T-minus 28 days to Freedom

Sooooo, I’m trying not to get too ahead of myself, but everything so far looks good. If all goes well, I should be debt free by the end of August. I’ll be at least 4 months ahead of my original debt free date of December 31st, 2017

My next plans are to save, save, save.

  1. Save up 3,000 to visit back home. I haven’t been home in almost 2 years.
  2. Save up my 6 month emergency fund. Approx 10,000 is what I feel comfortable with.
  3. Save up for an Around the World trip. I plan to visit all 7 continents, so this one will be very expensive cause of Antarctica. Anywhere 15,000 to 20,000 is needed.
  4. While doing all of this, take care of major dental work that I’ve been putting off these past two years or so.

My time line for accomplishing my savings goals will be from 1.5 to 2 years. Once I’m debt free.

Battling Ambition

No questions about it; I’m without a doubt a Slytherin due to my ambition alone. Once I set a goal or dream that I’m super excited about completing, my ambition rears up in a thunderous bear roar and charges forward. I’d always thought this zeroed in focus was a great, wondrous thing until one day it turned slightly dangerous. In summer of 2015, my ambition, specifically focused on annihilating my school loans as fast as possible, landed me in the ER.

So what happened to put you in the ER, you ask? Short story: a migraine. Long story: One moment I’m speaking normally. The next, I’m speaking incoherently even though I can think properly; I was showing signs of a possible stroke. I headed off to the ER to make sure it wasn’t a stroke, and after all the tests, a stroke was ruled out. However, it was a slightly rare form of ‘migraine aura’ that affected my speech temporarily. After getting back all the test results, and talking to my doctor, it’s determined that the migraine was brought on by overworking, stress, and lack of sleep. All side effects of my ambition when I’m championing towards accomplishing a huge goal. In this case, being debt free in too short of a timeline that I placed on myself. (In case anyone is curious about what my migraine aura symptom looked like, here’s a YT link to a reporter who had one of these migraines hit when she was live on air).

Real talk. Ever since my ambition landed me in the ER in summer of 2015, I’ve been cautious about letting the beast back out in full force. My hesitancy has made me a bit fearful about repeating the same episode above. As a result, I often make excuses to not start or finish goals or I’ll lose my motivation to continue projects or goals. The exception to this is my remaining school loans. Those bitches are still getting slayed. All the other smaller goals I set for myself, like reading 20 books (etc. see goal list), are put on the back burner or completely forgotten once I start to feel I’m pushing the boundaries of the level of ambition I was sustaining before my ER trip.

Now life, for most people, is a delicate dance between options, goals, survival, and wants. Keeping a healthy balance is admittedly difficult, but as I learned the hard way, it is critical to my well being to make an effort not to push myself too hard. Unfortunately Ambition doesn’t always get that memo. Anytime Ambition isn’t racing and working on multiple projects at 110% capacity, it teams up with that Nagging Voice. “Tantan, you’re lazy”, “Tantan, if you do this X hours of work, then you’ll be debt free in X amount of time”, (Nagging Voice and Ambition suggesting a crazy hard goal), “Tantan, you should be more productive. Stop relaxing”. You get the point. The slightly weaker, but well intentioned, Health Voice is constantly in battle with these two other forces. Most of the time, Health Voice teams up with Happiness and their reasoning wins out. But sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes Happiness switches teams and gangs up on Health Voice, especially when it comes to opportunities of paid work. When it comes to money, which I see as a symbol of future freedom, I’m a ¬†chronic workaholic. Working makes me very happy, and even more ecstatic when I can see all my effort slaying the debt I currently have. However, my body and mind have limits. I just have to keep everything in check so Body won’t pull out a huge stop sign and send me back to the hospital.

