Friday, December 27, 2019

For the Whole Week of Christmas, Korean Gave to Me: An Over-the-top "ISP"

We're almost at the end of "winter break"/"holiday break", which means I'm almost done with my ISP. What's an ISP? It's short for Independent Self-study Plan, my golden ticket to avoid taking any leave around the holidays. As a new federal employee, I don't accumulate very much vacation time and I enjoy saving it as much as possible for future trips or emergencies. Moreover, because I'm staying in Department of State-provided temporary housing, I technically need to pay for every single day of leave I take while I am here. (Training leave is, unfortunately, not included in the deal. Estimates I've heard from colleagues of cost per day of taking leave is anything from $150-250 for a one-bedroom apartment for two people. So we take that seriously.)

So that's where the ISP comes in to save the day. Our language classes took a break for the holidays, so the only way to dodge taking leave was to create an ISP and commit to studying full-time on non-holiday days. You could also choose to split the days with no class, so you only need to come up with a study plan for days that you're not taking leave. I decided to go all in and study every single day we didn't have a holiday off, so I especially appreciated the extra holiday the President signed for us on Christmas Eve.

They really do take the ISP seriously. One night, I got home late from seeing a show with my sister and I figured I would just submit that day's log the next morning. I was surprised to get an email that morning, though, calling me and a classmate out for missing the previous day's study log and prompting us to upload it right away. I guess not everyone is on leave for the holidays. (Even with their strictness in adhering to the policy, the title of this post is definitely unfair... I gave myself an over-the-top ISP, so I only have myself to blame.)

I learned later than approved ISPs could take a lot of shapes and forms. I thought we had to be very specific, but I later learned that others had more general guidelines and I wish I'd been more flexible in constructing mine. More than once, self-motivated studying 7-8 hours per day by myself was a complete slog. There were a few moments when I'm sure I looked just like the stock photo I used for this post! (On a related note, I've learned I am definitely not a work-from-home type of employee.) At the end of the day, though, I'm glad I did the ISP because not only did I save leave but I hope I will have lost a little less of the Korean in my brain by the time we roll back into class in January. We'll see if that effort actually paid off after all!

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