Why South Korea to teach English? Well, if you do a quick Google search about English teaching options abroad, some of my reasons will become pretty apparent. Culture, language, finances, and etc. What prompted me to look into it in the first place was the yearning to experience new cultures and travel, and once you start working any white-collar job, you don’t get a lot of opportunities to do that. This is probably the last time in my life I won’t have anyone or anything holding me back from something like this, too!
Basically, I signed up for a bundle package with CIEE (Teach in Korea – Spring 2017) to complete an accredited 100-hour TEFL (Teach English as a Foreign Language) certification and work with a recruiter to get job placement in Korea.
Practically all Korean schools require the 100-hour TEFL certification if you don’t have a degree in Teaching. There are many TEFL certification organizations out there, but some are not accredited and will, therefore, weaken your application. I also could have gone through a wide variety of other recruiters, like Korvia, that can easily be found and researched on online; however, I studied abroad in Spain through CIEE in 2014, and I’ve always impressed by their services, which is why I chose to go through them.
I also could have applied directly to EPIK (English Program in Korea – the public school system) by using the instructions on their website. However, I don’t think I would have made it to Korea without the assistance of CIEE through the application process due to the ambiguous government and application steps. For example, on the website, it says that you need to provide a background check to EPIK, but it has very little information beyond that. Luke, my CIEE Recruiter, gave me all of the information on how to complete the background check and the timeline for doing so, among many other things. He answered all of my questions about my application and interviews that proved to be critical to my eligibility. Although deadlines are a strong suit of mine, the deadlines and reminders that Luke gave me for my paperwork also ended up being critical to my eligibility.
Luke guided me through the endless paperwork and getting set-up in Korea so that I didn’t have to do an incredible amount of research on my own and potentially miss something important. After arrival, he continually checked-in with me and served as a go-to person for my questions. If I hadn’t been accepted into EPIK, he would’ve found me a placement in a private school (hagwon.) So, I felt a lot more certainty about moving to South Korea due to my CIEE recruiter.
Backtracking a little, one of the first things you have to decide when you start the process towards applying to be an English teacher in Korea is whether you want to work in either a public (EPIK) or a private (hagwon) school. It’s a pretty safe statement to say that working in the public school system is far more enjoyable than working in a hagwon, so a hagwon should be your backup plan if you don’t get accepted to EPIK. (EPIK hires English teachers from 7 countries around the world and works with the government to place them in public schools throughout Korea. It’s a very organized, well-established program.) I wasn’t aware of the differences between the systems before coming to Korea and would’ve applied to a hagwon if Luke hadn’t explained the 2 options to me.
To sum up the differences between the systems, teachers work much less and more reasonable hours in the public school system than the hagwons. English teachers in hagwons also face a lot of pressure from parents and faculty because so much money is invested into children’s educations in hagwons. I’ve also heard some horror stories of the mistreatment of teachers’ basic rights in hagwons. Obviously, some teachers have great experiences in hagwons, but those that have transferred to EPIK almost unanimously agree that the public system is more relaxed and enjoyable. As EPIK employees, teachers work through the government and have guaranteed regular day hours, vacation, health insurance and benefits. EPIK also pays for my living arrangements, flight, and frequent bonuses – on top of my generous salary! Please watch the following video about the EPIK experience:
Moving to Korea to teach English was one of the biggest decisions of my life, and luckily, it turned out to be the best. If you are considering doing it, as well, please feel free to reach out to me with any additional questions you have!