So say coworkers and acquaintances, but it's not something I ever really considered to be one of my defining personality traits. Sarcastic, judgmental, with a tendency to complain-- yes, yes, and (according to my mother) yes. But positive, glass-is-half-full gal? Is that really me?
Well, yes and no. Living in a foreign country is a lot harder than you'd expect. Things that should be easy are difficult, every little chore seems a bit more exhausting, and it's easy to begin to feel beaten down and victimized. When your class is canceled, or a taxi driver won't stop for you, or the store stops carrying that familiar brand from home, it's so easy to take it personally, to feel that your school or the country or even the world is against you.
"You're so positive! You really have a bright outlook on things!"
First off, make sure Skype works on whatever computer you plan to be in front of during the interview. I know this seems obvious, but trust me on this one: check and double check so there won't be any unforeseen technical difficulties. You know what they say about people who assume.
Before I get started, I want to make it clear that I'm not just going to tell you exactly what happened in my interview, because that doesn't seem fair. What I can do is tell you all the dumb things I wish I hadn't done and the useful things I wish I had done, in hopes that you will have a better time of it than I did.
Honestly, you probably don't need any help with the application itself. It's pretty straightforward, if horrifyingly long and annoying to fill out. They've changed the format a bit since I applied, but the basics are the same, so I'll go through the whole thing and point out whatever seems important or confusing.
The snow is melting, yellow dust has begun to float in from China, students are shedding their winter padding coats, and you know what that means...EPIK application time! Or, you know, spring. Whatever you're into, really. Dumb jokes aside, I've been meaning to do a series of posts with advice for aspiring EPIKers for a while, and like they say, there's no time like the present.
Coming to Korea was a huge, daunting move, and needless to say I did a lot of research beforehand; finding out about the culture and customs (bowing your head and removing your shoes inside), weather (yes, there definitely are 4 distinct seasons), and shopping (being told that buying clothes/shoes/underwear was pretty much impossible).
The information I found was helpful, but ultimately it’s living here which gives you the best knowledge. So here, in hindsight, is what advice I’d give myself, and anyone else about to move to Korea.
There have been many examples of photos that have changed the lives of the photographers that have taken them. We all know Nick Ut’s photo of the “Napalm Girl” and how it changed his life. There are many examples of these kinds of life changing photos. However, there are many more people trying trying to catch their big break and hoping that at least one photo will catapult them into stardom. That is why you see people sharing photos to every site imaginable. They (me) pepper facebook and Google Plus with what they think is award-winning photo. Only to have our friends cheer us on and our mother’s tell us that we should be published in National Geographic.
I am a nice guy through and through. I love talking to people and especially other photographers but once in a while something or someone will rub me the wrong way and it just makes my blood boil. Being photographers we tend to end up at the same locations as other photographers. This is usually a good thing. However, on this morning it was not. Perhaps it would have been different if it was not 5 am but who knows?
Everyday I see the same photos posted over and over again. I see the same shot of the same temple posted in almost every one of my Facebook groups, on Flickr, 500px (which then gets reposted back to Facebook) and Google Plus. We have all done it, but the question that you should be asking yourself should be “is this really working?” I am going to take a stand and say “No, it is not working and you should just stop… NOW”
My students, and I think most language students, struggle with the desire to be perfect. Often, when I ask my older students a simple question that I know they understand, I'm still met with...silence. Averted eyes. Maybe if we don't move she can't see us.
I recently realized that I am a complete hypocrite. Well, in all honesty I've known this for a while, especially when it comes to giving advice, but I had the fact practically thrown in my face the other night. As a teacher of a foreign language, I'm constantly trying to stress communication over perfection. By which I mean, it is more important that you can talk to someone, get your point across, even if your grammar is barely grammar and you're speaking mainly in nouns and hand gestures. Were you able to buy the coffee you wanted? Did they answer your question? Laugh at your joke? A+
‘Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth’ – Mary Schmich
I’ve backpacked, worked, lounged about, volunteered, romanced, and generally fucked about in well over 30 countries. And during my time I’ve learnt a few things about moving from one place to another with a massive bag.
So here, in no particular order, is some earth-shaking guidance for the better backpacking:
Take shitloads of photos… but not too many.Photograph yourself, obviously, but make sure your shots are not just endless reams of selfies on the beach, or of gormless muppets smiling in front of monuments. Shot small things as well. Capture unstaged and natural moments when nothing much is happening, like waiting for a bus, eating dinner, or whatever.
Let’s face it, the idea of winning a photo contest and getting a the top prize is pretty tempting. They are designed that way or else no one would enter. You get the feeling of satisfaction that your photo was chosen over all the others and you get a nice chunk of change for your hard work. What could be better than that?