Teaching English in Korea (My story)

Initial fears

So in the beginning, I was a little intimidated by the idea of teaching English in Asia. I remember when I first started thinking about quitting my job back home I looked at some travel blogs and wondered, “Will I ever be able to pull off getting a job teaching English?” But gosh darn it, I actually was able to! And the wonderful part is that once you are here, it is super easy to find other positions. Here is how I went about it and also suggestions for easier ways to go through the process.

How it all started

So when I was in Thailand I was talking to a yoga instructor who used to teach English there. I asked her how she got her job. She looked at me in a “This isn’t such a big deal” kind of way and said, “I just looked on Craigslist.” “Wow!” I thought I had never considered “just looking on Craigslist”. I thought I had to do something super complicated to find jobs. Anyways I kept that information tucked away for a couple of months as I did a little more traveling. Later on, in my trip, I decided to try to apply (It was cold in New Zealand and I wanted warm weather). I, of course, went on Craigslist and started applying for jobs in South Korea and China. I chose these two countries because I figured that I would be able to save the most money (Best income in relation to living expenses). The application process actually wasn’t too difficult. I just needed to send a resume and a picture. As you may or may not know there is A LOT of demand for English teachers in Asia.

Side note

In South Korea, unfortunately, it seems that the demand for teachers is waning a bit. One big program for recruiting teachers, EPIK, has been seriously cutting back on the number of teachers it hires each year. Not to fear! The last time I checked online there were still plenty of jobs on a great site for jobs called, “waygook.org” and there are plenty of other countries looking for teachers including Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, and Japan, not to mention countries outside of Asia. South Korea, however, is one of the countries where you can get the best bang for your buck

Applying for jobs

Anywho I applied to about 20 jobs in Korea and China. I actually originally did not have much luck getting Korean jobs. Most of my responses were from Chinese companies. Also, most responses were not from specific schools but from recruiters (companies that find teachers and match them up with schools or academies).

 Getting Interviews

The way it would work, I would get a response from a school or recruiter and an interview would be set up. I would do the interview and if it went well, either the school would give me an offer or the recruiter would find me jobs at schools or academies (institutes where school students go to learn English after class, adults learn English outside of work hours, or some combination of the two). Usually, these interviews did go well. They weren’t very high pressure. Along with this method I also contacted other people I knew teaching abroad and asked about their recruiters, whom I would also later contact.

Deciding on a job

I did initially have luck with one Korean recruiter who I spoke with, but he talked about needing to get a TEFL certificate. Also for Korea, there is a long process of getting documents apostilled. My laziness decided to stick with China. I ended up deciding on a job there, but unfortunately, the time I applied was really close to the start date for that particular job. I flew to China, but could not stay there without a visa so I got a connecting flight to Korea and ended up waiting there to get a China work visa. Unfortunately, things with the China job seemed to be getting complex.

Added complexity

The recruiter in China wanted me to email a copy of my passport with the security number on the bottom not pixilated, something I felt a little unsafe doing. Additionally, a girl I knew who was teaching English in China at the time also agreed that it may not be a very safe thing to do. Looking back now it may not have been such a big deal, but at that time it seemed like a REALLY big deal. While in the process of deciding what to do, the Korean recruiter (remember him) who had told me about TEFL and apostilled documents said there was a job available in a random city called Gumi. I decided to look more into that job. After considering it I thought, maybe this is a blessing in disguise, and decided to go with it. It was a bit complex because I had to expedite the apostille process (expediting the process is expensive), finish the TEFL certification and do a visa run to get my work visa processed, but I think it was a good choice.

Results?

I am currently living in Gumi, Korea and plan to do so at least until the end of my contract. I’ve met some cool people and after being here a couple of months, it is funny thinking about all that was involved in me getting the job. It’s crazy, I even met people from the city I used to live in back in South Carolina! There was even a guy who lived here who went to my university! It all seemed very “meant to be”. I am so thankful for this opportunity.

Advice

So really, getting a job teaching English wasn’t too terrible. All in all the whole process was about 2-3 months long and that is including changing from one job to another. The time to get the China job offer was less than one month. You don’t need to get any expensive special books. I will advise a couple of things though that may make the process easier:

  • For the job I have, you are required to hold a university degree, be a native English speaker and hold a valid passport from the USA, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand or South Africa. I do know people who have been able to teach English in some countries in Asia without these qualifications, but I am not sure about the details of the process in those situations. Do not let this deter you, however, you can still research jobs out there!
  • It is best to start the process way ahead of time. At least for Korea, expediting the document apostille process can be expensive (like hundreds of dollars)
  • It is best to apply from the US. The process is a lot smoother and you usually get a free flight J
  • Of course for any jobs on Craigslist look at the school or recruiter’s website and see whether or not they seem scammy before you apply. There is also a lot of advice online about evaluating recruiters.
  • Try to join Facebook groups for ESL teachers in Korea (or whatever country you are interested in traveling to). If you ask about jobs in the groups, some teachers can give you information on their recruiters. Usually, referenced recruiters are able to help people find really great jobs
  • As with anything, the best thing is to talk to people who currently are teaching or who have at one point taught English abroad. So much of what I have learned throughout this process has been through asking questions.
  • For those wanting to teach in Korea, you can search for jobs on the website waygook.org (“waygook”, btw means foreigner :P). It also has a lot of other information for foreign English teachers as well.
  • Consider where you want to live. If you want a big city, for example, check out listings in Seoul or Busan. If you want beaches, check out beach towns (Busan would be included in this). If you want to save money, check out Gumi (j/k) or maybe smaller cities and towns.

Good luck! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *