News… of the “really big” variety

On Wednesday morning, I resigned from my job at Stanford. After four years, I’m moving on to something else. More specifically, in a few weeks, I will be moving to South Korea to teach English.

(I’ll let that sink in for a moment…)

Both Jerry and I have received job offers to teach in a city called Cheonan, about an hour south of the capital city, Seoul. He will be teaching advanced placement chemistry at a private high school while I’ll be working for a language academy (hagwon) teaching young children English. But in the next few weeks, we’re each boarding planes bound for Korea with one-way tickets in hand.

I’m beside myself with excitement over what sort of opportunities lay ahead and the growth and experiences we’ll have while there. Admittedly, there have been some stressful moments, but the decision to go has been one I’ve felt great confidence in making.

I’ll be using this blog (initially created to be a living portfolio of work I’ve done) to chronicle the adventures abroad, as well as connecting to friends at home via social media and Skype. So stay tuned–there’s more coming your way, for sure.

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I hope that anyone reading this can share in my excitement–and I do hope to see you again when I come back to the States. I’ve tried to anticipate questions I might receive, so those are detailed below.

But until then…  나중에 보자  !!!  <–I’ve been told by Google Translate that this means, “See you later!”, but don’t quote me on this… I still don’t speak the language… yet.

But Robyn… You don’t speak the language!
That is true. I do, however, have the alphabet down pretty well, which I’m told is a very important first step to eventually speaking, reading and writing Korean. I’ll be honest–I’m looking forward to the “thrown-in-the-deep-end” aspect of learning by immersion. Eventually I want to pursue further education in linguistics (whether this means more TEFL experience/education or a master’s degree will remain to be determined, but hopefully the latter), so the experience of learning a new language in this manner may prove rather useful to helping me define an area of a very broad field that I’d like to study. It may also drive me batty… Jury’s still out.

But Robyn… This is so different!
Yes, but it’s an opportunity to work with kids, which is a kind of work I know I enjoy. And it’s an opportunity learn and do and see and experience something so different from my usual day-to-day routine that I feel it will be a growing experience for the better.

Won’t you miss life here?
Of course! I will miss people and places and things that have become routine for me. I’ll miss the Bay Area–it’s been my home for several years. I’ll miss Stanford. But this is really exciting and challenging and I know it will help me grow. Technology has made it so easy to stay in touch with people and I’m really looking forward to Skype dates with family and friends. 🙂 My work schedule is very conducive to frequently checking in given the time difference, so you’ll see me online.

What’s the school you will be working with?
I’m working for a larger organization called Avalon–they’re a group of language schools all over the country with classes for a wide range of ages/grades/abilities. My program specifically is called Langcon, and it’s geared toward young kids. The students I have will go to school during the day, then come to Langcon for continued English lessons. Education is taken very seriously in Korea.

How did you find your job?
There are lots of different organizations who can help you find a position, if you’re interested. I started looking at a few to start and eventually came to my job through an organization called Teacher Tech, Inc. I was also speaking with Adventure Teaching, whom I cannot recommend more highly. They are stellar. If anyone you know is interested in teaching abroad, send them to AT. Seriously… they’re amazing.

But wait… what are you going to do without Chipotle/Free Birds?!
You know… perhaps you shouldn’t remind me of that… I will seriously miss my burritos. On the bright side, though, there is a seemingly endless supply of new cuisine options to try. 🙂

But what if you hate it?
If I hate it, then I hate it and I come back to the States when my contract expires. (For the record… I think I’m going to love it.) But I would regret NOT going more than I would regret spending a year overseas and perhaps not enjoying it. Whether it ends up being the best thing I’ve ever done or ends up being something of a dud, I will still be able learn so much and be able to tell my grandkids interesting stories and that, to me, is so incredibly worth it. Especially knowing that I can use this as a jumping off point to steer life in a different direction.

Are you and Jerry living together in Korea?
Nope. We each have an apartment of our own, paid for by our respective schools. We’ll be in the same city, and from what we can tell so far, geographically very close, but no, not living together.

Wow! A free apartment?
Yep. The school provides housing within walking distance of the school and transportation around town and throughout the country is incredibly easy and very inexpensive. I’ll receive a salary, there will be a co-teacher in my classroom to help if I need it, an apartment, as well as insurance coverage and a pension.

