So I’ve had several people ask how I ended up teaching in Korea and was the process hard. In this post, I will walk you through the steps including the info for the coordinator of the program I am employed with. I’m posting this now since most programs will begin the application process this month to come in February. The next one will be around February/March to come in July/August.
Contrary to popular belief, the process isn’t that hard (if you go through the right recruiter). I heard about teaching in Korea (and China) from a few friends that had done it in the past. I knew I wanted to live abroad but I also wanted to get paid in the process. This was the perfect way.
I initially wanted to go through EPIK (English Program in Korea) which is probably the most popular option that people seek. I did some research via the Dave’s Esl cafe website. It posts job openings for Korea and China. You then contact the recruiter to start the application process. Now choosing a good recruiter is all trial and error. You will get some who reply and some who won’t. You will also learn quickly that some recruiters only look for certain skin tones. (I’ll let you assume on that one but don’t let it stop you)
My first recruiter was staffing for the EPIK program. He was recommended by others but we quickly didn’t mesh well. He would schedule things for me at unreasonable hours and then talk down to me when I couldn’t make the online interviews. He eventually dropped me as an applicant. (Thank God!) I wrote in a forum that I am apart of on Facebook (Brothas and Sistas of south Korea) and also found that several other people had run ins with him too. A girl in the forum messaged me and told me about the program she went through (which is the one I ended up in!). In the meantime, I also sought out one more recruiter just in case.
The program that the girl suggested was in a city called Cheonan (about 1 hour by express bus from Seoul) and it is run through a Christian college here. (It is not apart of the EPIK program) I had to first contact the American recruiter ( Martha Wilson: email@example.com) to get the application sent to me via email. She instructed me to get a copy of my undergrad college degree, get that apostilled, get an FBI background check, get that apostilled, and of course complete the application. EPIK asks for the same things in addition to two sealed college transcripts and a 120-150 hour TEFL or TESOL certificate (which I completed online after purchasing the class on Groupon for around $40). Luckily the program I ended up going with provides an in person TESOL class which is more useful even after I leave Korea. (so you won’t need to do the online one if you go through my program)
Once you get a copy of your college degree you send it off to the secretary of state in your respective state (regardless of where you attended college) to have it apostilled. (Some states may have a different office that apostilles but NC is the secretary of state in Raleigh) You can go online to get whatever forms you need and find out payment info before sending it off. The turn around was less than a week.
With the FBI background check, you have two options: go directly through the FBI’s site (which takes up to 10-12 weeks) or spend a little more money to go through a 3rd party to have it done within a week. Once you get the background check, you have to then send it off to D.C. to be apostilled. (I believe it’s through DOJ but I don’t remember. This is where you use GOOGLE lol) There is a fee for each step just FYI. I know the 3rd party background is around $50 but the apostille is only like $10 at most.
In the process of gathering all of this, I sent my application back to Martha. We then did a Skype interview. Once she approved me, I had to mail all of the documents I collected to the Korean recruiter. The documents are used to issue your E-2 visa which allows you to work and stay in Korea for the year. It takes a few weeks (up to a month depending of when things are sent) to get your Visa number issued.
At this point, I had was offered the job and signed my contract to work as well. (this was also sent to issue the Visa) I then received my Visa issuance number from my program coordinator in Korea and from this point forward Martha was no longer needed.
Once you receive the visa issuance number, you must fill out yet another form to send to the respective place to have your passport officially stamped with your visa. (I was a bit nervous sending my passport in the mail but it worked out with no issue). The visa is about $40 and I had to send it Georgia along with return postage. The turn around here was about a week as well. At this point the only thing left was to schedule my flight.
The program I ended up going with did flight reimbursement (which is pretty standard now). So I paid for my flight initially and once I arrived they reimbursed me in my first paycheck. (another reason why I love my program because I have heard horror stories about people not receiving their money back or being paid on time).
Now for the deets on pay and housing.
We receive about $2100 a month (2.1 million KRW). Our housing and utilites are paid for. (We pay our own internet and phone bill though) I live in a studio apartment which is actually has loft and still has a separate small bedroom too. (my view is amazing. I live in the downtown area of my city). Health insurance is included and the insurance here is very good and SUPER cheap. (to get my wisdom teeth pulled will be less than $100) I try to send about $800-$1000 to my american account per month and keep about 1 million KRW in my Korean account. (that is more than enough if you budget properly and yes I travel around on weekends sometimes.) Once you complete your one year contract you are also given a $2,000 severance and a $2,000 pension. (So an additional $4,000) For every full year that you renew your contract your pay increases and you add another pension and severance bonus. (So after two years you would take an additional $8,000 plus your monthly salary) So as you can see you have the chance to save a good chunk of money.
My program did a 1-week orientation when we arrived which also included taking us to the office to apply for our Alien registration cards. (this is like your Korean ID but is needed to pretty much purchase anything in which you need to be billed.) They also set up our bank accounts for us. (And again we are paid ON TIME)
After our 1-week of orientation, we started our 4-week TESOL (teaching english to speakers of other languages) program. This certificate is recognizable in Asia, so we can pretty much teach English all over Asia now. (remember I also have my online TEFL too) so I could probably come home and become an ESL teacher as well.
Once TESOL is complete we begin teaching officially. (However, depending on when you do intake, you may start teaching then go back and do your TESOL. It varies but EPIK does not provide the in person class so you are basically thrown into the fire once you arrive.) Although TESOL was long, it was very helpful and made me more comfortable when I actually started my teaching.
We are required to teach 22 hours per week but have to be present at school for 40. (The down time is called desk warming since you are in your office/at your desk during this time mostly) The typical school day is from 8:30-4:30 (may vary by a few minutes depending on your school) The teaching is pretty straight forward. We use a book to help us as far as the lessons go. The students also take English class other days of the week, but I see most students only once per week. (6th grade 2x). We are off for all Korean holidays and also get two weeks off in January and two weeks in July. You are only allotted 6 sick days per year though. If you need more, they take it from your other vacation time. (Still a pretty good deal if you ask me. Also we are so close to other countries like China and Japan that you can still fly out for a weekend trip for only $200 or less)
I’m very thankful that I chose the program that I did. (Well God chose it for me) They have made this transition thus far pretty smooth. (yes there are hang ups here and there but they always get resolved) If you aren’t a person that can easily adapt at a moment’s notice, this may not be the thing for you. Koreans tend to be very last minute people at times and you have to be able to adjust.
I hope this post has been helpful for those considering moving abroad. If you have any additional questions don’t hesitate to contact me!