Monday, September 20, 2010

Officially Legal

A couple of weeks ago, on September 7, I made an unexpected trip to Chicago in order to obtain my work order to apply for one so that I might later obtain it via over-priced FedEx days later. This trip caught me by surprise and if it weren't for my sensei then I would have been even more bewildered than I was about this whole thing. I'm not sure why my recruiter had not informed me about this trip even a few days or a week before it needed to happen but so goes Korean culture...

Luckily, it just so happened that I had a $400 plane voucher from Delta (imagine that) that came in extremely helpful when it came time to pay my unforeseen $402 round trip air fare to Chicago. I cringe to think about what would have happened had I not had that. Imagine--jumping through multiple hoops and accomplishing such great feats only to have to wait another semester to go because a plane ticket to the Korean Consulate in Chicago just isn't in the budget--I cringe. BUT! Thank goodness for a prior mistake on a trip to New York that landed me not only a life-long lesson but a free ticket to the Korean Consulate.

And off I went to Chicago on a Tuesday because I had called and made my appointment for Wednesday morning at 10:15 am. (You must call to make a reservation and they only do these interviews on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings). Luckily, I have a good friend that lives in Chicago with our mutual friend (his fiance) and they welcomed me into their home for the night. Yes, that's right: free ticket, free place to crash. I acted in the mature and responsible way (having the echos of my mother's voice in the back of my head from my New York mishap) and chose to opt out of experiencing Chicago night life and slipped into slumber around the reasonable hour of 10 pm.

The next morning, I woke up, put on my professional attire, indulged in Dane (the friend's whose pad I was staying in) freshly brewed coffee, managed to put a banana into my nervous stomach and caught the morning bus. Dane accompanied me to downtown Chicago. My desired destination was the Korean Consulate, which is located in the NBC towers. This just so happened to be a mere couple of blocks away from Dane's school. Incredible. I arrived at the NBC tower at 10 am. The nice man at the front desk let me know how to get up to the Korean Consulate and so I found the right series of elevators (floors 20-39) and stepped on. I walked in to the Korean Consulate, let the woman know I had an appointment, which I was early/on time for, and she collected my things from me (including my cash payment) and told me to wait. I spotted other young people around my age and found it fair to assume that they too were there for the same reason I was: to obtain a work visa. I quickly made conversation with those around me in an attempt to gain insight, knowledge, experience, etc. I met one guy that would be leaving for Korea in a few days, a girl who was $5 short of being able to stay in the States for another two years (I of course spotted her) and a mother who was accompanying her daughter for her interview. While I waited for my name to be called, I put a mother's mind and heart at ease by sharing my prior experiences of traveling to Korea. It was a beautiful thing, listening to her speak about what it's like to be a mother that will soon say goodbye to her daughter as she flies to the other side of the world to teach English. We spoke candidly about our fears and thoughts and shared frustrations about the application process and the aggravations we both had encountered that got us to where we were that day. Before I knew it, the big hand on my watch was resting on the 4 and my name was being called. The woman's daughter exited the interview, the same I was about to enter. We exchanged hugs and wishes of future successes then I proceeded on into the interviewing room.

They do these interviews in couples so I was paired with that male that would be leaving in a few days. It was very casual and we were even instructed to relax by the Korean man who was orchestrating the interview. He told us that we would be asked to speak for 5 minutes each and just tell about ourselves: why we want to go teach in Korea, what we studied in school, hobbies, etc. In true Korean fashion, the male went first. He talked for a bit then soon the monologue turned into dialogue. The two men chatted back and forth about things they were both interested in (basketball so I chose to abstain). Roughly 15 minutes later, it was my turn. I introduced myself in Korean and said as much as I could in his native tongue. He was very surprised and delighted, naturally. However, before I could even attempt a monologue about myself, it instantly turned into great conversation. We talked about Korea and all her beautiful landscape, our favorite Korean foods and even played around with Korean customs a bit. 20 minutes later the man looked at both of us and said, "OK, very good. You pass." He then signed and stamped our applications and that was it, it was over.

I took my papers back out to the lady at the desk and together we figured out how to make sure these get sent off correctly and then how I get my work visa back. I had to created a FedEx account and pay for it online then print out the shipping label. (The actual cost was later adjusted by FedEx, as the estimated weight was wrong.) I asked for an M on my entry type and she said, "no, we always do same" When I got it, I had an M for entry type...some things will never be explained.

On the 14th, it came in the mail and I am now the proud owner of a Korean work visa. Absolutely incredible. A week from today will be my last in the States. I fly out a week from tomorrow. My current challenge is packing: two suite cases or one?

You can go here for more information on getting a work visa for Korea.