Saturday, May 29, 2010

Advice on Working for CDI Busan

Part 2 of a series: Chung Dahm Institute!!

I want to preface this by saying two things: First, just something to keep in mind, CDI Busan is not CDI Seoul. In fact, it's a company called Injoon Education; the point is, don't expect them to be exactly the same. Second, I'm sure there are many negative posts about CDI and CDI Busan online that you can find. I find that many people that post these may have other problems that lead them to theses views. (Let's leave it nice and general like that!) While I'm not beholden to them or completely in love with all that they do, I am on a whole happy with my time with them and what they have done for me. The posts below are meant as a precaution; consider me to be cautiously optimistic about working for them.

Working for CDI

-First, it is true that you make good money with them; on a whole, the amount is more than other hagwons. But there is a flip side: people that work with CDI have to work more, not on prep work but in actual classroom time. Don't expect to get any public holidays off, only your week of vacation and that's about it.

-That said, you only really work 6 hours a day, so you have the mornings and most of the afternoon to do things on your own if you are so motivated. The hours are later, but that's sort of a benefit depending on your personal schedules.

-CDI expects more professionalism from its teachers than other schools. Don't expect to walk in in flip flops and a t-shirt and sing "Kumbaya" with the kids and that's it. There is a dress code. You are expected to work. I don't mean this in a frightening way; I would rather be at a place that takes itself seriously and does what it says it does. CDI teaches English and does it pretty well, so expect to have to teach yourself. As a seemingly unnecessary addendum, watch your social networking sites, and don't write anything dumb.

-Teaching materials are provided for you. The curriculum is very structured, which has two sides to it. It is very comforting, since most people that come to CDI are not teachers by profession. But it can also be a bit stifling to people that want more freedom planning their classes. There is room to breathe and do your own thing, but it is less than other schools might allow.

-Talk to your fellow teachers at your branch. They are a great resource on the local atmosphere. Before you come, get in contact with your Head Instructor (HI). Ask them specific questions regarding your branch.

-Your living arrangements are taken care of by one Admin person at your branch. Sometimes, that person does not speak the best of English, so find someone to help you translate or speak to your HI. Just make sure everything is clear and understood; ask twice to be sure!

-Apartments: Get pictures of your place. Confirm the price (often, you will have to pay more than the housing stipend, which is currently 350,000 Won). Ask when you can move in. Ask other teachers for stuff, or check out the Korea Bridge website's postings for cheap stuff from foreigners.

-Read before you sign! Ask as many specific questions as you can!

-Clear things with your Branch Manager, then with HR. Don't assume anything will just be "ok" for you to do. This means vacation, contract specifics, whatever!

-Try to get things in writing. This is not a common practice in Korea, but if you are persistent, they will do it, and it's just a good idea to cover yourself.

-Training is a bitch. It's long and strenuous, especially when you just get to a new country. But in the end, you are waaaay overprepared for your classes and should feel confident walking into a classroom.

-Prepare for your classes. Get your books early, do the leg work. Don't walk in with nothing, cuz your classes will bomb big time. Prepare fun examples for the kids, think of additional information that you want to share, add what you personally can. The structure is a skeleton to build on, but you provide the meat, and it's your job to spark the kids' interests.

-Improve as a teacher. Talk to other teachers, watch their classes, experiment with new ideas, look for stuff online. Many teachers can stagnate because they try to do the same thing from their first term; remember that you should grow as a teacher, and really, that makes it more fun and interesting for you.

-CDI levels, from lowest to highest, are:
English Chip (EC) 1

Memory (ME) Mega
ME Giga
ME Tera

Bridge English (BE)

Interactive English (IE) Par
IE Birdie
IE Eagle
IE Albatross (and Alba Plus)


iBT 2
iBT 3

Try out multiple levels to keep things interesting and new. The most fun tend to be elementary school EC classes and upper levels (Par to Alba), but everyone finds their niche in different places.

-CDI has a certain methodology to their teaching. If you are only a lower-level teacher, you might not see what they are building up to. Look into the methodology; if you understand why they do things, it might help you more as a teacher.

-And just generally be positive about the experience! Have fun with the kids and classes, don't hate too much on the company. CDI workers sometimes have a reputation of complaining about work a lot. It's really just like any job; you get as much or as little as you want to put into it.

But make sure that you enjoy your time in Korea as well; don't forget your Trippin'!

Advice on Livng in Korea

So I sometimes get emails on people wanting advice on teaching and living in Korea. Consider this my generic post to answer those; I would really love it if people would post their own helpful hints, maybe after you read this and move to Korea, you could come back and write your own ideas! Next up is advice on teaching with CDI!

