Networking At EPIK Orientation
Fall EPIK orientation is just weeks away and now that you have your packing list and last minute tips from my previous articles, we can begin to focus on another good idea to keep in mind during your time at orientation: networking. I know on top of all the other things going through your mind the thought of networking might seem furthest from important, but it really does have its advantages.
Networking is a good skill to have in any setting, but is especially advantageous when you’re living abroad. You’ll have a vast pool of minds to pick when you need information on traveling in general or Korea specific questions. Having a large group of contacts from your EPIK orientation group can even help you beyond your year in South Korea. Having the ability to connect with as many people as you can at orientation is easy if you can remember to use these simple tips.
1. Eat Meals With As Many Different People As You Can
EPIK orientation meals feel like elementary school all over again. You’ll have your metal tray full of Korean food like kimchi and your chopsticks in hand as you navigate the cafeteria. Instead of frantically searching for your roommate or a familiar face, search for empty seats by unfamiliar faces. Most people, much like yourself, are moving to Korea alone and would love to meet as many new people as possible. Of course, initiating conversation with a stranger can be nerve wracking, but conversations over meals always seem to go easier – especially when the food you’re eating is foreign since that in itself can bring up a wealth of different conversations.
Remember to introduce yourself to all those seated around you just in case they were too shy to introduce themselves to each other before you got there. There were times at orientation when I sat by a group of people I didn’t know assuming I was crashing a clique lunch meeting to discover they were eating in silence because they didn’t know each other. Moral of the story: don’t assume you’re the odd man out because everyone is a stranger to one another at first.
2. Sit At A Different Desk During Lectures Everyday
Orientation lectures are much like college lectures. You’ll be allowed to chose a desk among the rows to sit at in a classroom. There are, however, no seating arrangements so you’re welcome to sit anywhere you like. I noticed that most people chose a desk on the first day and stuck to that same desk until the very last day of orientation. While I understand that the comfort of familiarity will be something to cling to during your first days thrust into a new experience, I really think sitting in a different desk daily will be more advantageous than the temporary comfort of choosing the same desk.
During your lectures, you’ll be required to do small group projects like make posters or brain storm ideas about teaching. These little work projects are the perfect opportunity to get to know a new person in your class daily. Where most people meet one or two people in class and stick to those people tighter than Gorilla Glue, you’ll already have a group of at least 20 people from class alone to add to your contacts.
3. Say Cheese
Obvious, I’m sure, but remember to be aware of how you’re presenting yourself to your peers. You only get one chance to make a first impression so smile, be polite, and save those embarrassing stories about how you got so drunk at your going away party that you threw up on your pet cat for a later date. (I actually overheard that story during my own orientation. Crazy, I know.)
4. Exchange Email And Other Information
Don’t be embarrassed to ask people to exchange information. I’m not sure what it is with our generation but we obsess over not coming off as desperate. Most people seemed to be shy to ask for information too soon to add each other on social media. For you networking butterflies, you know better. After a successful conversation, ask your new friend for their information so you can stay in contact. After all, orientation is short and you don’t want to run the risk of missing your new friend before you both leave for your new homes in Korea.
The best way to solidify the relationships you formed at orientation is to ensure that all your contacts are familiar with one another as well. Once orientation is over and you’re all settled into your new cities, organize a social event like a dinner or a night on the town in Seoul so you can invite all your new friends to get together, meet each other, and have a good time. It becomes even easier to keep contacts when they are friends with each other too.
I hope your orientation is a blast and you enjoy networking and making the most of time you have with so many new and interesting people from around the world. Have fun, my little social butterflies!