Tuesday, August 31, 2010


I have been doing an awful job at updating this blog so far. I have so much I want to say, but I've only been able to log in at internet cafes so far. I'm staying in the motel for one more night and then I move into my apartment tomorrow. I've been writing down everything at night so I'll be able to post it once I'm moved in. I just don't have enough time to think of everything I want to tell you when I'm sitting in these cafes.

I'm in the "funny rock funny" internet cafe, sitting in the "no smocking zone." There's also a "smocking zone" and a "couples zone." Not sure what the couples zone is for certain, but sometimes the English gets a little mistranslated. That's how we wind up with "smocking zones."

I'm going to the school today at 2 and I'm teaching my first class today. I promise to let everyone know more about the experience as soon as possible. According to CNN, there's a typhoon headed our way. Welcome to Korea!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

I made it!

This is going to be a very short, un-detailed post. But I just wanted to let everyone know that I arrived safely in Busan! I promise to update when I have the time, a clear mind and less jet lag. Love from South Korea!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Before I go

It's a funny thing, preparing to leave friends and family for a year. I've been away before, but never for this long. I don't exactly know how to feel sad at the moment because I'm so excited to live in Busan with a new job and a place to call my own. Saying goodbye is hard but in all reality, I'll be back before you know it. Before I know it. And although I'm sad, I'm so incredibly excited and ready to begin the adventure.

I was thinking about it... When I went back to Florence in 2010, I went to all my favorite spots I discovered in 2009. I went to the Dublin Pub and talked to Sergio, our favorite bartender, who told us that my good friend Massimo had moved back to Rome shortly after we left. I went back to Sacchi, a small bar that still had the same exact deal to offer, five shots for five euro. I went back to Eby's and he whipped us up a batch of the infamous "Laura and Heather shots" while, ironically, wearing the exact same plaid shirt. Everything and everyone was the same. Life had gone on just as I had left it. People went about their day oblivious to whether or not I was there. And although I missed Florence and the inhabitants dearly, life went on.

That's how I feel about the situation I'm in now. Yes, a year is a long time. Yes, I'm going to miss everyone from home. But yes, life is going to go on and we're going to learn and experience so much in this short time away from each other. Don't be sad I'm leaving, be happy we're going to embark on life's journey together, whether we're walking right next to each other or skyping from half way around the world.

Eby, 2009

Eby, 2010

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Considering Korea?

As I prepare to leave for Korea, it occurred to me that other people are in the same position I was a short while ago. How did I go about finding a job, applying for it, getting a visa and so on. It seems a daunting task and at times it can be overwhelming. All you need is a little patience and advice. While I can't provide a miracle pill to calm nerves, I can give a few words of wisdom.

First, you need to find a job. If you want the help of a recruiter, simply google "recruiter for teaching English in Korea" (or something along those lines) and you will get hundreds of hits. Find someone you trust and they will walk you along every step of the job and visa process. Although they are usually necessary, beware! Recruiters get money for placing you, so they may not always have your best interest in mind. There are many honest, trustworthy recruiters available; find the one that suits you!

For a more direct alternative, visit Dave's ESL cafe. You can post your resume or browse jobs in areas that interest you.

Once you have a job lined up, you're going to need all the appropriate documents. If you want to be considered for a visa, you will need:

  1. Original diploma or notarized copy
  2. Sealed university transcripts
  3. Resume
  4. Passport information page
  5. Passport sized photos
  6. Criminal background check with apostille* seal
  7. Health statement
  8. Contract with employer
When I applied for my visa in June 2010, I had a copy of my diploma notarized and apostille sealed. This worked just fine, but I don't know if the rules have changed since then. You may need to send your original, no exceptions.

*Wondering what an apostille seal is? To put it simply, it's a seal proving authentication. I had to get the seal on both my diploma and background check. I'm from Illinois and didn't live terribly far from Springfield, so I drove to get the seal. However, it is possible to receive it through the mail, although it takes significantly longer. I believe you will first have to get the documents notarized (which I got taken care of at my local bank). Here is more information about services in your state.

Once you've got all your ducks in line, it's time to send everything off to your future employer. I recommend using FedEx so you can track your package.

After a week or two, you will receive a visa issuance number. Take this number to your nearest Korean consulate along with the following documents:

  1. Visa application
  2. Passport
  3. University transcripts
  4. Passport photo
  5. Copy of contract, diploma, background check and health statement

Remember, the two lists above are only a basic outline of what you'll need. You may need numerous photos and seals or a different kind of background check; the rules are constantly changing. Make sure you do your research before you visit the consulate to apply for your visa. If you have any questions, give them a call! Here is a list of consulates located in America and Canada.

You're going to have to leave your passport at the consulate. If you live close, you can pick it up in person. If not, it's going to be mailed. If that's the case, make sure you bring a prepaid, self addressed envelope. Once again, I recommend FedEx. Wouldn't want your passport lost without a tracking number, would you?

I went to Chicago to receive my stamp and it was a painless process. I had a small interview with an employee, though I say "interview" loosely. I was asked questions with another future teacher about whether or not I had experience with children, what my life motto was and how I got such a fabulous tan (no joke). Take it seriously but don't lose sleep over this step.

And then you're off! Your employer will send you your flight information and before you know it you're going to start on your amazing adventure abroad.

Best of luck!

PS. You should definitely bring a few passport photos with you to Korea. You're going to need them for your health check and it never hurts to have a few, just in case you need them for future purposes!

Saturday, August 7, 2010


The last 25 days have been an exhausting, emotional, daring, beautiful adventure. I would not have changed a single thing about it.

Since I'm home now and can kind of put everything into perspective, it's hard to believe that 51 people did what we just did. There were a lot of long hours on the bus, some dirty hotels and ridiculously rude waiters, to name the least of our problems. But we all looked past it and found the true beauty in the adventure we were on.

This trip definitely would not have been the same had it not been for the wonderful people I met. I know I'm going to keep in touch with a few of them. Because no one can impact a person's life in the way they did without continuing to stay in contact.

My favorite place was London and I didn't think it would be. It was a vary warm, welcoming city, and we had some of the best times there. On the second day, we took the hop-on, hop-off bus tour and had a picnic in the middle of the city. A memory I will never, ever forget. It was at that time that everyone was getting to know each other better and get more comfortable with one another.

My least favorite place was Paris and I didn't think it would be. Everyone was just sort of rude and stand off-ish to us. The city didn't seem particularly warm. It was entirely too crowded and I didn't get to know her in the way I wanted to. All I saw was the typical tourist hotspots, long lines, and angry, impatient people. But it goes without being said that Florence is still my favorite city in the entire world.

I have about three weeks at home now to spend as much time with family and friends as possible. Then I am on my way to Busan! I'm so excited to embark on this journey and I know it will be a lot different than the last month I just spend abroad. Perhaps when I travel alone, I will be able to get a true sense of what it means to be a traveler and not just a tourist.

Thanks for following along on this incredible journey... but it's not over yet.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Florence and Nice

Sorry for the lack of updates! We stayed in an authentic Italian hotel which didn't have wifi, but it was kind of nice to disconnect for a while. Florence was amazing! Just as I left it... I went to all my favorite spots, bars, old apartment, markets. Two days was just not enough there, plain and simple. We are now in the French Riviera! Our hotel is in Nice and the city is beautiful. We went to Monaco today which was also breathtaking. I've actually been here as well, but with scenery this incredible, it will never get old. Tomorrow we leave for Barcelona and the rumor is that we have a VERY long bus ride. But the desination makes it all worthwhile!