I will warn you now.
When you apply, you will spend the majority of the time from February to September waiting.
Waiting for your recommendation to be written. Waiting for someone to confirm they received your application. Waiting for information about an interview. Waiting for the first selection result. Waiting for the second selection result. Waiting for the third selection. Waiting for contact from your language institute (or uni if you get to skip the language)… and… well, you get the point.
I HATE waiting. That’s probably why I am spending my time talking about the program – it helps me to forget I’m waiting.
Now a lot of this waiting has a deadline. There are certain dates when certain things are announced. It really can’t be helped.
But then there is the other waiting. When you’ve sent an email to someone and they don’t reply right away. Or you’re waiting for your uni to send you info about something.
Sometimes the combination of all of your waiting can just make you really impatient. This is also just a huge experience, especially if you’ve never lived, studied, or maybe even been abroad. This can cause mild panic attacks in the calmest of people. And sometimes… they are just really slow…
My advice to you is to count to 10, take a deep breath, and sleep on it.
First, make sure you keep track of the time difference between you and Korea. Display Korean time on your smart phone, set another watch to Korean time, or just memorize the time difference. Whatever it takes, remember that while you might be panicking, Korea might be sleeping. Give them time to get into work in the morning, have their coffee and look at their email. They’ll get back to you.
Next, look up the national holidays in Korea. Time differences are obvious, but a lot of people overlook holidays. Sometimes if they are really swamped they may come in on weekends or holidays, but you should consider yourself lucky if it happens, and not expect it. An additional catch is that Embassies are often closed both for holidays of the country they are in, and their own national holidays. This year holidays were a big problem. There are several announcement dates that seem to fall on the same day every year. This year a lot of them seemed to fall right before a weekend or holiday. It was like a hit and run, send an email and disappear for a couple of days while people try to figure out what it means. This is annoying, but there is really nothing you can do about it, so keep track of holidays and find something to distract you until they can get back to you.
Finally, stay calm and try not to send multiple frantic emails to whoever you need answers from.
- Take a minute to gather and organize your thoughts.
- Try to make your email and questions easy to understand, and give any background necessary to frame the question. (Remember many of the people in the offices are non-native English speakers and if your question is confusing then you may not get the answer you are looking for.)
- Try to consolidate your questions into one email. If you are sending multiple emails with multiple questions, or multiple emails with the same question, then other people probably are too. This makes for a very overwhelming situation for the people tasked with answering your questions, and may delay things rather than speed them up. (This year there was one “email and run” incident where people’s emails actually got bounced back to them because there was no more room left in NIIED’s email inboxes.)
- Sit back and think about how urgent your question is. If you stay on top of things then most of your questions probably don’t need to be answered RIGHT NOW. Even if it seems like a really huge problem there probably is a solution and in most cases it doesn’t matter if it is solved today or tomorrow. Even if NIIED bought you a ticket from the wrong airport, if you aren’t leaving for another three weeks then there is still time to solve it. If you have carefully thought about it, and you really do need an answer NOW (like you are leaving in 3 days and your ticket is wrong) then it is probably better to call them.
Just remember that there are relatively few staff members, and quite a lot of students who all have basically the same problems at exactly the same time… and most (staff and student) are communicating in a second language. Not to mention the fact that there are a lot of other things that the staff need to do aside from answering questions.
Give them sometime, and if you still don’t hear back in one or two days, and it’s not a holiday or weekend, then you might want to contact them again because there might be some problem other than being busy.
And sometimes you just have to resign yourself to the fact that they are never getting back to you. Try to keep contacting them, but also try to find other sources for information.
And in the end, be glad for the opportunity to wait, and that your waiting will end with your arrival in Korea. This kind of waiting means that you have passed the current stage. There are many others who will end up waiting again for their next chance to apply.