Living in Korea

-Try walking. I used to walk to work every day, and I really got to know that route and the restaurants and stops along the way. It's the best way to acquaint yourself with an unfamiliar area.

-Make an effort to learn the language. Reading Korean is easy to learn. (Even though I never did, oops! Kick myself for it too!)

-Make Korean friends. This can be at your workplace or outside; lots of times, people literally will walk up to you and ask to be your friend! You learn about all the cool little places and things and just plain culture from locals.

-Try ALL the food. You'll find places near you that you'll like, but don't just eat the same thing every time (*cough* donkassu!). Generally, each restaurant specializes in one food, so move around and try new places. Ask around, find the good places, and try some street food!!!

-It's easy to get into the routine of going out until the wee hours drinking, but try to limit your nights out to the weekends. At CDI, we have the whole day to do things, but if you're out late or hungover, you squander that time.

-Learn public transport. Cabs may seem cheap when you get here (and they are often cheaper than public transport if you bring lots of people and aren't going far), but those fares add up. Also, buses can often get you places faster than subways; ask which ones take you places and try them out. (Just hold on if you're standing!!)

-If you live in the city, get out to the countryside a bit or some smaller towns. Those places can offer you a whole different side of Korea. If you're daunted by the idea of going as a non-Korean, then look into a tour company like Adventure Korea; I took a really cool rafting trip that went up to the northeast near the North Korean border. We stayed in a family's house and ate homemade food at the town hall, hiked the trails surrounding the city, and it was amazing!

-Visit places early in your stay. You always say that you will go somewhere or do something later on, but later on you get into your routine and just never get around to it.

-Places to go (and a short opinion about them):
Busan (Obvious, right? 2nd biggest city, it's got the beaches for summertime! The city is pretty spread out, but there are lots of different places to go. A very foreigner-friendly city as well, and a good alternative to the overwhelming Seoul.)

Seoul (Massive and metropolitan, a much more international city. Can be a little much to conquer; just don't get stuck in Itaewon the whole time or you'll miss out!)

DMZ (There's no place really like it in the world. You get an eerie feeling being here; it's definitely worth coming to say you went, though don't expect anything too crazy to happen.)

Daegu (The fashion capital of Korea, apparently, and the 3rd biggest city. It's a fun place to visit: good food and shopping, the hiking and outdoorsy sports are big on the outskirts. Lots of military nearby, which means whatever you want it to mean.)

Kyeongju (The ancient capital of the Silla dynasty, you can get your history lessons here. It's a smaller place, and a lot to walk around and manage in one day. I enjoyed visiting, but I can understand if others are bored by it. Also, the Bulguksa temple is an awesome one to visit!)

Green Tea Fields- Boseong (Gorgeous hiking and countryside, especially in the Fall when I went, but I can imagine it being beautiful in the spring and summer as well. Remember, kids: Korea has four seasons!)

Andong Folk Village (Interesting and full of traditional dwellings and works, but kind of underwhelming. But we went in the beginning of the spring, so it was still pretty brown and dull, though the cherry blossoms were out! The Jimdok [potato and chicken stew with glass noodles] in the city of Andong is supposedly famous too.)

Cherry Blossom Festival- Jinhae (I honestly never went, but I've heard it's fun and worth the day trip. Cherry blossom time is a great time overall to be walking around in Korea; the weather is generally great, so walk to work if you can!)

-Be polite! Having a little humility when you try to set up a bank account or buy a bus ticket can go a long way. If possible, when you do those things, you can predict in advance and have a Korean friend write a quick note (i.e. when you go to the pharmacy and need a certain type of medicine or if you have trouble with your cell phone and need to go to the store).

-Remember your place as a visitor, even if you're planning on being here for a year or so. It's easy to point out differences and problems you have with Korean society when you're immersed in it, but that kind of negativity just distances yourself further from things around you.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wow, it's been over a year since my last post; kind of crazy to think it's been that long. I'm still in Korea, just finishing up my second year soon. It's kind of funny when people ask you how Korea is; there's never a good answer. I mean, it's like asking people back home, "How's the US?" Generally, you talk about the weather or something political that just recently came up. But how do you really sum up a whole place and culture and experience? It's been good, that's about it.

