Last year, I wrote a post on my top accomplishments (big and small) in 2016. This New Year Day was a particularly melancholic and nostalgic day for me. 2017 was an amazing year, probably and honestly the best year of my life. However, upon returning from my time abroad, I found myself in an awkward transitional phase in life – with my career, my relationships, my surroundings, and just in general. I ended off this year feeling a lot more lost than accomplished, embodying the phrase “the grass is always greener”. All my good memories quickly and frighteningly faded into what feels like a distant dream. I was left with my lack of career direction, a long distance relationship, growing responsibilities, no income, and shifting friendships. My social anxieties started kicking in high gear as I felt disconnected from those back home while simultaneously “losing” some amazing friendships I built abroad. My role as a daughter, sister, and aunt is both a source of pride and stress in my amazing but burdened family.
So, going into 2018 was not particularly flashy – which makes this reflection post even more important. I have so much to be thankful for this year, including my amazing boyfriend and his family who I got to share so many great memories with. Them combined with my family and closest friends provides me with a sense of consistency. I think most of us feel like we’re the only ones falling apart while others succeed when the truth is, we’ve all got our own problems. But more importantly, we have much to be proud of. With that said, let’s jump into my top accomplishments of 2017.
- I traveled to 6 different countries this year. That’s pretty self explanatory.
Gyeongju, South Korea
Hong Kong aka Smog City
- I hiked the tallest mountain in South Korea. Honestly, I’m not a big fan of hiking (or moving in general). But I do enjoy the views and challenging myself. What I don’t enjoy is walking on jagged rocks up and downhill for over 6 hours. But I did it any way! And I’m super glad I did.
- I achieved my reading goal. I set a pretty easily attainable goal of 12 books in 2017. One book a month seems like nothing but somehow I barely reached this goal, finishing with The Little Prince (my 12th book) on December 31st. Luckily, I already have a stack of books ready for 2018 and have upped my goal to 15 books and I intend on reaching it this year ahead of schedule. Here are the 12 books I read this year in no particular order:
– Endless Night by Agatha Christie
– The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
– Journey Under the Midnight Sun by Keigo Higashino
– Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
– The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee
– The Other Hand by Chris Cleave
– Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
– Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
– Burnt Paper Sky by Gilly Macmillan
– The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker
– The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
– Bloom by Estee Lalonde
4. I ran a 5k. Running has been a huge insecurity of mine since I was child. I feel like I have an awkward run and have been called out on it. In high school, I quit flag football after the first practice because someone had pointed it out. To this day I don’t find enjoyment out of it. In fact, I dread it. Which is exactly the reason why I forced myself to sign up for a 5k and committed to practicing, even if it meant running one measly lap and trying to trick Mike into thinking I ran 5 (at which point he would encourage me to run some more). I clocked in around 45 mins which is highly unimpressive but I did it, I jogged the whole way (with the support of my friend Laarni), and I’m super proud of myself. But most importantly, I got a cool medal 🙂 I mean, that’s why everyone runs marathons right?
5. I became an aunt. I had no part in making this child (that’d be awkward) and missed a chunk of his infancy but my goodness, is he a cutie. I’d like to think he got his good looks from his auntie.
6. I flew a kite. If you don’t think flying a kite is one of the best simple joys, you’re dead inside.
7. I completed my contract teaching one year abroad in South Korea. As I mentioned earlier, my time in South Korea / Asia feels like a dream. An amazing dream that I made happen. Words can’t express how grateful I am for that year. Here’s my summary video I posted to my YouTube channel, I think it says it all and yet not enough:
Hello hello! In this video I talk about my experience obtaining my ARC, SIM card (through KT Olleh), and Debit card (through Nonghyup) upon arriving in South Korea. I also give a few tips and reminders as well as a peek of my English Room. Enjoy!
Congrats! I presume you are reading this post because you landed an interview with EPIK (or are doing your due diligence). As someone who absolutely dreads interviews no matter how many I’ve done, I can empathize with the boat you are probably on right now. A ball of nerves, excitement, fear, happiness, you name it. The EPIK interview is the last piece that you can truly “control” in hopes of a favourable outcome, so it truly is a big deal. However, I’m here to hopefully calm your nerves at least a bit and leave you a little more prepared. It’s hard not to think “oh man what if I screw this up”, especially when it comes to something you want so bad. However, my experience was that the interview was as I expected, if not easier. They’re not there to trick you like some interviews are like. It’s to the point and they just want to make sure you are passionate about teaching and moving to Korea.
Please bear in mind that my advice is based on my personal experience going through the application and interview process for the Fall 2016 intake. Also, I went through Korvia Consulting (a recruiter) so that could affect my interview process compared to those who went directly through EPIK.
