Preparing to depart! EEK. (And how I got this gig)

*Disclaimer* This is a long one! Kudos if you read the whole thing! :p

If this is what “pregnancy brain” feels like… I DON’T LIKE. I’m about to head over to Turkey, FOR A YEAR… TO TEACH ENGLISH… and I’m trying to be as prepared as possible. But me being prepared is turning into me coming up with crazy, outlandish “what-if” scenarios that are leaving me feeling sick to my stomach. I think this has a lot to do with the great time I had in St. Louis. Questions going through my mind range from, “What if, when I go through customs, they make me take out EVERY ITEM from my two suitcases, backpack, and carry-on? so they can wipe each thing down?” to, “What if there’s a problem and I miss my flight / they don’t let me go on the plane?” to, “WHAT IF NO ONE LIKES ME AND I DON’T MAKE FRIENDS?!” 

I’m also going to have an overweight bag. No doubt about it. I tried; but after going through both suitcases MORE THAN 5 TIMES, and still being overweight (by SIX POUNDS), I’ve decided to just pay the dang fee. The website is confusing, so I think I’ll have to pay between $80-$300. Haha. OY. Learn from me, people. Just say no to Under Armour undies that are on sale. And did I really need three sewing kits? One is good… Why did I originally pack three?!  

Packing nonsense aside, many friends / family members / randos have wanted to know how I got this gig and what I’ve had to do to prepare. 

Well, to be completely thorough, it’s a long story that originated during my Senior year of college, when I was about to graduate and had NO FREAKING CLUE what I was going to do next.  To shorten it, I’ll say I researched. I spent about two years researching Teach Abroad programs, reading the blogs of other teachers abroad, checking out different countries’ newspapers, stalking Instagram profiles, and watching videos on how to pack a suitcase for one year (apparently I failed in that area). Now, I hope you’re not in shock and think I’m a complete nerd… I was also going to school full-time and working during those two years, so I only researched when I had time, which wasn’t that often. 

I’m rambling too much. 

This time last year I was considering South Korea more and more. I looked into the Greenheart program, and began my application for South Korea this past December / January. South Korea is a whole different story, so if you or someone you know is looking to teach in Korea, they need to start at least six months beforehand. You’ll need an apostilled FBI criminal background check, apostilled official copies of any degrees (most programs / countries require at least a 4-year degree), and a million other smaller items. 

While I was working on this, I was given contact information by some of my friends for a few people who were teaching or had taught in South Korea. So I began bombarding them with questions (they were all super super nice and super super helpful). Then, it turns out that since I have my Master’s in Education, I could teach at the University level in Korea. Since recruiters only deal with primary schools, this meant I could apply directly to the universities. 

I was referred to Dave’s ESL Cafe, which not only lists hundreds of teaching openings all over the world, but also provides teaching ideas and material, tips and help for teachers abroad, and forums for different countries. 

I was also told to get a TEFL certificate of at least 120 hours. So, while I browsed for job openings and sent applications (sometimes three or four a week!), I also took an online TEFL course. Some of this was review for me, such as writing lesson plans and classroom management, but some of it was new and difficult! For example, did you know there are 12 different tenses in the English language? 12! No, no, no, it’s not simply “past, present, and future.” Ugh. It makes my brain hurt just thinking about it. I can’t wait to teach tenses. 

Side-note, more and more schools require applicants to have a TEFL / TESOL certificate as well as a 4-year degree. So, if you’re thinking of teaching abroad, I highly recommend taking a course. It’s not super difficult, there are some cheaper options, and even if the school doesn’t require it, it’ll boost your resume and make your year easier. 

Back to the job search. After a couple of months of applying to South Korean Universities, and not hearing back from any, I began to get desperate and I applied to a random primary school, confident I would at least get an interview. I got the interview, but it all seemed too good to be true. The director agreed to my job-related requests without hesitation, the location was superb, there was a CrossFit gym right down the road, as well a Dunkin’ Donuts that sells Nutella-filled donuts. NUTELLA-FILLED. So, although the interview went well, there was that little piece of me that didn’t feel right. Turns out it was too good to be true. The director became wishy-washy after the interview, and I decided I probably wouldn’t want to work under someone like that. 

The next week I got an email from a university in Turkey that I somewhat randomly applied to. I lived in Turkey when I was in 7th grade, in Izmir (Go Sultans!), and have always wanted to go back. I saw an opening for a position in Ankara, that offered pretty much exactly what I wanted in Korea, and decided to go for it. They wanted someone with university experience, however, so I really didn’t think I’d get an interview. But, I did! The lady who interviewed me was super nice (it was over Skype, by the way, at 10pm AK time), and throughout the whole interview, all I could think was, “AHH I WANT THIS JOB. I WANT IT SO BAD.” I was so excited by how well it went, I forgot to ask some key questions, which is kind of biting me in the butt now, BUTT oh well. I guess I’ll figure it all out. 

A week or so later, I got the job offer. I was going to wait a few days and think it over, but the next morning I woke up feeling like that was what I was supposed to do. I know it sounds kinda corny, but it just “felt” right. This isn’t to say I’ve felt great about it for the past few months. Even as I write this I’m questioning myself a little. The thought, “What am I thinking?? I’m doing WHAT?” has crept into my brain more than a few times. But then I just laugh. Whether I hate this next year, or love it, it’s still happening. 

After I accepted, the next step was to wait for my work permit from the Turkish Higher Education Council. Then, I had to apply for my work visa, which would allow me to stay in Turkey for longer than 90 days. I didn’t want to buy my plane ticket until after I received my visa (just in case), so it was a bit more pricey than it could have been (it will be reimbursed by the school). 

Right after I bought my plane ticket, I notified the lady with whom I had been corresponding with, and asked her if anyone was going to meet me at the airport and if there was someplace I could stay until I got an apartment. She simply replied that I should get an apartment before I arrive, and no one will meet me at the airport. But I can take a taxi. 

Umm… great. Getting an apartment in a new city is hard enough. Let alone in a new country. Oh, and if you don’t speak much of the language that could cause a teeny mishap (I remember numbers, directions, and small-talk words). Thank goodness, after a couple days of researching, I found a real estate company in Ankara that helps foreigners find FURNISHED apartments. So I booked a hotel for a few nights, and have been in contact with those nice chaps. 

Hopefully this time next week I’ll have an apartment!   

Oh, and what am I supposed to do when I arrive? “Just come to the university and find us.” OH, OKAY. NO BIG DEAL. 

I begin teaching September 1st, so let’s hope I can figure out the bus system by then! 

My advice for anyone wanting to teach overseas comes down to: 1. Research, research, research. 2. Start early. 3. Save up an emergency fund in case you have to book a hotel for a few nights. Also, you may get paid only once a month, so have enough cash for food and whatever for a month. 4. Pay for a VPN, so you can watch Netflix. 5. Do what feels right. If something sounds sketchy, it probably is. 

I think that pretty much covers everything. Any questions, ask! I’ll answer the best I can! 

One year’s worth of crap. :p (ps, that orange one is
the cursed one. It’s been replaced.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s