If you are a recent graduate or someone who is simply tired of their job and are looking to teach English in Korea for the summer or fall, now is the time to get started making preparations.
If you have made the decision to teach in Korea, you want to first make sure that you meet the requirements needed in order to be granted a working visa. Once you have done that, you want to be sure that you understand the process and documents involved in obtaining a working visa.
If you are uncertain that Korea is the right place for you to teach, you can do some further research on the different cities that you can teach and also some of the popular things to do in Korea.
Once you have made the decision that Korea is right for you, you will need to apply to us, after which time you will be contacted for an interview.
If you have any questions you can send us an email at: email@example.com
The size of the apartment that you will be given to stay in while you are teaching in Korea will depend on the city and area where you are working. Below is a video by an English teacher who is working and living in the northern part of Seoul. The apartment is an ‘Office-tel’, which have a living area on the main level with the sleeping area on the second level. These Office-tels are also used for businesses as a cheap alternative to a full office. Check out the video below:
Experts who have written about culture shock have identified four distinct phases that anyone going to live abroad passes through; the amount of time it takes for a person to get through each phase can vary with the individual, but in general, each phase will last longer than the preceding one. The four phases are:
Fascination: an initial period when everything is new and exciting where there are seemingly few problems since everyone is being extremely accommodating. The predominant feeling during this period is one of exhilaration at finally being abroad after a long period of anticipation.
Friendship: immediately following the initial excitement comes the stage where the need to structure a new social support system to replace the one that was left behind at home becomes very important. At this time there is an understandable, but potentially dangerous tendency to find people from the same part of the world for friendship. The problem is that relationships created at this stage could turn into a ‘we-they’ scenario.
Frustration: After enough time has elapsed to become familiar with the new surroundings, as well as to become familiar with the requirements of the new job, a stage of depression begins. The result is that hostility towards anyone in your new life becomes the prominent feeling. It seems that every situation, no matter how big or small, turns into something that becomes overly frustrating. This is the period where frustration is at a level where the entire experience is seen as a mistake.
Fulfillment:Although the previous stage is very difficult to overcome, the good news is that the next period is one where the entire experience of teaching overseas becomes fulfilling and rewarding. The understanding of the new surroundings and the people that are interacted with daily now become interesting. Compromises are made which lead to a realization that conflicts can be worked out.
As with any new experience in life, it is what you make of it.
When you hear about Korea, a few things may come to mind: The bustling sprawling capital city of Seoul; the mountains providing the backdrop for cities such as Daegu; or perhaps Buddhist Temples of Tongdosa. Wherever your mind wanders when you think about what you will see and experience in your journey teaching English in Korea, you may be surprised as to the other many fascinating sights and scenes available to you.
As you are preparing for your trip to become an ESL teacher in Korea, you are most likely concerned with things like getting your documents all prepared for your working visa or making last minute plans to see your friends and family one last time before you go on your way for a year or more. You are probably also thinking about what you will do in your first day of class or what your co-teachers will be like or are possibly scrambling to finish up the remaining hours of your TEFL certification course.
When all is said and done, and you are as prepared as you can be, stop for a minute and think about what’s ahead. You are on your way to a whole new world, one that most travelers of South east Asia do not bother to stop and check out. Korea will now be your home, and one that you will soon get adapted to. Whether you come from Canada, or the US, you will be entering a world that boasts some of the most beautiful scenes and ancient treasures that Asia has to offer. And the best part is, that all of these are just a few hours away from you.
People tend to forget that there is more to life in Korea than having a good time with your friends at the bars on the weekends, or exploring the crazy all night shopping malls in Dongdaemun Seoul. While there is nothing wrong with making friends and getting a little bit crazy on the weekends, do consider coming home from the bar early on a Friday night so that you can get up and make that train to the ancient tombs in Gyeongju or to the Jinju Castle. It will be well worth it.
Transportation in Korea is very inexpensive and also very convenient. If your apartment is not close to a train station for example, there will surely be a bus close to you that will get you there; if you arrive at your destination but are not sure where to go from there, ask a local taxi driver who will either take you there or show you the way. If you get lost anywhere in Korea, just ask someone if they speak English and are able to help you. You might get lucky and find someone who has confidence in their English, or you might find someone that is a little bit shy, but even they will have some knowledge of English and should be able to assist you. In either case, Koreans are very friendly people and are more than willing to help foreigners when they can. They are also a very proud people, so as long as you make an attempt to first speak in Korean to them (a simple anyounghasayo!), then you will get the reception that you are looking for.