- Check, double check, and triple check the time and date (adjusted for time zones) of your scheduled interview (that’s just my OCD self speaking)
- Watch the plethora of YouTube videos and read blog posts on other people’s experiences and advice
- Prepare your own honest answers for example questions that you find online
- Do mock interviews if those work for you!
- My advice for these is to do it but don’t over do it. There’s no point psyching yourself out and just like teaching in Korea, you always have to be flexible and adaptable. Over-prepping your answers may feel scripted or forced at times.
- Look over your application
- Prepare any questions you have. I had a list of a few questions but honestly my interviewer couldn’t answer most of them – not sure why that is. They told me to ask my recruiter and my recruiter didn’t really know either… But don’t worry, everything works out fine any way and your questions will be answered over time!
Day of Interview
- Make sure to print out a copy of your full application and have a pen ready. The interviewer will often note changes you should make to improve it and ask you questions about the application.
- Dress as you would for any other interview – business casual or business attire
- Don’t wear anything too distracting (e.g. bright colours and patterns)
- I personally had my hair up because I have a tendency to fidget with it
- Don’t wear anything that shows cleavage (for the ladies) or shoulders. I wore a crew neck cream coloured blouse tank top with a black blazer on top and dress pants
- Make sure there’s nothing distracting in the background and set up in a quiet area of the house
- Test your Skype and internet connection
- Make sure the mic and speakers are working properly
- Do a few test calls
- I personally used earphones so make sure your laptop is set up to have the sound go through the earphone jack
- Make sure your phone is on silent or shut it off
- Close tabs on your computer that might make distracting sounds
- Add your interviewer on Skype
- My EPIK interviewer added me on Skype a few minutes before the call so keep an eye out for that. Don’t be worried if the interviewer is a little bit late. If they are over 10 minutes (or whatever your recruiter/coordinator recommends) late, inform your recruiter/coordinator. I have seen cases where people had their interview rescheduled last minute.
- Make eye contact and smile! With this said, interviews can vary greatly depending on the interviewer you get. I happened to get one where I only saw the top of their head for 70% of the interview as they were staring at my application. I could’ve had my eyes closed for majority of the interview and no one would’ve known. I’m not recommending you to do that or to expect that but it’s a great example of why you need to be flexible and know that things don’t always play out the way you anticipate!
- Speak slowly and e-nun-ci-ateeeeee
- I’m sure many of you are looking for interview questions… I won’t bother being redundant so I’ll link another blog post I used that I feel sums it up really well: https://korealizations.wordpress.com/2014/10/06/epik-interview-questions/
- Not everyone will get all the same questions. My guess is that they have a large set list and will pick from the bunch
- Overall, what you expect is probably what you’ll get in terms of questions. I found this to be the case for me. As long as you know your strengths/qualities, your teaching philosophy/methods, how you’re going to deal with culture shock, and have done research on Korea and their education system, you’ll be ok!
- The interviewer will also go through the application and ask standard questions (e.g. health related)
For me, it became a waiting game after the interview. I finished collecting my documents that I needed, made the changes the interviewer recommended, and compulsively checked my emails. I know it’s hard to do, but try not to fret and over-analyze the interview! My interview only ended up being approximately 15 minutes (which is on the shorter end of the average) and I was convinced I had no chance. I pretty much had a million and one thoughts on why the interview went terribly and convinced myself I was going to get rejected. Look at me now, in Korea. You typically receive a response 3-6 days after the interview. If it goes over that time frame, don’t worry but feel free to contact your coordinator to follow up.
If you have any specific questions or just need some moral support, please feel free to leave a comment or send me a private message in the contact section. I’m here to help! Good luck 🙂
In 2016, I decided to jot down things I did in 2015 that I was proud of or made me feel accomplished – no matter how big or small. That simple act of taking a moment to sit, think, and write had more of an impact than I anticipated – especially for someone who generally has very low self esteem. I’m a firm believer that one can and should continuously improve upon themselves but it should never be at the cost of self love for who you are today. I often have feelings of inadequacy, normality, and quite frankly just seeing myself as a very boring person. However, if you look hard enough and bring light to even the smallest accomplishments in your life, you’d likely see that you’re worth more than you think. It’s true that we are our own worst critics. With that said, here are my top accomplishments of 2016 🙂
- Graduated University. I finally completed my 5 year degree in Environmental Studies (not sure why I said finally because those 5 years flew by). I don’t think I give myself enough credit for getting my Bachelors degree because a) it’s instilled upon us at a young age that University is the common route to go and b) I’ve always felt that my degree was somewhat useless, or maybe I just never put enough effort. Being an Environment and Business major in a school that’s well known for Engineering and Math sounds lackluster. When you tell people you study at the University of Waterloo, their response is usually “ohh Engineering? Math?” to which you’d have to sheepishly respond “no.. Environment and Business”. 8/10 times that person won’t know what the heck an Environment and Business major is nor understand the use of it. At times, I didn’t even know what use it would be of and whether I actually retained anything valuable. With time, I’ve learned to love the uniqueness and importance of it. I might not have been the most active on campus nor did I always have the best grades but I grew so much as a person (professionally and personally) during those 5 years and gained invaluable experiences.
