WHAT ARE THE CONS TO LIVING ON JEJU FOR THE NEW EPIK ENGLISH TEACHER?
Are you considering teaching on Jeju Island? Are you worried about the housing options? Well, you should be. I taught on Jeju and lived in two different EPIK Jeju POE housing accommodations during my two terms. Neither of them were that great, but while the free housing accommodations that EPIK provided me was one of the hardest pills for me to swallow, there are additional reasons why I would not teach on Jeju Island again. Here are my top 5 reasons why I would not choose Jeju Island.
- Jeju Island is incredibly humid. While this can be great for your skin, it can mean throwing out some comfortable sneakers that got wet in the rain or having to wait on those bed sheets you washed two days ago that still haven’t dried. Because the climate on Jeju is very humid, a lot of mold can build up very quickly. Regular exposure to mold is terrible for the health and especially intoxicating for those with mold allergies or asthma. Mold spores produce mycotoxins which can affect people in many different ways. Mycotoxins can cause an infection in the lungs and trigger the immune system to defend the body by attacking the lungs causing pneumonia or inflammation in the lungs. Fungal infections can also cause skin irritations or damage to the central nervous system.
Humidity Induced Asthma
I’m from California where the climate is pretty dry, so I had no idea my lungs would have an allergic reaction to the humidity on Jeju. Yes, apparently that’s a real thing. Asthma can be triggered by humidity. Strange? Yes, I thought the exact same thing. Coupled with the mold and abundance of cigarette smoke, my asthma became severe and persistent. If you have any form of asthma, I suggest checking with your doctor to find out if you may be at risk for humidity induced allergic asthma.
- There is not a lot of government funding for EPIK on Jeju. This means that they do not take the time to thoroughly clean, upgrade, or remodel the already very limited housing accommodations. If you want to live comfortably, you should expect to do a lot of cleaning yourself the first couple days or consider hiring professional cleaners. Also, don’t expect all your appliances to work upon arrival. You will more than likely need to put in a work order for at least one of your 2004 or 2008 appliances (washer, fridge, microwave).
- Jeju Island has tons of bugs in the warmer months. Before living in Korea, I did my best to avoid getting bitten, because who knows what kinds of bacteria or viruses those buggers are carrying. This was easy in California. Indoors, we have the ants and spiders in the summer. At night, we get crickets and sometimes cockroaches. Outdoors, there would be bees or mosquitos (if you were in the more damp areas of California). I would get the occasional spider bite here and there, but those were tolerable. If you are planning to live on Jeju, expect to make a lot of bug frenemies. They have everything from winged fire ants, I’m convinced that Jeju Island has the biggest mosquitos! I averaged 10 mosquito bites a week while wearing long sleeves and leggings. Yes, even while I was wearing repellent! The worst part about these bites are that they swell up like no other. They are incredibly itchy and painful. A few of these bites actually sent me straight to the hospital. I got bitten on my foot the first day I arrived on Jeju and my foot swelled up so fat that I couldn’t fit into any of my shoes. I literally walked in the rain through the city streets of Jeju, alone, sobbing in pain, looking for the nearest hospital, wearing ONE convenience-store-bought one-size-fits-all pink house slipper. Luckily, health care in Korea is soooo inexpensive. I visited the hospital/clinic a total of 6 times and the pharmacy a total of 8 times and my total estimate in medical bills while living on Jeju only amounted to $200. The bright side is that (like anywhere) the longer you live on Jeju, the better your survival instincts become. By the end of my stay on Jeju, I was averaging only one or two bites a month. To find out how you can shield yourself from these pests, please check out my post on the best mosquito repellents.
- There are a lot of remote schools and Jeju Island’s transportation system is sh!*If you get stuck with a rural assignment or rural housing, transportation will suck. I was given 3 assignments (schools) and my longest commute was an hour and a half (longer if I missed my transfer bus). There’s no telling what your commute will be like until you get to Jeju. It’s kind of the luck of the draw. Your commute can range anywhere from 15 minutes to 1.5 hours. Note: The teachers who have been there the longest (8-10 years) will get first pick on the best schools and housing locations.
- Typhoon Season is no joke. The rainy season starts late July and the typhoons hit late August to September. While living on Jeju, I survived 3 typhoons. I say survived, because it really felt like I was going to die. When the cyclone hits, you’ll get a text alert of the impending danger. During these typhoons, the buses will stop running and everyone will stay indoors. I kid you not, these moments were some of the scariest. One night, I was in the city planning to head back to JFLHS with some groceries, when I received a text alert. Not only could I not read the Korean text, but it came with a yellow warning symbol. I immediately ran for the bus stop, but found that the rural bus schedule had been cancelled (this meant that no buses were permitted to further operate into rural Jeju). I had no other choice but to hail a taxi. The taxi driver warned me that he could only take me so far before he would have to turn around. I thought this was insane, “How could he expect me to walk the rest of the way? In this ridiculous storm?” I didn’t actually think he would kick me out, but he did. I was about a mile from the dormitory and figured I could do this. The downpour grew heavier and the winds started to pick up. The walk up the hill was incredibly excruciating. It felt like I was being hosed down. My umbrella was torn apart by the wind and although I was wearing a parka, I was soaking wet from head to toe. I don’t know how I managed, but I made it to the dorm. I changed into some dry clothes and received another alert. This time the alert was in red. Seconds later, the storm raged louder and stronger. The wet winds thrashed against the windows and I feared the vibrating glass would break. One of my screen windows were knocked out and I scrambled to fix it back into place (I literally taped the darn thing). The unforgiving storm raged throughout the night and I barricaded myself between my dresser and wardrobe in hopes that I wouldn’t wake up covered in glass. That night I got maybe 2 hours of sleep. I had never experienced anything like it in California.