Apostilled documents:
Getting something apostilled is not too terribly complicated but does take a little bit of time. Once I got my state background check, in Jefferson City at the State High Way Patrol, they notarized it for me. I then went to the Secretary of State Office to get it apostilled. I was directed where to go and walked up into the office, filled out a form, paid $10, waited 20 minutes, and walked out with an apostilled state background check. Getting something apostilled is going to vary depending on what document you are working with. It should make sense accordingly.

Ah yes, the diploma.
So here's the deal. I don't officially graduate until August, after my summer class has been completed. This is a problem because my recruiter needs my diploma by September 1 at THE ABSOLUTE LATEST in order to apply for my work diploma won't come until mid October...I'm supposed to be starting my job on October 1. Yikes. For me, August 16 is THE magical date. That is when my degree will be posted online, which means that is when I can get my official transcripts, which means that's when I can go to the CAPS office and get something official that will be treated like my diploma until I can get my real diploma. The challenge comes in getting "that something official" notarized and apostilled, as I would my diploma. As soon as I get those things on August 16, I will send them off to Korea immediately so my recruiter can start processing my stuff to get my visa.

This is a really great blog that I follow as well. She posted the changes that Korea is making pertaing to E2s (work visas). Check it out.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

sweeeeet eeemoootioonsss (sweet emotions)

At this time, October seems so far away as the anticipation stirs within me and causes my heart to beat at twice its regular speed. My paper work is still incomplete, which lingers over me and consumes my nightmares, my diploma is yet to be awarded to me, and my teacher certification test is a mere 3 solar rotations away. Stressed.

However, a large dose of reassurance came to me in the form of an e-mail which was sent as a reply from the other American teacher that is currently working in Shinha Elementary School, my future place of employment. It appears that we have some things in common that will be comforting. Most excitingly, she knows what Gender Roles are and how we're affected by them. Thank. God. I even took a little bit of time to read her blog that eloquently depicts her emigration from the US into South Korea. Her insightful allegories spark my enthusiasm yet leave me a bit weary about somethings. Her attention to the emotional aspect of leaving home was comforting, as I too am juggling with the best way to deal with the inevitable emotional strain that such a journey will bring forth. I have been internalizing my options of confronting my fears and openly dealing with them or rather just ignoring them in an attempt to make them null and void. Bucket list item #71: consistently practice open communication. Right.

Anyway, this is the school where I'll be teaching 5th and 6th grade English. (thanks for the photo, West)

Back to studying....

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I was here this time last year. I wonder where I'll be this time next year...

You're always in my heart, Wando, South Korea. ^.^

Friday, July 16, 2010

The decision is final

I have, much to my surprise and seemingly to the surprise of my parents, made a set-in-stone decision to go with the Korvia recruitment site. Before I go into my long drawn-out though extensively logical explanation of my decision, I will first provide a more detailed setting of my future place of employment and abode. I will be living in Icheon, South Korea (no, Google, I did NOT mean Incheon, South Korea), which is a small, rural area southeast of Seoul (approximately about an hour though different sources have provided me with differentiating approximations). I will be teaching at an elementary school. WOAH! WAIT! WHAT? Yes, that's right. I will be teaching students that are not currently going through nor have already gone through puberty; not my anticipated age group but nonetheless, I will still be educating the future generation of... Korea... and am thus implementing my passion to sever boredom from education and impose an acquired love for learning. Not only is this town located within reasonable distance from Seoul but it's also located in a providence that houses the city of Gwangju (a popular city for studying college students and the home to many of my Korean native friends) and Incheon (the only city you can fly in and out of internationally). While it may be a bit less populous than a town I might prefer, this particular job far outweighs the other by kilometer (is that a lot? Note to self: learn metric system).

Now, onto the more in depth details that will allow you to see the inner-workings of my cluster-of-a-mind. (I understand if you make the personal decision to forego reading the proceeding information seeing as that was a slight disclaimer) Note: Aclipse and Korvia are RECRUITERS THAT RECRUIT FOR DIFFERENT COMPANIES AND SCHOOLS. They are not limited to the schools and contracts I have been given but I will use their names for the sake of familiarity.