With all that said, though, I’m happy with where I am in life. Even though I recently picked up a great paying side gig*, I think I’ve begun to figure that balance out. I’m the happiest that I’ve been in years. Everyday is a mix of new adventures and peaceful mediocrity. Ambition, for the most part, has been pacified enough that it doesn’t constantly nag at me to do more. ūüôā

Do you have problems with any inner demons like Ambition and Nagging Voice? How do you deal with them?

* (as compared to this blog and Youtube; both that have yet to make any side income past $5. Totally my fault. I’m not consistent in producing content and I don’t really research how to optimize my sites)

2017 Goals Recap–February

Long time, no blog! My excuse: I was on a staycation for most of the month and took that time to relax. As a result, most of my goals were put on the back burner. Relaxation, laziness, and over all just wanting to do nothing for awhile to recharge the batteries, took it’s place instead. I made a bit of progress on some of my goals, though, so here’s what I accomplished in February.

  1. Be debt free:¬†Went from $12,969 to $10,967 this month. ¬†Wow! That’s a huge jump. The extra money came from a bonus I received for renewing my contract for one more year. As a result, I made two of my normal payments towards my loans. If all goes well, I’ll be out of 5 digits and into the 4 digits at the end of March! ūüėÄ
  2. Try 5 new recipes: Super fail. No motivation or desire to try new recipes this month.
  3. Read 20 Books:¬†Fail. I read no books this month. I started Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis in the beginning of the month (when I had lots of deskwarming at work), but didn’t finish it.
  4. 6 Adventures:¬†Progress.¬†I went on one adventure to Seokbulsa Temple with my friends in Busan. Our trip to the temple included a cable car ride up a mountainside, a 2 mile hike, pictures, and lots of smiling and laughing. At some point, I’ll make a blog post about the trip.
  5. Make 10 Videos: Completed. Although I uploaded a bunch of vids to YT last month (9!), I slacked off this month and only made one; about the TEFL course I took to get my TEFL certification. I plan to film and upload a crap ton of videos this year, so this goal will be bumped up to 20 videos.
  6. Write 10 Blog Posts:  Fail. I wrote no blog posts in February. Staycation laziness.
  7. Save 2 Mil Won: Fail ish.¬†I saved around $45 this month, but it went to a sinking fund for my heating bill. I budgeted $60 for heating this month, but in the winter, the bill is usually a bit higher than that. In the non-winter months, it’s only $1 or $2. My savings goal above was meant for pure savings, thus money saved into sinking funds is meant to be excluded.
  8. Travel out of the country: This goal won’t happen until much later in the year. Check back in about 5 months or so.
  9. Work Out More:¬†Fail. While I did workout a few times this month in my living room, this goal is specific towards running. I still haven’t motivated myself enough to run. Laziness won this month.
  10. Draw/Create 6 Art Works: Fail. Staycation laziness won again.

That’s where I’m currently at with these goals. I hope to make more progress on some of the goals in March, but the laziness and lack of motivation bugs are holding strong still (it’s well into March as I’m typing this). My attention, so far, is focusing on lesson planning and adjusting to a new teaching semester. The school system here is soooo different. They change teachers every year!. There are new principals, almost all my co-teachers are new (meaning I have to re-mesh, learn their teaching styles and figure out what they would like from me as a teacher), and a new schedule. Re-adjusting takes a bit of time, but once it’s done, I’ll get back onto a more regular schedule with accomplishing my goals.

How are your goals progressing so far? Have you had any setbacks or leaps forward?