1) Be open-minded. It is important to remember that you are not only moving abroad to teach English, but also living in a country that is completely different from your own. Do not expect things to be the same as home, because they will not be. Bring an open mind and you will adjust faster
2) Prepare. You need to realize that you are not going to find all of the comforts of home, so you will have to be ready to adjust. When you get to Korea, look for stores that carry the foods you are looking for; even something as simple as finding the cereal that you like will make you feel a little closer to home while you are in your adjustment phase
3) Enjoy a simpler life. There will only be a certain number of channels on TV that will be in English, so if you are a big TV watcher, you will have to find other ways to spend your time. Explore your new city, and find things that will occupy you in your free time
4) Try to meet as many people as possible. Meeting new people and creating friendships is one of the best benefits that teaching abroad can offer, so take advantage of it. Everyone you meet will be doing the same thing as you, so you will have that in common. It is also important not to be too quick to judge people when you first meet them; you will find that some of your new friends will be very different from the people you usually hang out with back home, but this is a good thing
5) Don’t be too judgemental. You will inevitably notice things that Koreans will do things that will not make sense to you whatsoever; don’t hold this against them but try and understand the reasoning behind it. You don’t have to agree, but understanding is better than being annoyed
6) Stay as long as you can. Most people plan their return home before they even leave to teach in Korea. While this is a natural thing to do, don’t limit yourself to a deadline. You have no idea what is in store for you, so the best advice is to go with the flow and see where the journey takes you
Teaching in Korea has been an opportunity for university graduates to travel, make money and live abroad for years now. In the late 1990s, and early 2000s, schools in Korea could not find enough teachers to satisfy their needs as there was not an abundance of information on the Internet and a lack of North American recruiters that teachers felt that they could trust. Finding an English teaching job in Korea, through a Korean recruiter who didn’t speak English very well was a daunting idea for most as they did not know if the promises made before they arrived in Korea would be kept; for many, they were not.
Fast forward to 2012. With the Internet being the source of all good and bad reviews about schools in Korea, people have come to be confused who to trust and who not to trust, by trying to find their ‘best possible option’, which would satisfy their desires to work in their chosen location, at a good school, where they will be treated well, paid on time and not fired in their 11th month of their contract. Essentially, everyone is after the perfect job when they first start looking, but many make the mistake of choosing location and ‘promised’ compensation over taking the safe route and going through a recruiting agency that actually has their best interests at heart.
No one can make you change your mind if you are really set on something. For example, if you see a job in ‘the best area in downtown Seoul’ on a very confusing site like ESL Cafe, that is offering 3 million Korean Won a month, one would think that this is a much better option than working for a school in, let’s say Daegu City or Suwon City, making 2.1 million Korean Won. How could there be such a huge difference you ask? To answer this, all you have to do is look a little bit closer.
If you do your research, you will know that most schools in Korea offer first time ESL teachers a base pay of 2.1 million Korean Won; schools that have more teaching hours offer a bit more as do schools that only hire Bachelor of Education holders. Pretty much gone are the days where schools pay a higher salary for experience teaching in Korea. Along with the base pay, on a one year contract, schools will then provide you with a rent free apartment, 50% of your health insurance as well as a severance of one month’s salary upon completion of your contract. Looking further into the above mentioned job description in Seoul, you will notice that the apartment and severance are not included in the job description, but the costs for these are included in the 3 million Won number. Now you have to ask yourself: If someone is trying to trick you into believing you will be paid close to $1000 a month more than the average pay, is this someone that you can put your trust into? Someone who will come to your rescue should things not be the same as promised when you land in Korea? Very doubtful indeed.
Another common trick used by some Korean recruiting agencies is to have the teacher send out their documents (such as the criminal background check and diploma), to Korea before they have secured a job for you, in promise that they will find you exactly what you are looking for. In this situation, the recruiter is essentially taking your documents for ransom, as they will only use them if you proceed with one of their schools; if you decide not to work with that agency, consider these documents as good as gone and you will essentially have to start everything over from the start.
Now, not all Korean recruiting agencies are bad, but there are a lot out there that are not to be trusted.
The reality is that once you are in Korea teaching English as you set out to do, you will not be concerned that you are not in the ‘most perfect place’ that you had imagined when you started your job search. What you will come to understand after using a reputable recruiting agency is that you need not worry about getting paid on time, or getting fired in your 11th month of your contract. You will only have time to enjoy your new, exciting life as an ESL teacher.
If you are teaching English and living in Korea, you need to be aware that the laws for drugs are not the same as they are at home. If caught with marijuana in Korea, you can face a fine of up to 50 million Won and 5 years in prison.
Take a look at the article below to see if smoking pot in Korea is worth the risk. We don’t think it is.
If you are teaching in Korea or planning on going to Korea soon to teach English, you are going to want to try Korean food. You might not know much about Korean food now, but once you discover how amazing it is, you will most likely become a fan of it and incorporate it in your diet…even after you return home from Korea!
For more information about the food that you can find in Korea, check out our Korean food page here.
No matter what city in Korea you end up teaching in, you will inevitably have ‘western’ restaurants in your city. These can include Indian, Thai, American or Mexican.
If you have not yet heard of Busan Kevin, an ESL teacher who has been teaching English in Korea and Japan for years and documenting it, check out his Youtube page here.
Kevin, a friend of Shane’s, also made a nice little video giving a ‘shout out’ to Travel and Teach Recruiting, which you can see here. (Thanks Kevin!)
In addition, Kevin has written a book about what it is like to teach English in Korea and in Asia in general, which includes tips about adapting to a new culture, managing a classroom with little or no teaching experience and many stories about teaching ESL. You can buy Kevin’s book for the bargain basement price of $5.99 on Amazon.