Tag Archives: ESL

Setting your sights on teaching English in Korea

 

Teaching English in South Korea is a very lucrative position that offers the foreigner a deep look inside life in the ROK. With many things in Korea much cheaper as opposed to life in the USA such the public transportation system, meals out, entertainment, and site seeing there are many reasons why many foreigners to give it a chance on a one year contract.

A few months before graduation I had decided to take a job as a Guest English Teacher in South Korea for various reasons. To teach for EPIK I would have the opportunity to gain teaching experience, live abroad, and earn a decent salary with many benefits. Looking back when I was applying there were many deciding factors that I was unable to answer on my own. With little information on the internet seven years ago I was getting advice from the few people I knew who were already in Korea teaching.

There are many pros and cons in the decision making but overall you want to make the right decision based on your personal and professional needs. After three years in the ROK I can safely give you the best advice based on my personal experiences, my friend’s comments, and the information available to you on the internet.

Aside from which kind of institution you would like to teach at keep in mind the fact of your placement; you may be placed rurally. Be sure to be specific as to your preference of rural of city living.

After living in rural Korea for more than a year I will say this now and say this again to any prospective English teacher: I would much prefer basing myself in the city so that I can easily get around by train and enjoy all the things that will make my life a little more convenient to have when living abroad: international dining choices, cafes galore, international expat meetups, choices of shopping, KTX and train stations to get around on weekday and weekends.

If you are based in a rural placement you will be literally spending your Monday to Friday after school there with limited bus times returning to your town in the evening. Know that you can always visit countryside temples and hiking national parks on your weekends.Remember thought that you will be limited with what you can do after work on your weekdays.

English Program in Korea (EPIK)

Public Schools in Seoul and Gyeonggi (province)(GEPIK)

Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education(SMOE)

KNOW: The English Program in Korea hires Native English Teachers in the provinces of Gangwon-do, Gyeongbuk-do, Gyeongsang-do, Chungcheongnam-do, Jeallanam-do, and lastly Jeju-do.
PROS:
• FREE accommodation provided by employer (Usually a studio or one room apartment)
• Regular working hours Monday-Friday 8:30-4:30
• Weekends OFF
• All national holidays OFF and PAID
• Communication with your regional coordinator in the case that you have questions that your co-teacher is unable to answer or solve
• Winter and Summer Vacation days OFF and PAID (At least 15 per year)
• Health care coverage (half is paid by your employer while you pay the other half; approx. 70,000 ($66 USD) deducted from your salary each month
• Regular monthly payment (25th of each month)
• Resigning bonus
• Regular contributions to pension & severance pay upon completion of your contract
• Free flight to South Korea provided by the government. Reimbursement given to you upon arrival
• Free orientation training in Seoul upon arrival

CONS of teaching in a public school:
• Last minute changes in the schedule that means that you may be teaching last minute classes or your classes are cancelled
• You cannot exactly choose your placement by city or town. You have to understand that many logistics change last minute so you are placed on need
• End of semester summer and Winter desk warming. Even though you are not scheduled to teach classes on these days you are required as per your contract to be at school during regular desk hours. This can possibly last for up to a few weeks.
• Choosing your vacation dates is planned last minute based on the dates of your schools summer and winter camp dates that the head co teacher usually decides. you cannot book ahead of time your dates for going home or elsewhere plans of abroad travel until vacation dates are planned
• Your co-teacher can make or break your teaching experience based on their personality and teaching style. That means, begin your contract on the right foot with your best intentions set
• You will be the only foreigner at your school. This can be good or this could be bad for you. If your coworkers and co-teachers are not very friendly to you or they are too shy you might feel very lonely and wish there were other foreigners there teaching English with you

Private Schools (Hagwons)
{Hagwons are located all throughout Korea in all metropolitan cities and small towns in the nine provinces through South Korea}. Keep in mind that Hagwons are after school study sessions that Korean parents pay to the private institution for their children to study and practice English with foreigners.
PROS:
• Later teaching hours ( after children complete public school at 4:30 they head to their private institutions to study with a foreigner)
• No co-teaching. You are the one in charge teaching the little monsters all that there is to know about English.
• Severance and pension contributions???
• Health care coverage (half is paid by your employer while you pay the other half; approx. 70,000 ($66 USD) deducted from your salary each month
• FREE accommodation provided by employer (Usually a studio or one room apartment)
• Free flight to South Korea provided by the government. Reimbursement given to you upon arrival
• You will have many foreigners at your workplace to socialize and mingle with to make the adjustment to living in Korea a bit smoother
• No desk warming EVER

CONS of teaching at private institutions:
• Hagwons can close at a minutes notice if there is not enough business which means you are out of a job.
• You have less vacation days per year in your contract compared to teaching at a public school. I have met foreigners who only get five vacation days per year.
TO SUM IT ALL UP:
After weighing out all of my options I think that hagwons (as long as you research well) might be the best option for teaching English abroad. With little to non-existent desk warming you are at your workplace to work, not wasting time on youtube or fiddling your fingers thinking of how to spend your day at your desk.