2017 Goals Recap–January

  1. Be debt free: Went from $13,886 to $12,969 this month. Making progress.
  2. Try 5 new recipes:¬†I haven’t tried any new recipes this month. I bought a used toaster oven, though, and working on expanding past heating up frozen food.
  3. Read 20 Books: I read 4 books this month.
  4. 6 Adventures:¬†No adventures. I’m a bit reluctant to explore when it’s still cold outside. I did have a mini-adventure where I walked farther down the Taewha River than I have before. Saw some beautiful cranes and touched the softest grass I’ve ever touched.
  5. Make 10 Videos:¬†I made 9 Youtube videos this month. My uptick in video making is due to the fact I’m creating a new series to help out other people who are interested in becoming an English teacher in Korea through the EPIK program.
  6. Write 10 Blog Posts: I wrote 6 blog posts this month for the same reason mentioned above about making Youtube vids.
  7. Save 2 Mil Won:¬†No money was saved this month. I used part of my savings to get new glasses. Still not exactly sure if the new glasses are the right prescription, though, so I haven’t been wearing them much. :/
  8. Travel out of the country:¬†This goal won’t happen until much later in the year. Check back in about 6 months or so.
  9. Work Out More:¬†Haven’t worked out much. I walk a lot (part of life here without a car), but no running or extra workout stuff.
  10. Draw/Create 6 Art Works: I did start a drawing in the beginning of the month called “Brain Explosions”, but I haven’t finished it yet.

How are your goals coming along so far this year?

TK: EPIK Application Part 3: Lesson Plan

Now on to the last part of the EPIK application, the lesson plan. Again if you have any previous teaching experience, schooling in teaching, or have taken your TEFL/TESOL/CELTA course, then this section will go a bit easier for you.

Basics first: Check the box for the grade level that this lesson plan is for and what their level of English is. Most English teachers here are placed in Elementary schools, but a few are placed in Middle schools. A high school teaching position is quite rare since most of the positions have been cut in the previous years by the government. Next, make sure the number of students is 30 (should be pre-filled in the application) because most classes are somewhere between 25-30 students.

Now comes the creating part of the lesson plan. Creating a lesson plan can be quite daunting when you have no previous teaching experience (well, I thought so when I created mine), but don’t despair. Here’s what I did (and currently do) when I planned my lesson. First, think of a topic you want to teach. In my lesson I chose to teach 3rd graders about clothing. In the next box of the application it asks about the previous class. Perhaps they learned about body parts or learned about the colors. Try to make it a bit logical as to why you’re on this current lesson and not a super random one. In the Additional Handouts box you’ll want to list the worksheets, handouts, or videos you will use. I found two worksheets about clothes, body parts, and vocabulary words where you had to match the pictures on an esl site (en.islcollective.com). Please see the EPIK’s instructions about the handouts and how EPIK wants you to add those sheets/info into the application.

The bulk of your lesson plan now begins with the next three boxes: Introduction, Development, and Conclusion. In other teaching methods or TEFL courses, the Develpment section of the lesson plan break down could be either PPP (Presentation, Practice, Production) or ESA (Engage, Study, Activate); all are the same in their function. Before I continue on, you should read through EPIK’s suggestions or prompts in the booklet on this section before creating the lesson plan. I will also add that in both my schools I’m required to create a lesson plan for all of my classes, and sometimes I’m asked to send copies to my co-teachers and the vice principal. Basically, this is part of everyday life for teachers here, so the more practice you get, the better and faster you’ll be able to create these. ūüôā

Time limits. Before you start your lesson, you should know how long each class period is for each level of schooling here. Elementary: 40 mins  Middle: 45 mins  High School: 50 mins  Knowing the times will help break down how long you should spend on each section. For this example, I will use Elementary school.


Greetings & Review: This section is a warm-up to get your students ready and engaged to learn English. In one of my classes, my co-teacher and I would use a song from the previous lesson or chapter for the kids to sing along with. Then we would ask about the weather, what day it is, etc.

Class Objectives: This is the new vocabulary or sentences/expressions that the students will be learning. On the very first (and sometimes second) section of a new lesson, my co-teacher or I will write the new expressions on the board and go over them with the students. In other classes, we will give our students a handout with all the new vocabulary and key expressions of that lesson. Before we begin a new lesson, both my co-teacher and I will do a listen & repeat through all the new vocabulary words and key expressions. Although, I’m not sure if this is what EPIK is looking for, in my lesson plans (this part is a bit new from my application for Spring 2016) I usually write out all the key expressions and vocabulary words of the new lesson in a section above the ESA or PPP part of the lesson plan. Please see their instructions for further info.¬† This section of your lesson will be fairly short. Only 3-5 mins long or so.


When writing about the activities and such for the development section, you want to increase student talking time and decrease teacher talking time. Basically you want to have activities where your students will practice English for the majority of the class. (Side note: Great idea, but doesn’t always work in public schools. More about that in a different post.) You want to write about what your students will do and how they will practice the language.

Presentation: This is where you really introduce any new English words/expressions or have your students practice from a previous section of the current lesson. The best way to introduce new material is by using pictures. If you’re teaching about animals, for example, give out a worksheet with pictures of animals on one side and a list of words on the other. Have the students individually try to match up the words to the pictures, then have them discuss their answers with a partner. Another thing you could do is show a picture of an animal from a Power Point on the tv or screen, and then have the class guess what the English word is for that animal. There’s quite a few ways to do this, just try to keep in mind that you want the students to practice using English, whether that’s speaking/listening or reading/writing. This section should be fairly brief. Mine is usually around 5-7 min long.

Practice: This is where the students will practice the language a bit. Usually these activities are 10-15 mins long. Basically, the Production section of a lesson is the really big activity or game of the lesson (in my classes here, it is the last 15-20 min of class). These activities are usually done in partners or small teams of 3-4 people. In my example on my EPIK application, I used the game “Go Fish” and explained how the students will play the game. It is important to include the exact language the students will use in the game. Example: Student A will ask their partner, “Do you have a ___(shirt, hat, etc)?”. Then Student B will answer with either, “I have a shirt” and hands the card to Student A, or “I don’t have a shirt. Go Fish”.¬†Please make sure that you use the key expressions that you listed above in the Introduction section of the application.

Production: This is the major activity or game of the lesson. This is where you want the whole class to practice the language and their new English skills with each other. As mentioned in the Practice section above, you want to include what kind of key expressions, questions, or sentences that you want the students to practice in this activity. You can choose to do a mill drill, a spy game, pass the ball game, a line game (like telephone) etc. If you’re confused on what type of activity ¬†you should use here on your application, feel free to research various ESL/EFL sites for game suggestions. One beautiful aspect of a teacher is that we’re very open about sharing our teaching materials and what works for us in our classes.


Summary & Closing: This section is very quick. 3-5 mins max. This is where you want to do a quick review of the key expressions or vocabulary that the students have been practicing. In my classes, for example, the expressions are usually written on the board. I’ll either do a brief listen & repeat (3rd and 4th grade) or point at the expression/sentence and have the students read it out loud (5th & 6th). Don’t forget to praise the students for practicing English (ie Good job! You did great! etc).

Evaluation of Objectives: This is a recap of what the students should be able to do after the lesson is completed. I’ll use the example above with the animals. “The students should be able to recognize common family pets and the matching English word.” Then I briefly recapped what the students did in their Production activity.

Next Class

In a few sentences, explain what you’ll be teaching in the next lesson and how it related to the previous lesson. Example with clothes: In the next lesson, students will learn about the colors. Then they will describe the clothes they’re wearing by using their new words, the colors, and their old words, types of clothes.

Okay! Wow! That was a tl;dr post for sure. Again, I hope this info helps out any reader who is currently filling out an application or is considering it. If you have any questions or comments, please list them below.

TK: EPIK Application Part 2: Personal Essays

The next part of the application is completing 3 personal essays on page 6 of the application. The questions/prompts are the same as when I filled out my application a year ago, so I’ll do my best to give some tips on how to answer these. I will not, however, tell you exactly what I wrote down.

*Essays must be typed in size 11 Arial font and be between 250-300 words, single spaced.*

Essay 1: Why do you want to teach EFL in Korea?

Basically they want to find out why, out of all the places you could’ve chosen to teach English, you chose Korea. Now this is definitely not the place to say something like this: “Cause they have the best benefits and pay you a lot (etc)”. This is the place to mention things like wanting to learn about a new culture or showing what it is about Korea and/or Korean culture that appealed to you. In my answer, I mentioned how I was intrigued by Korea’s ancient history as compared to the younger US (Korea is thousands of years old and the US is only a few hundred years old). I also mentioned a few more things, but as I said before, I’m not repeating my full answer here. Anyways, just talk about why teaching in Korea is the best option for you and maybe what you could offer them (ie an insight into another culture, yours).

Essay 2: Please explain your teaching philosophy.

Now this is a tough one is you’ve never taught before. If you’ve already done your TEFL course, then that will help you here a bit. Basically it’s a question to show what kind of teacher you are. It’ll give them insight into your teaching style and how you may implement your teaching philosophy into a class. My answer included a teaching method, ESA (Engage, Study, and Activate), and I explained how I would teach that method in a class. If you have previous teaching experience or schooling specifically in teaching, then this section may be a bit easier for you.

Essay 3: Share your thoughts on encountering cultural differences.

Have you traveled abroad before? Have ¬†you live abroad? Do you come from a multi-cultural family? Have you learned another language before? Do you have any experiences with multi-cultural friends, situations (work or personal), or family? Etc? Since you’ll be moving to a country that is pretty much the exact opposite of your own culture (and also where English is not a primary language), EPIK wants to get a sense of how adaptable and open-minded you will be towards a new culture. Do you have any experience adapting to another culture? Do you have any exposure to other cultures? Etc. In my answer I talked about my internship I did in Kenya and about the cultural differences I experienced during my time there, and how I adapted to some of them (ie talking with locals through hand gestures (etc) when they didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak the tribal language).

Well, that’s it! Hopefully that helped a bit with filling out these essays. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to share below. The next part will be about the final part of the application, the lesson plan.

TK: EPIK Application Part 1

The new Fall 2017 application is up. Not much has changed, so that’s cool. Here we go!

When I applied to teach English in South Korea, I went through the government supported program called English Program in Korea (EPIK). Even though I applied a little over a year ago, I’ve kept my copy of the application I sent. Now this application isn’t for the faint hearted; a blank copy is 8 pages and my completed copy is 13 pages. EPIK does provide a booklet (the document is 23 pages) of instructions on how to fill out their application on their website here. The booklet is quite extensive and detailed, so if there is any confusion, please refer to it. However, here’s an abbreviated list on how to fill out pages 1 to 6.

  1. Attach a passport type photo in the right hand corner. Must be a head and shoulders shot and a good idea to wear business casual clothes. Korea is HUGE on appearances.
  2. Put in your name. Must match your name in your passport.
  3. Lines 2-4 is pretty self explanatory: date of birth, age, gender, marital status, place of birth, and primary/secondary citizenship. Most people have only one citizenship (the country you were born in), but if you have two, please see their instructions.
  4. Do you have any Korean ancestors? Do you have Korean citizenship? Yes/No boxes. Please see their notes if you check yes to any of these boxes.
  5.  Interview time/contact info. This is where you state your preference time frame for when you want to have an interview, along with how to contact you (skype id/email). Please keep in mind that your interview will happen in KST (Korean Standard Time) during their 9am-5pm hours. For me, that meant my interview was at midnight.
  6. List all your addresses in the past 5 years, including month/year. *New question: List a mailing address where EPIK can send documents. They will need to send your contract and other documents so you can apply for a visa.
  7. Emergency contact. Pretty straight forward.
  8. Educational background: You’re going to list every school you’ve attended from Elementary to Bachelor’s (and etc). See their instructions if you’re still finishing up a degree. Side note: All applicants for South Africa and Quebec will need to¬†submit proof that schooling was conducted in English as noted here.
  9. Teaching credentials: List your TEFL/TESOL/CELTA certificate info or teaching license info. Please see their notes if you have any questions.
  10. Employment history: List current employer info.
  11. Teaching Experience: See their instructions if you have a full year of teaching experience.
  12. Teaching Experience in Korea: Fill in the contact info for your main school/co-teacher. If you’ve taught through EPIK before, fill out the orientation info.
  13. Non-Teaching Work Experience: Other places you’ve worked.
  14. Salary Level: See EPIK guidelines for this here. Most people will start as Level 2.
  15. Joint Applicant/Dependents: If you’re applying as a married couple or have dependents, fill this out. See their instructions.
  16. Placement Preference: Please see EPIK’s list of regions and MOEs here. Pick one and write in this box. For example, I chose Ulsan.
  17. Intake Preference: Mark which intake you’d like to be in or if you’re flexible.
  18. Additional Personal Information: Mark Yes/No and explain in the box if you need to. I filled in info about my tattoos. You will also need to include photos of any visible tattoos in these places listed here.
  19. Self Medical Assessment: Mark Yes/No and fill in your height/weight in cm/kg.
  20. Acknowledgement of EPIK Policies: Read and check all the boxes.
  21. Sign and date.