I was invited to teach at Icheon Elementary School and Chungdahm Institute. The latter of the two would have placed me in an urban setting (yes!) teaching high school (YES!). However, my upbringing has not taught me to make irrational decisions based on emotions (though that's what I have frequently done in the past and well....humm...moving on!) and being surrounded by the wisdoms of home and the intellectual, logical minds of my parents and sister, I decided to create an Excel sheet (Justin: OOOHHH....yeeeah...I think I've heard of those before. Me: **combustion of laughter) outlining the general points taken from each contract. With Korvia, it was a CON-TRACT! With Aclipse, it was a "contract". Here were my findings: Korvia pays me salary (doesn't fluctuate, always consistent, paid on the 17th day of each month) Aclipse pays me...salary or hourly and no given pay day is provided. Korvia pays for my health insurance, Aclipse maybe pays for half. Korvia pays me back for the entire plane ticket. Aclipse pays half. Korvia has me working Monday-Friday, Aclipse has me working Monday-Saturday. Korvia gives me several days of paid vacation, Aclipse gives me 7 unpaid. The list goes on and on including housing, sick time, training, stability, co-teacher, etc. Korvia comes out on top with all of them. Oh, and here's a BIG deciding factor for me. With the Aclipse school, they would provide me with curriculum I had to teach and expect that I teach it their way, which is very structured. With the Korvia school, I will be able to write my own lesson plans with my co-teacher and will be able to add to them and modify as I see fit. Done and done.

I did some further research on Chungdahm Institute (the place I would be working at if I chose Aclipse) and thisis what I found.

Korvia is the over all wiser decision.

Now, I just have to figure out how to get that dang Visa. paperwork, paperwork, paperwork.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I did it...I got the job...two actually!

I have received word of official acceptance from both of my recruiters. One is a rural elementary school job, the other is an urban high school job. I'm pretty sure the latter of the two has my heart but one of my very dearest friends made an outstanding suggestion that I first review the contracts meticulously before making my final decision. That, Red, is exactly what I'm going to do. And he will review them and my parents will review them before I make my final decision. Un. Real.

As I look forward to the future, I can't help but reflect upon my past and remember the journey that has aided me in affirming my life long decision to teach English abroad. I miss those memories dearly but can't wait to conceive new ones. This is my time and I'm so ready.

Monday, July 12, 2010

I got the job!!...I think...wait...?

A few days ago, I received an e-mail from my Korvia recruiter telling me about Icheon Shinha Elementary School. She let me know that she would love to recommend me for being placed at the school and was respectfully asking for my permission to do so for a couple of different reasons: 1- it's about an hour outside of the city (I have chosen to teach inside of the city due to personal preference) 2- it's an elementary school (I was aiming for middle or high school). At this point, beggars can't be choosers and with robust excitement, I gave her the go ahead. She also attached a document that told me all about the school and provided me with important details that allowed me to feel more comfortable about accepting this position if the opportunity presented itself. Or...perhaps it was my complete disparity that had surfaced at the time of e-mail response but nonetheless, I enthusiastically instructed her to inquire further about this position.

This morning I received an e-mail from her that said that Icheon Shinha Elementary School would love to work with me. I have a phone interview with them Wednesday at 2 pm Korean time, that's Tuesday at midnight Missouri time.

I'm still waiting to her back from my Aclipse recruiter.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Korea hearts pictures

I received an e-mail from my Aclipse recruiter saying that all of my application materials look fantastic but she was missing a picture from me. It needed to be a picture of me in professional attire, smiling. Thankfully, I had one from my graduation ceremony. I sent her three versions of the same photo...just in case. As implied by the title of this particular post, Korea sure does like to see the person they're hiring before the letter of acceptance is sent out. Not sure of the reason but I've experienced this with both companies.

This is where I plug an AMAZING site for aiding me in my multiple photo edits. My beautiful sister Kelsey introduced me to it and I want to share it with the world.

