The Paperwork, etc.
- Does a CELTA/TEFL certification matter?
- Private vs Public Schools
- Recruiting agency or direct contact?
Tell me about Korea
- What city should I choose? aka is Daegu awesome?
- I am not white, will that be a problem?
I live here, now what?
- Welcome Letter
The Paperwork, etc.
Does a CELTA/TESOL certification matter?
There are no real ACTUAL requirements for a TEFL/CELTA but it does help. Since coming to Korea, I feel like the program has gotten a whole lot more competitive. They pay more for having these extra certifications and such. Click on the pic to see the EPIK pay scale.
Even though I was an English major, I chose to also get my TEFL certification because I even though I had had experience in a classroom through my work in City Year, teaching English as a second language was something I did not know how to do. I see it as adding to your resume and experience if you so choose to get certified. I am thankful for it now because I think this may be something I am doing long term so it has helped. Also, it gave me a month to spend in another country (Thailand) and the program worked with a good agency to recruit and help me find my way to Korea. More info on that here.
Even though it is more expensive, if you are ever thinking of teaching in Europe, I would strongly suggest getting the CELTA. The program has more weight to it, and makes sure to give you in classroom experience.
Private vs Public Schools
So which is better, hagwons or public schools? This is really a subjective question because obviously it’s based on a person’s own experience in the matter. That being said, I’ll quickly share my own.
I love my school. I got really lucky with the school I was assigned to through EPIK. The teachers were really welcoming. They were flexible (but I also was the first Native Teacher there so that may have helped) and continue to welcome me here.
This is not the case for everyone. I have had multiple friends tell me horror stories from their public schools, schools that seem to not appreciate that they have been given a foreigner who can share their perspective on the English language and Western culture. Or tension between teachers because of eating the Korean lunch together (seriously a big thing here), being left alone and helpless in the classroom, English Korean teachers completely avoiding talking to their Native teacher because maybe they are ashamed of their English skills, etc etc.
That being said, the same goes for hagwons…though it seems it happens a lot more in hagwons.
So the real question and things to think about:
- Do I prefer going to work the usual 8 to 4:30ish schedule?
- Do I prefer working with a certain population of students? (in Hagwons you usually get an array of students from really young to high school)
- Do I prefer to get paid more but work a lot more (usually hagwons) or do I value more free time but take a small pay cut (public schools)
- At hagwons you are usually working straight through your shift, with 10 minute breaks in between. I currently teach for approx. 4 hours a day and the other 4 hours I eat lunch and chill at my desk..err I mean work hard to plan my lessons ^_^
Recruiting Agency or No Recruiting Agency
Again, I worked through the recruiting agency that worked with my TEFL course. It happened to be the one I originally wanted to work with anyways, Korvia. Reason being? Their website impressed me, it was detailed and very professional and also recommended by the Simon and Martina from Eat Your Kimchi – epic bloggers in Korea. My friends have also worked with Footprints, which is also a good choice. Aside from that, I think the best way to find out is join a Facebook EPIK group, they will tell you or go to Dave’s ESL Café. His site is chunk full of resources.
EPIK posted this on their site regarding recruiting agencies:
Tell me about Korea
What city should I choose?
This is obviously a trick question, and you really want me to talk about how awesome Daegu is, right? (^_^)
First, I am from NYC .. so you would think I love Seoul. But eh, it’s aright. Why?
- Maybe I am use to the two subway lines in Daegu, but spending an hour on the subway to get to somewhere so close just seems ridiculous and a waste of my time (especially since I am visiting usually only for the weekend)l Prices are so much higher! Random but only example I could think of. A pitcher of fruit flavored soju in Daegu is $7, and in Seoul? $12. That’s just crazy.
- If it is your first year in Korea, Seoul will be extra overwhelming simply because every where you look there is a sea of Korean characters flying at your face. To me, that was a stressor. It made me feel so overwhelmed.That being said, Seoul is still great for obvious cultural options. Specifically for me, there are just waaaay more art museums and plays in Seoul than there are here in Daegu.
- The program is a lot harder to get into through EPIK (SMOE), so that is always something to think about.
- Musical theater
- Tae Kwon Do
What my friends also do here:
- Ultimate Frisbee (they play against other cities as well)
- Traditional Korean art
- Language Exchanges
- Green Movie Nights
- Reporters and editors of our English foreigner magazine and newspaper
I am not white, will that be a problem?
So if you are blond and blue eyed, it’s all good right? Wrong, you will also get stared at. Potentially even asked to take pictures with. You laugh but it’s happened to friends of mine. Korea is rather homogenous, and the influx of foreigners here has opened their eyes to different cultures and sadly, stereotypes. Of course, bigger cities will be a bit more accustomed to seeing people of different races. Sometimes the people who have the hardest problems are Korean Americans who feel the pressure to speak perfect Korean or behave appropriately by Korean cultural standards.
My experience so far? I tend to be a kind of chameleon. Even to foreigners. So usually I am ignored because I am constantly mistaken for a Korean. Or I get asked if I am Korean American because they hear my English.
Regardless of race, as well as how you look in general, I have always thought it better as an expat in a foreign country to live my life knowing I am constantly being watched. I may just be the first Hispanic American these people have ever interacted with. What sort of impression do I want to leave with them, and what stereotypes do I want to break?
My friends and I who come from an array of racial backgrounds, or who fall in different places on the body image spectrum (again Korea is pretty homogenous in that category as well) have had to deal with the stares (mostly just out of plain curiosity) or comments, but the friends and people I have met in Korea far outweigh any awkward, uncomfortable or inappropriate moment that I have gone through. If anything it makes for a good learning experience, or a good story to share and remember.
Funny story, my Korean friend and I had just finished eating and were walking back to the bus. Suddenly she turns to me and in all seriousness asks me, “Alex…are you black?”. I died right there on the road laughing and I still poke fun at her for it. But this question brings to light the fact that some people just don’t know. White people? Black people? Everyone knows about them. Hispanics? What are those? So yeah, I’ve learned to run with this, and just take the opportunity to teach my friends about my culture.
I live here, now what?
Best to start it off with this awesome letter written by an awesome blogger Roboseyo to new teachers in Korea.