Does this mean we’ll never see you again?
Not at all. 🙂 I’ve been offered a one-year contract to start, with the option of renewal later. Might come back after the first year, might come back in 10. Not really sure yet, but I like playing it by ear. Also, you’ll have a place to crash if you want to come visit Korea! I’m open to company! And again… SKYPE!!! 🙂

Okay, okay… Skype. What’s your username?
It’s robynruns.

Speaking of running… will you be running overseas?
Duh. And hiking and walking a lot and hopefully climbing a bit, too. Not sure how the trapeze will fit into the picture, but it’s possible that’s going to have to be set aside for a while, which is okay.

What about your car? Your apartment?
The car is a work-in-progress–I have an interested buyer, we’re working on the details. As for the apartment, a friend of mine is taking over my lease! (Hi, Missy!) It ended up working out well for both of us–she needs to move in right around when I need to move out and my rent is in her price range, too. Double win!

Wow… it sounds like things are moving along well.
Yeah, that’s a pretty good assessment of things. It’s not without its moments, but overall, the process has been a lot of “To Do” items and waiting. What’s been majorly helpful is that Jerry is going through a pretty similar process (our visas are of different types, though, so there were some things he needed for his but I didn’t need for mine), so he’s offered so much in terms of information and sharing tips to help me with mine. That was huge. My friends have been good to listen when I’ve needed to vent about something irksome or stressful, and Jerry’s been so much more supportive than I ever could have asked for–he rocks. Big time.

So what was the process like?
I applied for an E2 visa. It’s been a lot of paperwork to procure! And it isn’t a cheap process, unfortunately. I needed to obtain copies of my official transcripts, a new passport, two notarized copies of my degree, an apostille (special stamp verifying authenticity) for each degree, a federally-approved/verified criminal background check, an apostille for that, extra passport photos, a health check, and a few other things.

That doesn’t sound so bad… Did it take long?
Have you ever tried to get documents from and verified by the government? It’s a bit challenging at times, really. The worst part was the FBI background check–it took well over a month just to get into their queue. Eventually, Jerry and I found out that the U.S. State Dept. was granting apostilles for FBI-approved channeler-provided background checks. Basically, you order from a third party, the FBI signs off on the findings and then you ship it to Washington, D.C. for the apostille from the State Dept. This sped up the process significantly–I had my channeler-provided background check apostilled by the State Dept. in less than half the time it took to get the background check from the FBI, which still would have needed to be sent for an apostille. I also received the apostille on my channeler-provided background check before the FBI one even arrived at my apartment–how’s that for expediting the process? Sheesh, FBI… Get your act together!

Most of the pieces were all moving concurrently, though. While I was waiting on the background check, I was getting my degree notarized, ordering the passport, etc.

What all did this entail?
Time, money, a trip to Sacramento, several trips to FedEx, and a lot of crossing fingers.

What are you bringing with you?
Two suitcases, a duffel bag and a backpack. Mostly clothes, personal electronics, and my camera. That is all.

Why didn’t you mention it sooner?
Because with big news, the more people you tell, the more people you have to un-tell if something doesn’t turn out… The news was disseminated on a need-to-know basis until things became pretty darn certain.

So when do you leave?
Jerry leaves on August 8. I leave on August 16.

And when’s your last day at Stanford?
August 9.

Wow! That’s soon! What will you do in between?
Finish up packing and cleaning my apartment on Aug. 10 so Missy can move in on the 11th. I’ll probably couch surf for a couple of nights, then head to Fresno for some goodbyes on Aug. 13. After that, I will be heading to Sacramento for goodbyes on Aug. 14. Back to the Bay Area on Aug. 15 and then I fly out on Aug. 16.

So… Going away party?
Stay tuned–I’ll be announcing plans via Facebook.

Are you totally freaking out???
Nope. There’ve been intermittent moments of “OMG, this is really happening…” but overall, there’s been a lot of peace. I very much feel that I’m making the right decision at this point in my life and I’m very excited. There’s still a lot to do and at times, it seems a bit daunting, but ultimately I know that that feeling is temporary and what I’m working toward is going to be an incredible experience. Bit by bit, the process has been coming together and doing things in chunks helps everything in perspective.

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