This is the picture I used. This is one of the three versions I used. I also sent one that showed a full background and one that was just a head shot. I anticipate that one of the three will successfully adhere to the standards.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Plan B

Due to the feeling of defeat and the sense of hopelessness that was thrown at me with my first attempt to get hired, I moved on to another plan. My mom, being the incredibly supportive mother that she is, did some Google searches for me and came across another recruiting site. Aclipse is similar to Korvia in that they recruit and send you to different schools in Korea but the two companies have a few major differences. Aclipse services out of the States, Korvia services out of Korea. I am working with an American recruiter who works from Boston with Aclipse, with Korvia, I worked with a Korean woman who works....somewhere in Korea. Aclipse works with a specific group of schools that all share the same philosophy, curriculum, and network called ChungDaum schools; Korvia works with different kinds of schools in different areas (public, private, rural, urban).

The application process for Aclipse was MUCH different form that of Korvia. More cut and dry, more fat was cut out, it moved quicker, was less complicated. My initial application was the simple submission of my resume and answering a few questions. This just shows you're interested (same with Korvia). They then contacted me via e-mail to say they're interested in me and we set up a phone interview. That was interested. MUCH less intimidating than the first interview I had over the phone. It was a chance for her to get to know me as a person and as a potential educator. I heard back two days later via e-mail saying that I had passed the phone interview. I then had to submit some other documents for the complete application process. One of these things was a YouTube video that let them see me as a person even farther.

I am still waiting for my results from that.

Hopefully, I'll end up with two job offers!

A word to the wise (a.k.a. those who simply don't know better)

It has been an extended amount of time since I have last posted. The reason for this can be accredited to multiple different things ranging from time spent at work, to time spent studying. Ah yes, studying. Studying for the PRAXIS (teacher certification exam) test, studying for my final undergraduate class, studying for tests at work. Whatever the reason is for my blog abandonment, I do solemnly swear to maximize my efforts in keeping this 3-person subscriber blog alive and updated. Now, onward.


Disclaimer: If you have ADHD/ADD do NOT, I repeat, DO NOT admit having it, taking medicine for it, going to therapy for it, or anything else of this nature. My recruiter has informed me that there a stigma exists in Korea against persons who have received any sort of therapy and/or are on medicine for mental stimulus. So, if you come across a question on an application that asks if you have ever been to counseling, LIE! or if you have ever taken medicine LIE! This is very far out of my nature, to advocate untruthful responses on such a document but your success depends on it, friend. If you truly feel that you can't handle teaching over seas than what are you doing applying in the first place??! Thus, I feel it is fair to say that you have made the executive decision for yourself that you are fully capable, willing, and committed to the trials and tribulations that are packed inside the Teaching Overseas Gift Basket (pretty red bow not included). To us, Americans, therapy is encouraged because it makes the implication that you are attempting to better yourself and/or your situation. For Koreans, it means you're messed up, unstable, and can't handle yourself. Now, my confusion deepened when attempting to configure their reasoning behind applying their culture to my culture. I would understand if they typically hired Koreans but THEIR JOB IS TO HIRE AMERICANS! Bitter? naawww... Wouldn't the logical reasoning be to understand that in our culture, therapy is encouraged more or less? The fact that I had completed an English camp in Korea held now weight, nor did my college diploma, nor the fact that I had led an English camp at my University, or the fact that I had just completed my student teaching internship. LIE, LIE, LIE!

I have exchanging e-mails back and forth with my recruiter who has shown great belief and faith in me. I have made my frustration evident to her, only because this is something I've been set on doing for so long now. After a series of e-mails, which were a mixture of my frustration and her relentless determination to find me a job, it was finally mentioned again that I have been to Korea before, I have taught Korean students, and I have graduated college! She was shocked by this (though this information is in my cover letter, my resume, and was discussed in the interview) vowed to never mention the ADHD again if she could speak with someone from my Korean English camp. (on a side note, my recruiter is bogged down with a large quantity of work, as this is a busy hiring time, and it is understandable how I got lost in the shuffle; I still think she is a great and amazing recruiter) I still keep in close contact with my boss from English camp and happily gave her his number. She responded with an apologetic e-mail which stated that she would never bring up my ADHD again to other hiring schools and asked me to do the same. SEE! LIE!