Becoming Oriented

Trip Start Aug 25, 2012
Trip End Feb 25, 2013

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Flag of Korea Rep.  ,
Sunday, August 26, 2012

I could break this down into separate entries, but really there is no need. Even having only a few days of orientation, instead of the full run, it blends together into a blur of classroom lectures, blurry hand outs, and instant coffee. 

I arrived late to orientation, stepping straight off the plane and into a
waiting cab to be whisked away to the training facility.  I was impressed by Seoul, the sky scrapers reaching up into the clouds, their dark windows winking in the sunlight. The city spread out before us as we raced through traffic, building complexes rising and falling on either side of the high way.  Two hours of dodging through traffic and we finally slowed our pace, curving up a driveway, onto a large compound surrounded by tall walls.  We cruised gently past a soccer field, surrounded by meticulously manicured trees. Up the drive we came to a loop with a pair of buildings perched at the top of the hill. I was led inside and greeted by Jennifer, was also participating in orientation.  She helped me find my room to drop off my luggage, and then took me down to catch the tail end of dinner.

The orientation buildings look like fancy, if small, hotels. The floors are all high gloss dark granite tile and the building is open in the center so that all of the floors can look down at the lobby area, which is cloaked in stands of tall bamboo plants. Twin glass elevators rise up on either side, taking you up to your dorm room. The dorm building is connected to the meeting building by the "sky bridge" which is a glassed in walk way that leads over a courtyard in case of inclement weather (like a Typhoon or something equally improbable).

My dorm room for orientation is a double room, that I share with my room mate Elisa.  The room consists of two single beds set low to the floor, a pair of desks that face a large window, a television (which I never turned on) and a pair of lamps. Once the blinds are raised, the window shows a magnificent view of the hills and trees that surround our training facility and the clouds that hang low in the sky.  We also have a bathroom to the right of the door when we enter (with proper, Western toilet) and a shower room to the left of the door. 

In the dorm, we are served meals buffet style.  We pick up a white molded tray, metal chopsticks, and a metal spoon and we follow down the line, dishing food for ourselves from metal warming trays. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are mostly interchangeable; no real difference in foods that are offered based on the time of day. Meals always include white rice, kimchee (pickled cabbage), and soup of some kind.  In addition to the staples we are served some kind of meat in gravy, vegetable salad (hot or cold... usually cabbage based) and maybe dumplings or noodles.  We eat in a big cafeteria, chatting and slurping up soup broth with rice dropped in it.

Classes are... tedious and not super helpful. It was difficult for me to get into the groove of going to class because I missed the first few days. I was struggling to understand the schedule and where I was supposed to be, but my fellow trainees were super helpful in guiding me through the dorm and helping me find what I needed.  Finally I got my orientation packet which consisted of a tote bag, an orientation book, a pen, and a toiletries pack. Unfortunately they had run out of the pretty spiral bound notebooks that they were giving out. Thankfully my orientation book contained a schedule with details of the classes I had missed and the classes I would be going to. Most of the classes consist of a lecture about student teacher relationships, or cultural differences, or common Korean phrases. Classes run back to back all day with small breaks in between when we can go into the hall to drink instant coffee and eat little Korean cookies in colorful wrappers.

The best part of orientation is that everyone is so outgoing and super friendly. I have never had a meal alone, people chat casually in the elevator, and everyone is happy to offer advice or help to a trainee in need. I have met a lot of fantastic people here (both Korean and not), which leads me to be hopeful that the people I will meet at my school and in my apartment building will be equally awesome.
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Benny on

Glad to hear people were friendly during orientation. I hope they continue to be friendly at your school!

Mom on

I'm glad you met so many nice people during orientation. Hopefully it's a preview of the rest of the folks you'll interact with in Korea. I love the photos, even of the everyday things - it gives us a small glimpse into your life there. Keep them coming!

Dad on

It looks like you have found some new friends to help get you started in your new adventure. Keep up the positive attitude.

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