On a normal day, I don’t expect to find myself setting an alarm for 5 am. But today isn’t a normal day. Today I have my first job interview with a school in Korea.

The moment I’ve been waiting for all this time has finally come. Once the documents were ready to go (more on that later), we were sent interview times with various schools by the agency in Seoul, and all we had to do was get the job. Sounds easy, right?

I didn’t sleep very well last night at all, but I didn’t expect to. It’s worrisome enough having a job interview, let alone one you have to get up with the birds for. I suffered through last night waking up once an hour and checking my phone in a nightmare-induced panic, only to find it was 11:43pm… and I’d been asleep for a measly two hours.

It’s 5am and I’m putting on my nicest blue blazer, making myself a cup of tea (something I’ll miss dearly in Korea), trying to get myself ready without waking the other sleeping creatures in the house.

As the clock on my laptop crawls to 5:51, 5:52, 5:53, I find my breathing intensifying, like it’s trying to catch up with my heart. Speaking of my heart, it’s currently banging away in my chest, as if it thinks it’s competing in the 200m sprint in the organ Olympics. Nevertheless, it would win.

My laptop sings the Skype call tune and I am immediately transformed into alert focus mode. I always seem to leave my body during interviews and other important life events. People ask me how my driving test was, or how my job interview went, or how my presentation at uni went and my only answer is “Fine, I guess.” It’s as if I remember these stressful sections of my day through a misty haze of cling film or bubble wrap. From what I can see, I assume it’s going well. I’m certainly not complaining though, I’m probably glad I struggle to remember intensely stressful events.

Suddenly, it’s almost 7am and I resurface from the pool of anxiety. I turn to my boyfriend, as we interviewed at the same school, and say “I think that went well.” He agrees and we discuss the interview, the school, the location, and the job, and we manage to complete the rest of the day with fewer yawns than anticipated.

The following morning, we wake up to an email from the agency in Korea. Congratulations, the email reads, the school have offered you the job. It’s surreal, your alarm going off to wake you up for your normal job in England, and a second later reading an email you’ve been dreaming of reading for two years. I shock myself awake, sure I have yet to wake up fully and I’m experiencing an extremely vivid dream. But no–the email is still there a few hours later, after I’ve had my coffee and I’ve arrived at work.

We ask for some more information about the role, accommodation, city, and benefits before signing the contract–it is extremely important you do this to ensure you know exactly what you’re signing. Thankfully, our contract was inclusive and legitimate from the get-go. The school reassured us even further by arranging a second call, providing us with further information about the role, the process of isolation due to COVID, our accommodation, and everything else under the sun. I no longer feel worried about a single aspect of the move, thanks to the incredible support the school have offered us so far. Maybe I’m worried about my baggage getting lost at the airport, but that’s not the fault of anyone at the school.

Everything is happening quickly now. We will be sent our visa issuance number, which is the documentation you need to apply for the E-2 visa at your local embassy, and instructions on how to apply for the visa. Once the embassy receives our documents, the visa comes a few days later (assuming everything is correct, of course), and we book our flights… then we’re in Korea.

Right now, we are just waiting for our visa application to be accepted, then we will be officially ready to start our journey. The process has been relatively easy, all things considered. The hardest aspect of the process so far has been collating all the documents before applying for jobs, learning the difference between notarisation and apostilling services (still not sure I could tell you confidently, though), how long the transcript takes to come, and dealing with international postage services (I could tell you who NOT to go with, if you wanted).

Aside from actually managing to land a job, I’ve come to realise that the second hardest part of the process is sorting my life out in England. I have somehow accumulated a vast amount of things. My bedroom is filled with various boxes and bookshelves exploding with… I don’t know. I do not understand how I own so many belongings. Sorting out my possessions has been a task in and of itself. I am determined to size my life down and maintain that in Korea: each morning I will promise to myself, “I will not buy things I do not need.”

A small silver lining, however, is that I am obsessed with making lists (can anything be as satisfying as ticking off items on a to-do list? I think not) and this has provided me with the best list-making opportunity known to man. Compressing my life into a 30kg suitcase and backpack? Check. Sort out clothes to sell: check. Organise documents into folders: check. Buy backups of various toiletries: check.

I do, in jest, beseech you to buy my clothes off Vinted. Otherwise they will end up at the door of an already-rammed charity shop, which I do not want to be responsible for. I promise they’re all in good condition.

At the beginning of the journey, I was constantly between nervous and excited, but now that we are on the home straight, I’m settled safely in excited. I can’t wait for the journey to the airport, browsing duty-free, the plane taking off, playing travel chess with my boyfriend, arriving at Incheon, receiving my box of isolation food, then being free to venture from my isolation cave and discover the amazing adventure looming in front of me. The very idea of decorating my classroom, meeting all my students, planning lessons for them, and everything in between fills me with a warm and frenetic excitement.

I suppose now it’s fingers crossed for the visa issuing and the flight booking. It’s surreal seeing your friends and family knowing this will be the last time you will see them for a long time, and it’s not really hit me yet. I don’t think it will until we arrive at our apartment and start unpacking, or until I can’t find English breakfast tea in a supermarket.

Written by Erin for Teacher’s friend.