1. I wish I would’ve known that I could arrive at Incheon Airport anytime between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m.
In the weeks leading up to our departure from recession-soaked Florida to South Korea, Chickpea and I were frantically contacting our recruiter and trolling forums trying to figure out what time we should arrive at Incheon Airport so our EPIK handlers could pick us up and take us to our orientation location. This was an important piece of information, because the flights from Florida landed in South Korea at wildly different times. Unfortunately, our recruiter was less than forthcoming, because the agency wanted us to wait until the last moment to buy our tickets in case there was some change in orientation dates or visa requirements. But in order to get the best possible price for our flight, we needed to know before the week prior to leaving.
See the problem?
We eventually just bought a ticket that put us in Korea at 7 p.m. We ended up waiting two more hours for the next EPIK orientation bus to arrive (and that wasn’t even the last one of the night). If I would’ve known this two weeks earlier, I could’ve shaved at least $200 from my ticket.
2. I wish I would’ve known how many times I’d have to lug my suitcase up and down several flights of stairs.
Before you pack those extra few teaching books or 10 pounds of American candy for your students (true story!), consider this: In the first 10 days after arriving in Korea will you have to lug your suitcases around at least eight times and usually up or down several floors. In reality, you probably can’t avoid this fact but make sure you have durable luggage (with wheels) that can handle your death grip as you alternately drag and throw your suitcase down seven flights of stairs (true story!).
3. I wish I would’ve known how packed the schedule was at orientation and slept better before my flight.
My fellow EPIK teachers may disagree with this, but Chickpea and I found the EPIK orientation truly exhausting. The schedule is packed from breakfast at 8 a.m. to a Korean language class that ends 12 hours later with little time in between to just relax. Even the hour-long meal times drained my energy; meeting new faces and holding conversations can be taxing after the fifth day straight. Add to this the dinners and various performances that can run until 10 p.m. And that’s not even taking into account the energy needed to acclimate to the food and just fully realize “Wow, I’m really half-way across the world.”
Don’t get me wrong: the EPIK orientation is a rewarding experience, and a good introduction to the fast-paced reality of Korea, but get your rest. You’ll need it.