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South Korea: CIEE and Me

Every adventure starts with the first step and for two of my three journeys abroad my first step was with a great organization known as CIEE.

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: This may sound like a total plug for this organization. It’s not. I’ve just repeated this story so many times, I decided to blog about it. I constantly encourage my peers to travel and experience this world. This is how I’m doing it.

CIEE: The Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) is an organization that helps bring countries together through study abroad and teach abroad programs. I have participated in their Teach in China program and am currently participating in their Teach in Korea program. From start to finish the CIEE staff helps you and guides you through every step of the process.

It starts while you are home and you decide to go. CIEE provides you with a variety of options that allows you to participate around the globe. CIEE is very great with constantly dealing with a person’s concern. Initially, I called a lot. I had a lot of questions (LOL). The first step is a series of application forms, references, résumé and some kind of essay. Second comes your acceptance into your program of choice. Granted this part is the first of your two stress-inducing wait periods.

After your acceptance into CIEE however you go through the second wave of filling things out. This means getting items together like your visas, background checks and physical examinations that these countries require. That alone can be daunting, but CIEE is always there for you with advice, help and words of to simply calm yourself down while you deal with the potential horrors of your city’s postal system. Yes, I have issues with USPS.

When you finish gathering everything and turn it in, them comes the second and most dreadful wait of all. This is the wait to get chosen by a school. While you sit with nothing to do, having turned in your notice for your job, banking on this opportunity, you wait. Trust me it is nerve wracking. Eventually, a school selects you for consideration. Once you’re interviewed for your school, which CIEE preps you for, and get selected you are on your way to the beginning of a new journey!

The last thing CIEE does for you is an orientation. Some places it’s a couple of weeks long and some places it is only a weekend. You are taken to wonderful sites in your chosen country and you get plenty of useful information for your stay there. Lastly you get to try amazing food. The food is a reflection of the culture. You get to experience new flavors that open your mind and help you evolve.

South Korea and Me: So far it has been an amazing time here in Korea and one of if not the most rewarding aspects of teaching abroad is the children. As a teacher at a Hogwon School I get to spend a lot of time with developing young minds. Granted, half of my time is teaching students who are under the age of 6, but I have seen youth develop behavior and habits that I wish some adults knew now.

My shining example of their culture so far, is smiling for pictures. I know it sounds small, but for some reason these Korean younglings have mastered the art of turning frowns upside down when the camera’s around. As adults we feel its okay to just not smile when our picture is being taken because we feel “some kind of way.” But pictures are our immortal stories that will be around long after we pass away. When your descendants look at you as you are immortalized in a moment in time, wouldn’t you want that one to show happiness? These Koreans master the whole “never get caught slippin’ mentality” and I’m proud to be here teaching them. And I’m smiling more, too.

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