- Attempted to snowboard again. After my first experience snowboarding many years ago, I told myself “I am NEVER doing that again. My ass hurts, my feet hurt, my wrists are shot, I’m wet and cold as f. This is horrible. I want to go inside”. So when the opportunity came up again to go snowboarding last year, I reluctantly took it. And I’m really glad I did. My second time was significantly better than the first and though I still suck, I felt good about myself for not giving up.
- Moved abroad. Moving to a foreign country for at least a year has always been one of those things I knew I should do but never thought I’d actually have the guts to do. On top of that, I’m teaching English to middle school.. boys… That’s a whole whirlwind of emotions and experiences in and of itself.
Ugly crying at my goodbye party. No big deal.
- KPOP danced to Cheer Up by Twice in front of the entire school. For our school festival, I was invited by fellow Korean teachers to dance with them. My immediate response was “NO thanks”. I seriously have no rhythm. WHY would I want to embarrass myself in front of the entire school?! Though I had already said no, a part of me knew that it’d be a good bonding experience and that I’d regret not pushing myself out of my comfort zone. After all, what did I move to Korea to do, feel comfortable? A couple of weeks later, I decided to do it. On the day of their first practice (yup we practiced 3 times a week at a dance academy), I asked if I could join. This performance is still one of my favourite moments in Korea. I had so much fun learning the choreography and looked forward to practices every week. The kids loved it and I was so proud of myself for doing something that terrified me.
- Traveled to Europe for the first time. Thanks to my sister who found great travel deals, I was able to visit Amsterdam and Croatia in the spring of 2016. It was a great taste of Europe and I’m excited to go back for more.
- Created a YouTube channel – and actually posted content. For years I would joke about creating a YouTube channel and vlogging. It was something I truly wanted to do but again, had no guts for. I’m someone who doesn’t take criticism well so exposing myself to the internet and being vulnerable sounded like a nightmare. However, moving to Korea felt like the perfect opportunity to start. It gave me a focus for content and an audience. I bought a Canon G7x camera as a grad gift to myself and started filming. I’m still awkward in front of the camera and am still learning the tricks of the trade, but I’ve recently hit over 100 subscribers and that alone is enough to make me feel fulfilled.
I encourage everyone to take a moment to not only consider your goals for 2017, but to celebrate all the great things you did in 2016.
If you haven’t already, check out Part 1 of my Croatia tips and recommendations. In this post I will summarize Split, Dubrovnik, our car rental (Sixt) and general tips.
Accommodation: Petra’s AirBnb
- Pros: Wonderful service by Petra (VERY kind and informative), great location
- Pollen? Ragweed? Dust? Our travel companions got really bad allergies in the other room not sure from what.. could be a fluke
- If you’re traveling in pairs, be aware that there’s 2 single beds in each room so beds had to be pushed together if you so desire (not as comfy but Petra was kind enough to do so). However, it is versatile. Arguing with your spouse? Just leave it as singles
- Shower drain kept clogging but apparently was a known fact and couldn’t be fixed
- All in all this was a good place to stay and I would recommend it
Sleep Quality ✮✮✮ 1/2
Rooms ✮✮✮ 1/2
Must See/Do: Marjan Hill
- Due to hunger, time restraints and overall laziness, we only walked to the first vantage point but it was absolutely breathtaking! A great view of Split and worth the climb
- The actual entrance we went through was kind of tucked away but it’s the sketchy stairs that everyone takes and is located near Fife restaurant. Ask any local and I’m sure they’ll be able to point you to it
Must See/Do: Diocletian’s Palace
- Probably the most popular area
- Must see at night
- Where they filmed Khaleesi’s dragon dungeon scene from Game of Thrones for any fans. You can pay 20 kuna to go in and explore the basement
Must See/Do: Green Market (Farmer’s Market)
- Located just outside the Diocletian’s Palace
- Great place for fresh produce
- Don’t let the sellers pressure you into buying way more lettuce heads than you need
Must Eat: Buffet Fife
- Our favourite meal of the entire trip. Sounds and looks icky, but the Black Squid Ink Risotto was amazing! Calamari and fish was also very good. Traditional Croatian food
- Very affordable
- Don’t be tricked by the name, it’s not what westerners define as a buffet and is infact NOT all you can eat
- Our waiter looked like Croatian Ben Affleck if anyone cares
Must Eat: Luka Ice Cream and Cakes
- They switch between 100’s of homemade flavours every day
Accommodation: Apartment Festa
- Pros: Great service, awesome location inside Old City Walls, FREE pie!
- No real cons.. there was a creepy hole in the stone wall in one of the rooms by the headboard. Just shine your flashlight in there to check for any creepy crawlies before bed and don’t think about it too much. If you’re sleeping in there with your boyfriend, make him sleep on that side of the bed like I did.
- Would recommend
Sleep Quality ✮✮✮✮✮
Must See/Do: Dubrovnik’s Old City Walls
- Approximately 100 kuna from what I recall to walk the city walls
- Closes around 7/8pm so make sure to plan enough time to walk the whole thing
- I would recommend going around sunset like we did. There’s a spot where they sell fresh smoothies (a bit pricey) that’s great for watching the sun set and avoiding being kicked off the wall at closing as they have a separate exit
Must See/Do: Pier at Night
- Grab a gelato and walk out to the pier after sunset
- Keep walking along the wall until you make it out to the small section with the benches (as shown in photo with the red arrow) where you can sit and enjoy the night lights or darkness of the sea
Can Pass: Cable Car
- Didn’t ticklet our fancy and was rather pricey (120 kuna). Only so much to see at the top
- We are biased as it was raining and chilly when we went
- Photo from above is the view from the cable car ride
Car Rental: Sixt
- Want to get ripped off? Want to not be cared for? Rent your car with Sixt!
- Where do I start… things with Sixt started off well when they upgraded our car for free. Upon receiving the car at Zagreb Airport, we knew from previous experience to check the car thoroughly and take photos in case any existing damage was done. The worker who brought the car over did not do a walkthrough with us and simply handed us the car – red flag #1. We insisted he do the walkthrough as we found damage that he didn’t mark down – red flag #2. We made sure to take photos of the damage and to take photos of the entire car as well
- Upon returning the car in Dubrovnik, the worker there apparently remembered how to do his job this time and checked the car thoroughly. He found a scruff mark on the bumper directly under the other damage spot that was marked down and it was the exact colour (a distinctive yellow colour). He said it wasn’t marked down and was our responsibility. Unfortunately, apparently that was the one SMALL section that we did not take a photo of. We tried to reason with him as it was clearly from the same incident as the damage that was marked down. Our response? “I don’t care”
- We ended up having to pay over $200 CAD for the damage
- Moral of the story: think you’ve taken enough photos? Take about 20 more. And a video.
Being the longer leg of our 2016 EuroTrip, Croatia consisted of 10 days of jammed pack hiking, activities, sightseeing, and gelato. We started off by flying into Zagreb, renting a car and driving down the entire coast, ending in Dubrovnik. In this post, I will summarize each location that we went to and some of the highlights as well as the … lowlights. Croatia was an absolutely beautiful country that exceeded my expectations and countlessly took my breath away. For the sake of sanity and length, I will split this post into Part 1 and Part 2.
Watching Inside Out (2015) for a second time reminded me of all the reasons why I love this movie so much. Inside Out, like many other Disney-Pixar movies, is entertaining for both kids and adults. As an adult, I laughed, I cried and I left the movie with the realization that deeper concepts were embedded within the simple plot. Here are the 8 main takeaways that I got from Inside Out:
- Changes are scary! Whether you’re an adult or a kid, going through a life change is never easy. One of the most important things is to surround yourself with people who love and care for you, and don’t be afraid to lean on them for support. More importantly, you have to find strength within yourself but it is more than okay to rely on others when you need it.
- We are constantly changing and growing. This is something we should always strive for. Similar to our memories, new parts of us are constantly building upon old ones. We will constantly be going through new experiences. Throughout this, it is important to keep an open mind and…
- Embrace every part of yourself. Whether it’s the bits that you love or the ones you aren’t so proud of. The good and the bad are what makes up who we are and makes us unique as individuals. Stay true to who you are at the core!
- Inevitably, part of change is letting go of the past. I cried when Bilbo.. died?? 😦 but that is the reality. As we grow up, we must learn to let go of parts of ourselves. Some memories will stay with us forever as core memories, but some need to be let go of for new ones to form. However, they will forever have had an impact on our lives and helped develop who we are now.
- Don’t be afraid to feel sadness. Just like happiness, it can bring people together.
- Similarly, all our emotions work together and all are necessary at some point or another. Often, our emotions are inextricably linked and can not act alone. It’s all about a balance.
- Pain as a form of realization. Pain, sadness, fear and hurt are feelings we all try and avoid. However, they often help form crucial parts of our lives. Even our most painful memories can serve a meaningful purpose in our life and help us to grow.
- It’s never too late to rebuild yourself or your life. Even through what feels like destruction, it is never too late to get back up and to keep trying. No mistake is a bad mistake, so as long as you learn from it. Take the new found knowledge and keep on going!
Though some of these ideas may be blatantly obvious at times, a quick reminder never hurts. I know I need it once in awhile.