So that’s the basic run through of the first chunk of the application. The personal essays and lesson plan portion is a bit more extensive, so they’ll be both part 2 and part 3 of the next couple of posts.

Tips for applying to EPIK: Derailed as well….

So, remember when I wrote this when the TK Series got derailed a few weeks ago?: “In the meantime, I‚Äôll post about a couple of tips about applying for EPIK in general, some that may be handy before you apply.”

Yeah, those tips are on hold as well until EPIK opens the Fall 2017 application process on Feb 1st, 2017.¬†Since some of my advice was about the documents that you’ll need to collect in order to become a teacher, I was trying to double check ¬†my facts for accuracy and relevancy for the upcoming Fall 2017 application process. During my brief research episode, I found that some of the document info isn’t currently available; specifically how far in advance you can acquire certain documents. As a result, the tips post will be derailed until Feb 1st as well. :/

I also was delaying the application tips post because EPIK officially announced that the Fall 2017 Application would become available (meaning you can print it, etc) by mid-January. It’s January 20th, and well, EPIK, you lied. When a person clicks on the application link, they get an error message saying it doesn’t exist (basically). No worries, just have to wait about 10 more days or so.

Sorry for the wait on anybody who is following this blog for more info about this process. I really, really, really don’t want to give bad advice or tips on how this process is completed because it could lessen a person’s chance of getting into the program to teach here. That’s why it’s super important to me to wait it all out so I can post the most up to date, relevant, legit, and helpful advice I’m able to.

Till then, I’m going to track down my i-to-i TEFL info, which will include timeline from start to finish, costs, and thoughts about the course I took. I’m confident in sharing this info since most people don’t have education degrees before coming here to teach, and are required¬†to have some kind of “legit” TEFL/TESOL/CELTA certificate in order to teach English. ūüôā

Update: Derailed on the TK series

My next step in the TK series is writing about the EPIK application and how to fill out that form. However, I’m currently derailed until February 1st, 2017 since EPIK will upload a new application form on that date for Fall 2017 intake. As a result, I will put off that part of the TK series because I don’t want to steer any readers wrong with inaccurate information. I assume, however, that the application process will remain quite the same as the current application and as the one I completed a year ago. For now, the post I was working on will stay dormant in its inbox.

In the meantime, I’ll post about a couple of tips about applying for EPIK in general, some that may be handy before you apply. Quite a few of the official documents you work on acquiring in advance before applying to EPIK, so I’ll write about how to obtain all of those. I also plan to make a posts about applying for a E-2 visa, tips on what to pack, etc for any readers that are moving here during the upcoming Spring 2017 intake.

If, for some reason, any of my current or future posts about the EPIK process becomes outdated with the upcoming new application, I will either rewrite that post or update the info in a new post. I also apologize in advance for the inconsistent timeline of EPIK posts that will be uploaded in the next couple of months.