My first night in Korea was a bit chaotic. Shortly after snapping a photo of the Baskin Robbins kiosk at Incheon Airport, I caught the last bus from the airport to Jeonju University (pronounced: Che-on-jew). According to the information packet I received via email prior to arriving in Korea, the bus ride takes two hours. The woman at the EPIK kiosk at the airport told me that it was, in fact, four hours. The EPIK coordinator 0n the bus, who made several announcements as we embarked, said that it will take somewhere between two and five hours. I was tired, confused, and ready to get to Jeonju, so I gave up on trying to figure things out and relaxed.
We arrived at JJU a bit after midnight. The rest of our night was relatively uneventful, except for the cursory medical check they did before assigning our rooms. A nurse took a quick look at us (checking for open wounds, maybe?) and then used a digital thermometer to take our temperature (from the ear). I didn’t realize until it was too late that the nurse was simply wiping the thermometer off with a napkin between ears. Felt a bit like disease roulette. I’m not sure if anything can be passed through the ear, but if it can, I got it.
The next morning, my roommate Mark (also from NC) and I got a chance to see the campus and surrounding neighborhood. The first thing we noticed was that the school’s slogan, “A Place For Superstars” is plastered all over campus. I’m not sure why that slogan seemed so odd to me – maybe because it sounds like an elementary school’s slogan in the US.
The rest of the campus is surprisingly similar to a small American college. The neighborhood surrounding the college, on the other hand, is a different world. I’m finding that it is even more different than I expected, believe it or not. Everything looks, feels, and smells different than at home.
We weren’t allowed to eat anything before a medical checkup around noon, so Mark and I were starving by the time we made it to our first lunch. I almost lost my appetite during the exam, when I gave a urine sample. The medical staff administering the exam lined up several tables end-to-end; they were almost completely covered with urine cups. They used droppers to extract a small amount of the sample from each cup. I was one of the last people to turn in a cup, so I got to see them dumping urine into a giant trash can in the middle of the room. When I ate lunch shortly thereafter, I realized that the medical exam had taken place in the cafeteria and the urine tables were lunch tables.
The day ended in a high note. All of the GETs (Guest English Teachers) went to a convocation ceremony to officially open orientation. There were a few guest speakers and several shows. The most interesting part of the show happened at the very beginning and wasn’t even part of the show. The two hosts walked on stage with microphones in hand and introduced themselves. They projected a Power Point slide above the stage and began showing us pictures of past orientations. After the slide show (about ten minutes), they introduced the president of the National Institute of International Education….but he was running late. The NIIED president and his small entourage showed up about five minutes later. Instead of taking the stage and beginning his speech, the president sat down in the front row. The hosts asked us to please be patient because they were going to restart. And they did…from the very beginning. That seemed like an excellent example of the importance of hierarchy in Korean society.
The convocation ended with an awesome Tae Kwon Do demonstration. Jeonju University has a world champion Tae Kwon Do team, and it shows. The acrobatics were incredible. I absolutely couldn’t believe how high they could jump and kick. Absolutely amazing.
Until next time.