My biggest concern with EPIK was the amount of time wasted with next to nothing to do when my classes were cancelled due to testing and the desk warming I had to due before and after winter/summer camps. My co-workers were very busy with grading and paperwork so many times I felt completely forgotten about. Lastly I realized that there is no upward mobility in future career aspirations being an English teacher at a public school in Korea. There are no opportunities to raise the bar or expand your job experience outside of being a guest English Teacher.

I recommend Dave’s ESL Cafe to browse through job opportunities in South Korea and abroad. Most teaching contracts are a year long. For information about life in Korea check out my list of vlogs on my Youtube playlist. Good luck to you on your future choices.

Life in the countryside of South Korea with EPIK

Moving to the middle of nowhere

Adjusting to the countryside in Korea was a process that took me many months to make work for me. When I was placed in Angye-myeong in Uiseong country in the province of Gyeongbuk in October of 2010 I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. When I applied to EPIK through Reach to Teach recruiting I didn’t specifically state whereexactly I wanted to lived. I thought I would be happy living anywhere in Korea.

Upon getting placed and settling into my new apartment my friends in bigger cities were enjoying meals together after work at Mr. Pizza, going to the movies together on Friday nights, and coffee meet ups at Sleepless in Seattle on Tuesdays while I felt stuck in rice paddie land searching for the reason why I was placed in my tiny town in the first place.

Reasoning with myself

One of my first weekends after I had settled in I took the bus up to Seoul to drown myself in all things foreign and wonderful; coffee shops galore, kebabs and Indian curries in Itaewon, endless shopping in  Myeongdong with bright lights and music pumping, and enjoying the subway rides around the city. I loved Seoul but the idea of taking the bus back to Anyge (three and a half hours southeast) sounded unbearable.I was drowning  myself in all the wonderful things that Korea afforded me and returning to the quiet town of Angye made me feel resentful.

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A really nice girl who I know through a friend invited me out with her friends for Thanksgiving celebration in Seoul. Most of the teachers were teaching at hagwons around the city and were super cool. I couldn’t help but feel completely sorry for myself and feeling quite miserable for the place I had to return to on Sunday night as they all talked about the cool places they were discovering around Seoul and how they spent their free time after work.  What was there for me back in Angye? What on earth was the point of a year in the land of makkoli, rice, and a whole lot of nothing?

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Angye (from the rice fields)

Tami became my sounding board and gave me some advice that stuck with me.As I look back six years later this was exactly what I needed to hear. “Focus on your goals for the next year of your life. You are going to save so much money by living there. Learn more about Korean culture and immerse yourself. You can always come to Seoul on the weekends.”

The next morning on my walk to school those words stuck with me over and over again in the back of my mind as I walked past the locals who were practically now my neighbors.
With a new goal in mind that I had to set for myself I had to learn how to adjust and try to enjoy my placement. I had to learn how to get comfortable spending a lot of time on my own during the week. I had to immerse myself in what I did have in my town; places to go for quiet walks to reflect, trying and discovering local restaurants, and making friends with those who lived around me.

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Angye, Gyeongbuk Province, South Korea

Deciding to enjoy my time

First thing I began doing was getting to know my local community. I started learning names of the bank tellers, pharmacists in our only pharmacy in town, and exploring the restaurant scene that offered only Korean fare.During the cold winter months in my first contract I became friendly with one of the restaurant owners who offered me a free Korean dinner if I tutored his daughter for an hour in English. She was very shy but her parents really wanted her to learn English from a foreigner. For about a month plenty of side dishes and bibimbap was waiting for me on the table and I couldn’t believe that all of that food for for me. I started to realize that as humble an offer as this was it wasn’t worth my time to sit for an hour with the owners daughter who wasn’t interested in learning in the first place and me talking to her. Nevertheless, that was worth the experience though.
Passing by a large chicken coup one day I spotted a beautiful dog who started following me to school one day and back to my apartment after passing by the shop. I soon fell in love with this beautiful creature. The obstacle of not being able to converse with the owner all seemed to fade away because she accepted me and seemed to enjoy my company. She was a widow and always invited me in especially during the cold winter months. Soon to follow however was to find out after being home on vacation in the USA for a month was that this animal friend of mine was run over by a car. I will always remember the kindness and commitment to sticking by me that this creature showed me.

img_1480Acceptance is key
Being immersed in my local community familiarized me with all I had to be thankful for. As small as Angye was I held deep gratitude for a safe community where locals recognized me and invited me often to share a snack. One afternoon walking through the local market after work I heard my name being called through the crowd. I turned around and one of my students had a big box of strawberries for me. “This is for you, teacher.” I will never forget how that moment made me feel and I will carry it with me forever. Sometimes in our lives we are called to do something we aren’t ready for and unwilling to accept. Find the quiet time when you are called and accept it graciously.