I've been hearing from some random people that have made the trip over that they have seen my blog, so I wanted to at least touch back and try and give a few more updates before the whole wild ride is finished. After this, my girlfriend (whom I met last summer here in Korea, a foreigner from Iowa) and I will be traveling for a bit, then stopping off at home for our sisters' babies to be delivered, and after that, it looks like we've gotten a job in Shanghai (China Trippin'? Dum, dum, duuuuuuuum!).

I wanted to set up an open invitation for anyone that happens by the blog in the next few months; if you want to post any questions, get any more specific information, or even get some photos or such, drop me a comment and I'll get back to you.

One quick note, since I did mention the weather: it be crazy this year! Snowfall in Seoul all winter, and some even got down to Busan. Now it's pretty rainy and dreary; we've had bouts of warm weather, but it invariably drops back down and we break out the winter gear for another week. Spring is coming, but winter's kicking and screaming all the while. The Yellow Dust also made a brief appearance. In case I haven't mentioned it, the dust blown off of the Gobi Desert over in China gets sent as far as Korea. You can see this haze that settles over the city, and it's holy murder on your breathing. One teacher was out most of a week due to a bronchial infection and a severe asthma attack, and my girlfriend caught some nasty cold with a lingering cough that she can't quite shake. I even resorted to buying us a couple of those ever-so-stylish masks that they sell at the pharmacy particularly to stop particulate.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

What you miss in Korea

I just got an amazing package from my mother today full of a plethora of goodies. As a foreigner, you come to find out very quickly what sorts of things you miss here in Korea. Now, I'm mainly a Californian (read: spoiled when it comes to food), so my tastes tend to run a bit different from others. But here's a quick laundry list of what she send, so you get some idea of what sorts of things you might miss out on.

2 bags Cheez-its, one regular and one white cheddar
6 instant soups (minestrone, split pea, and hearty bean)
1 summer sausage
1 bag mexican chili pods
1 of each of the following cheeses: super-sharp cheddar, mont blanchard, gouda, chili chive onion gouda, smoked swiss and cheddar
1 package mulling spices
2 pounds of coffee (the stuff here tends to be freeze dried)

And I like to cook a good amount, so a variety of spices: cinnamon sticks, Vietnamese cinnamon, lemongrass, creole, chipotle tofu scramble, smoky bbq rub, Seattle salmon rub, and jerk rub

Truly, she is a goddess. There are a lot of other things a Westerner misses in terms of diet. Some of the other things we constantly mull over:

-Good gum (the stuff here is terrible)
-Avocados (expensive here, hard to find, and very green)
-Limes (hard to find and very expensive!)
-Cottage cheese (not a big fan, but some are)
-Cheese in general (usually processed here, and expensive when not. Some types are just impossible to find)
-Good sandwich meat (usually just processed ham)
-Sandwiches (trust me, the ones you can find are awful)
-Decent gin, tequila, bourbon, vodka (when you enter and leave the country, duty-free is a must)
-Sour cream
-Wheat bread (not as readily available, but certain bakeries are good for it)

And I'm sure I'll think of more later. I'll ask around and see what other people miss. Baking goods tend to be hard to find since most places don't have an oven, but there are a couple of decent stores in Nampo-dong. For Thanksgiving, we wanted to make pies, so I made a trip out there to find various ingredients, including shortening for crust. I ended up at a wholesale shop that would only sell me a box of it weighing 4.5 kilos. Needless to say, we've been making plenty of pies and quiche, which I will not complain about!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Goodbye, Janelle!!!

This week marks the last time that Janelle will be with us. She finished up last Friday, and Anthony so kindly offered his apartment for a going away party on Saturday. We'll all miss her a lot, and no doubt Mulkoki, Kokiri will be lessened by her absence. Good luck, Janelle, wherever you end up!

Jef "voiced" all our sentiments on Saturday by providing this heartfelt tribute to our lost sister. (Coincidentally, he also left our branch on Friday, though he's just changing schools and not leaving. Still, our breakroom is going to feel very empty now!)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Day in the Life

That's right, I'm goin there! Something I've been planning on doing for a bit, for all you non-Koreans. Here's a pictorial journey through a somewhat typical day in the life of a foreigner living in Busan. Share and enjoy!

Wakey wakey, no eggs and bacey (Koreans aren't so big into breakfast foods :(

Current state of the apartment. I cleaned it later that day, I swear!

Locking up and heading out.

Walking down the street towards Seomyeon. Yes, Korean dogs are always that hideous. This one wouldn't stop barking at me from half a block away.

Corner stores are a staple here. The best is Family Mart, as they tend to have the most extensive and delicious ice cream selection (including one called "Black Boy". You know you want one).

