10 Things To Expect At An EPIK Orientation (Part 1)

There’s really only one thing you’ll need to know about EPIK orientation that can fully prepare you for your first week in Korea, which is EPIK orientation is basically freshman year university orientation all over again. There’s no getting around it, and there’s no use pouting because orientation is mandatory.

EPIK LogoTruth be told, it isn’t a terrible experience. Sure, you’ll still have those nervous jitters as you scout out the group of fellow newbies trying to figure out who your new friends will be, but your week won’t be all nerves and lectures. I’m going to go so far as to say you’re actually going to have fun. This two part article will give you some insight into 10 things you can expect to happen at your EPIK orientation.

1. You’ll have name tags and be asked to wear them daily

Did I say orientation would feel like university orientation? Excuse me, I think I meant to say it’ll feel like the first day of kindergarten. I won’t lie. It feels strange and tacky to have to wear a giant laminated name tag around your neck stating which class you belong in and your first and last name in bold black letters, but after meeting what seems like a million new friends, you’ll be thankful for those tacky name reminders.

The last thing you’ll want to do after having a nice dinner conversation with a potential friend is mistakenly call your new pal the wrong name at breakfast the next morning. Please do your new friends the same courtesy, and wear your name tag as well. Spare everyone the awkwardness of trying to play the name guessing game. “Was it Judith or Julie?…..Oh, who cares. I see Amy and she’s wearing her name tag. I’ll just sit with her instead.”

2. “Can I have lunch with you?”

The question you haven’t heard since your recess days will become the quickest way to make friends during your first days of orientation. Nostalgia will hit hard when you are walking with a lunch tray attempting to navigate a huge cafeteria. Panic will begin to set in when you realize you don’t know a single person in the room of chatty, hungry people already chowing down. Don’t fret. Just like you, most people at orientation decided to take the leap across the ocean alone. They’re in the same boat as you looking for friends.

Don’t be shy to ask that silly old question you used to ask new friends when you were 8 years old. If you happen to already be seated with new friends and spot a newbie walking around with that same zombie like glazed look, don’t wait for them to ask. Pull out the seat next to you and offer them a place to sit. Nothing is more appreciated than kindness during this week of new beginnings and nerves.

3. You’ll have a bunk-mate

I’m not sure about you, but it had been years since I’d had a dorm mate before coming to Korea. I won’t lie and say I was thrilled at the idea of sharing a small space with a stranger. In fact, after an entire day’s worth of airplane rides, mushy airline food, and lost luggage, the absolute last thing I felt like doing was chatting up a new roommie. All I wanted was a hot shower and sleep, but I lucked out. My roommate was awesome (not to mention just as exhausted as I was). After quick introductions, we hit the hay and left the hard “getting to know you” questions and conversations for the next morning at breakfast.

I found that it takes a certain type of person to embark on this kind of adventure. The people you meet here will be upbeat, quirky, flirty, and adventurous. The chances of you having little in common with your roommate are slim to none. However, bunk-mates are a luck of the draw, so on the off chance that you do get stuck with a sour puss, just make the best of it. There will be plenty of people in your lectures, meals, and free time with whom to find and socialize.

4. Korean Food

What?! There will be Korean food at orientation in Korea?! Excuse my 6th grade self for making an appearance, but duh! I’m not sure why so many people were surprised that our meals at orientation consisted of strictly Korean food, but by the number of squeals and groans I assume most people were expecting to be catered to with comforting western food. Look at your meals as a golden opportunity to immediately expand your horizons. After all, what better time to start acclimating yourself to the new Korean culture you’re now residing in than the moment you step off the plane?

Lunch at orientation is served buffet style with a separate table for those who have dietary restrictions. As an omnivore, I can’t relay much information about the vegetarian meals, but the main buffet table was filled with typical Korean delicacies. Rice cakes, cold buckwheat noodles, bulgogi, seaweed soups, and the ever present kimchi are just a sampling of the dishes you’ll taste during orientation. If I may, I’d like to give you a snippet of advice, which is to taste everything. You might not recognize the brown noodles floating in ice and broth, but spoon a small bit into a bowl anyway. There is no better mindset to have while living in Korea than an open and curious one. You came to leave your comfort zone, but don’t restrict that solely to meeting new people. Force your taste buds out of their comfort zone as well.

5. Cliques

If you read the subtitle and immediately had Mean Girls quotes racing through your brain, you can stop your worrying. Cliques at orientation are very mature and mostly form due to hobbies and general interests. Where there are large numbers of people, naturally you’ll see smaller groups form. While most people you’ll meet at orientation will have the same zest for life and new beginnings that you do, they won’t all have the same goals and ideas of fun abroad in mind as you do.

Some people will come to Korea wanting to get deep into the club and nightlife scene, while others will come wanting to accrue great looking CV’s and references. The old saying “birds of a feather flock together” couldn’t be more true at orientation. You’ll see the same groups heading out to the bars at night, gathering in the lounge to study, or playing sports in an open field. Of course, there’s no reason to pigeonhole yourself. If you like multiple scenes, your new friends are always ready to accept you into their groups with open arms.

If you’ve already survived orientation, did you find these 5 facts to be true in your case? Share your experiences in a comment below! Be sure to check back here next week for the second installment of the 10 Things To Expect At EPIK Orientation. 

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