What to Expect on Your First Day in South Korea

First day in South Korea~

I wanted to post about what to expect on your first day in South Korea as an EPIK or SMOE teacher. The first day that you arrive in your cities, you won’t be teaching. When you get to your placement city you will meet your co-teacher and visit your school.

I use to live in Daejeon and now I’m living in Seoul so I will compare my first days in each city.


Leaving Orientation

My EPIK orientation was held in Daejeon so I didn’t have to travel far. EPIK orientation ended and everyone said their goodbyes. The teachers were taken on a buses to their city and meeting place. The bus ride to the location was quick and easy because I was already in Daejeon.

Meeting the co-teachers

When we arrived, all the EPIK teachers got off the bus and stored our luggage inside the building. We had a short ceremony and met our co-teachers. Our names were called one by one and the Korean co-teachers came to the front and greeted us. We sat down together and waited until everyone had met their co-workers.

Visiting the school and my apartment

After the ceremony, my Korean co-teacher and her husband put my luggage in their car. I’m not sure if we went to the school, immigration, or my apartment first. But anyways, I think we dropped off my luggage at my apartment than we headed to the school. (Make sure you check what items are in your apartment and take pictures of any damage you see).

My school was just a 10 minute walk from my villa apartment but my co-teacher’s husband dropped us off. When I got to the school, I went and greeted the Principal and Vice Principal than my co-teacher took me to the English classroom, which was also my office.

Using my Settlement Allowance

While we were there, the school made me order some items online that I needed. *EPIK/SMOE provides you with a 300,000 KRW Settlement Allowance. This is to help you with anything you might need.

Some schools will give the money to you on the first day, some will wait until your first paycheck, but my school made me shop online that day. I really hated it because I didn’t know Korean at that time, so my co-teacher had to order everything for me. Long story short, she rushed and didn’t order carefully. When I received those item, they were incorrect and the wrong size. She had ordered me children slippers, bed sheet and pillowcases instead of a comforter set, and many other wrong items, LOL. I was angry because that money was wasted and I didn’t get the correct items that I had wanted.

I didn’t realize how much money we had used online. A few weeks later, I found out there was still some money left over. We were suppose to shop again and use the rest of the money. However, my co-teacher never told me so by the time I realized what had happen, it was too late to get the money back.

*If your school tells you to use your settlement allowance online, try to say no and just ask for it on your first paycheck or ask for it to shop on your own.

After visiting the school

My memories from this day are a little bit blurry, but I think we went to immigration and Homeplus as well. At immigration, I just filled out some paper work for my ARC card (Alien Registration Card/ID Card), which arrived in the mail in a few days. I also paid for some papers that allowed me to open a bank account and phone plan without my ARC card.

My co-teacher and her husband also took me to Homeplus. It’s similar to Walmart/Target in the USA. I used my own money and bought some groceries and items that I needed for my apartment. Honestly, I recommend going to Daiso (dollar store) first because items there are so cheap. I only found out a few days later that there was a Daiso near me. So, if your co-teacher takes you shopping, ask to go to Daiso first than go to a bigger mart after.

After shopping, I was dropped off at my apartment and spent the night cleaning and unpacking.


My Seoul experience was a little bit different because I had already been in Korea for two years.

Leaving Orientation

The Seoul orientation was held in Gonju. After orientation, the teachers got on buses and headed to their cities. When we arrived, we were dropped off at a school and there was no ceremony.

Meeting the co-teachers

As soon as I got off the bus there were Korean teachers holding signs and calling out names. I heard my name and saw that two Korean teachers from my school had come to pick me up. We got in their car and went to my officetel. I dropped off my luggage and they took me to the bus stop to show me how to get to the school.

Visiting the school and my apartment

My school was a 15 minute bus ride from my apartment. When I got there I met the Principal and Vice principal. We had some tea and I wasn’t shown my office at all. After tea, we went back to the bus stop and the teachers showed me how to get home.

After visiting the school

When we arrived at my officetel, they said goodbye and left immediately. It was really different from my experience in Daejeon. My Daejeon co-teacher really took the time to help me. She took me shopping and bought me dinner but the Seoul teachers just dropped me off all alone, lol. I guess because I had experienced already. Just be prepared. Your co-teachers might help you get settled in or you might be on your own.

As for the settlement money, this time I didn’t receive it until my first paycheck, so everything that I needed for my apartment, I had to buy with my own money.

I hope my experiences will help all you new teachers in some way. ~ If you have any questions, feel free to contact me. Good luck.~

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