A Korean back alley.

NeoSpa is my gym/spa (jinjaebang). Jinjaebangs are just those big communal bathhouses where you hang out in pools and saunas of various heats. It's nice and relaxing if you can get over being surrounded by naked people chilling next to you, though I've heard the ladies have it worse since some get gawked at something awkward. They also have this service where you can pay to get THOROUGHLY scrubbed down, though I have yet to try that out (I like my skin, thank you very much!). Membership's about $52 a month since I got a 6 month contract.

Don't forget to take off your shoes and change into your workout shoes and clothes!

Walking into Seomyeon area.

Lotte Department Store (this is the back) is the big landmark in Seomyeon. It's floors and floors of department store goodness and sooo much more! There're some pretty decent, though expensive, restaurants towards the top, a theater, and the bottom floor has a small, select grocery store along w/ a couple of bakeries, a wine shop, and a variety of quick eating stops. The last is what I'm going for (my salad lady wouldn't let me take a picture of her).

Walking around Seomyeon proper.

To get around some streets, you have to duck down into the underground shopping area. These are all connected around Seomyeon to the subway also, so you can stroll around shopping and pop up pretty much anywhere provided you know the exit number. One of my first nights here, I walked down here at night and was engulfed in a sea of people, shoulder to shoulder. I tend to avoid shopping on Fridays and Saturdays now.

Bookstore. Their English section (that's all of it) is only slightly smaller than most that you find.

Over to my favorite cafe, Mulkoki Kokiri (which apparently means "Fish Elephant"). Randomly ran into Jef and Miranda there (and Janelle joined later). I love this place; the guy in the last picture always laughs at me when I come in and says, "See you tomorrow!" when I go. And he's usually right.

Walking around here can be murder, it's probably the only thing I really hate here. Imagine every annoying thing people do to you while walking in crowded areas; then apply that to pretty much every person you walk around. Also, this is the subway area, they're pretty easy to figure out and convenient. But I tend to walk everywhere.

Kimbop! A staple here in Korea, it's an odd sushi roll that has egg and spam and a few random veggies in it. This is a tiny place that is one of the few that's noticeably different from the rest. When you want a quick Korean version of a sandwich, just look for the orange sign!

Ajuma gang!

Home Plus is like Target or Walmart: everything in one place. It's also the principle supermarket for us. They've got everything you need for your Korean experience!
and Soju and Mikju (beer).

A short interlude later (where I cleaned and updated my blog, along w/ other boring miscellany), and I'm off to work!

Busan really comes alive when night falls. Seriously, the city never sleeps; at all hours you will find people stumbling around the streets. And I realized when I was taking these that it's really at night that you start to feel how foreign this place can be.


Massagey? Just look for the double poles!

This is the infamous CDI Busanjin! Paul's manning the front desk (with other staff ducking out of the picture). And lastly, the break room with Anthony, Janelle, and Jef (everyone else had first class off, as did I). Oh, the stories that are told here...

My class tonight is middle school Par Listening/Speaking. In the back is Kevin, who's sitting to since he's training to teach the same thing next term. He's taking the rest of pictures. Aren't those kids so enthusiastic?!?! They're one of my favorite classes this term, and this was my last class with them.

A short bus ride later (not pictured, since you really don't want to try and do anything on a bus here but hold on and pray), and we're over at the kimbop place again! Yes, it's the same one as before; we get off work at 10:10, which means you're stuck eating a very small variety of foods that are still open. There are some 24 kimbop places, which is very nice, but not a whole lot else stays open late besides fried chicken places. That's Janelle with all of our side dishes. And our food from my plate clockwise is cheesu donkatsu (fried pork cutlet w/ cheese, mmmm!), chamche dolkbop (spicy tuna and cabbage and such with rice), and a random, previously unseen noodle dish.

Lotte Hotel (next to Lotte Department Store. Also, that's where the Casino is), done up for Christmas!

A little of Seomyeon by night. The orange tents are these little drinking areas where they also serve terrible drunk food. Haven't been to many, and I doubt I will be with the weather change.

And here's our favorite haunt, Bar Guri (which means something obscene, I forget what at the moment). That's Adrienne, one of the April teachers, drinking with me tonight, though she wasn't keen on the whole photo thing. And the last picture is with Pon, the awesomest bartender in Busan (nay, South Korea!), who also happened to be drunk when we got there.

Aaaand that about does it for the day! We'll do a bit more traveling sometimes, but it's a weekday, cut me some slack! Anyways, that's a bit of what life's like for me.