Gies a joab!

13 May

English translation: ‘Give me a job’

Me with the Kindergarten

Since I’ve been in Korea a number of friends from home have asked me how I went about getting a job in South Korea and each time I find myself copying and pasting the same links into an email with the same chat. So I thought if I write a wee blog post, I can direct folk to that instead of getting repetitive strain injury from typing the same speel each time.

Basic requirements
You must have a degree (in any field) and be from one of these 7 recognised native English speaking countries: UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, US, Canada and South Africa. When you arrive in Korea you’ll have a full medical including blood and urine tests and if you have HIV or any trace of illegal drugs in your system you’ll be on the first plane home at your own expense.

Although not compulsory to get a teaching job abroad, having NO teaching experience whatsoever, I found my TEFL course really useful as a starters guide to things like lesson planning and class control. I did the 100 hour online and in-class course with TEFL Scotland, and if you’re lucky enough to be Scottish, you can apply for an Individual Learning Account (ILA) to pay for most of it. Win.

South Korea v  Japan
When I was deciding where to go, I narrowed it down to Japan and South Korea, based on standard of living, potential money earned and benefits with the job. You make more money in Japan but the cost of living is super expensive so you come home with about the same at the end of the day. Not that i’m biased, but here’s a good blog post that weighs up the pros and cons of both countries.

Lucky for me, my friend Ellen had already been working in Korea for 6 months, so she pointed me in the right direction. There are a lot of good recruiting companies that can help you get placed, and upon Ellen’s recommendation I registered with  Flying Cows. They were great through the whole process, from my initial application to my arrival in Korea, and I know a fair few people over here that have used them as well with good reviews.

Public v Private
From there, ESL Starter contacted me about applying for EPIK – the public school programme. And this was the initial route I went down.

Benefits of public school: Extensive training/ orientation, less teaching hours, more vacation, job security.
Downsides: 30-40 kids in a class, less money than private, no say in your location.

To cut a long story short I was rejected from that programme about a month before I was due to leave the country, after which ESL Starter dropped me like a hotcake. Cheers. But not one to be put off so easily, I got back in touch with Flying Cows and they arranged telephone interviews with several private schools (hagwons). And within a few weeks I had been offered several jobs and accepted one at a private English academy in Daegu.

Benefits of private schools: generally more money than public, max 12 students per class, choose your city/area, work alongside other foreign teachers.
Downsides: little or no training, only 10 days vacation, more teaching hours, lots of dodgy hagwons out there.

On a field trip to a sweet potato farm with the kindergarten

I just want to point out that private schools are a much bigger gamble than public. A quick search online and you’ll come across an abundance of horror stories about hagwons mistreating foreign teachers. But for every disreputable hagwon out there, there are a dozen decent ones. The best advice I can give you, if you decide to go down the hagwon route, is to speak with the current foreign teacher at the school and ask them any and all the questions you can think of, and if that doesn’t put your mind at rest, then go with your gut and decline the job.

As well as dodgy hagwons, there are several dodgy recruitment agencies too, who don’t give a hoot about your preferences or what school you’re placed in, all they care about is the placement fee. So be wary, use your head. I registered with several agencies to begin with to keep my options open, then I narrowed it down when the interviews and job offers were coming through (this is when you can tell which companies actually listen to you and try their best to match your preferences).

A few other reputable agencies off the top of my head are, AclipseKorvia and Korean Horizons. Although I don’t have any personal experience with them, I know people who have had good experiences with them and they all have excellent information on any given topic about South Korea and teaching abroad.

So, you’ve accepted a teaching position, now your faced with the epic task of gathering all your documents to apply for your working Visa. This is not for the faint hearted.

Documents needed:

  • Degree certificates (notarised and apostilled) – anything from £30-£60 a document
  • Criminal Record Check/ Disclosure Scotland – £20 (notorised and apostilled) – an extra £30-£60
  • School contract – signed copy
  • Health Statement – signed copy
  • 2 x passport photos

(This is only for private schools, you need more documents for public!)

Now for the most important part, the mulla!
You don’t need any savings to teach abroad, except enough to see you through to your first pay check. The school will pay your return flights and also your accommodation for the length of your contract. The only money I spent before hand was on getting the visa documents ready (about £200) and my vaccinations (rabies, Japanese Encephalitis, Hepatitis B, Polio, Diphtheria and Tetanus £300) most of which I didn’t even need! My monthly salary is 2.1 million won (£1,100 approx) and from that I can easily save about 1.4 million won a month. It’s easy to live cheaply in Korea.

It may seem like a laborious process, but it’s worth it in the end. If you are like me and you want to travel but lack the funds, this is the ideal solution! So get your finger out and get practicing your chopstick skills!

7 Responses to “Gies a joab!”

  1. amyinkorea2014 April 24, 2014 at 1:31 AM #

    I just got rejected from Epik and dropped by my recruiter as well. I am thinking about the hagwon route and feel hesitant. The recruiter was very helpful and accommodating until they dropped me just like that! I guess that’s just how it works! Good for you that you still found your way to Korea!

    • LiveLauren April 24, 2014 at 5:07 AM #

      Hi Amy! Yep I had a similar experience! Don’t be put off by hagwons though! Most are brilliant, only a few are dodgy! My advise is always speak to the current English speaking teacher before you accept any position and also trust your instinct. Get in touch if you have any questions about hagwons! Do you know what city you want to teach in? ‘In Daegu’ is a great facebook group for English teachers and job offers in Daegu 🙂

      • amyinkorea2014 April 26, 2014 at 2:27 AM #

        Thank you for the tip! I just got in touch with Footprints recruiting and applied for a hagwon position. I will let you know what happens. Your blog has been super helpful!

      • LiveLauren April 27, 2014 at 1:33 AM #

        That’s great! Happy to help and let me know if you have any more questions! 🙂

  2. ChibiDani May 12, 2014 at 1:20 AM #

    Reblogged this on My Korean Language Journey and commented:
    Omg a fellow Scottish person! She teaches English in Korea.

  3. Jen January 11, 2015 at 9:39 PM #

    I’ve just read through this post because I’m almost 70% certain I want to teach abroad some time after I’ve finished my PGCE this year. I’ve wanted to teach abroad since I can remember. I’ve never really liked the idea of teaching and staying in one place, haha. Thanks for including a lot of information, especially the costs of things like apostilles and vaccinations in the UK (which, embarrassingly, I’d forgotten about!). However, I have one question: when you say you can tell which agencies listen to your preferences, what kind of preferences did you specify? Age groups for teaching, teaching hours, salary…? I also read plenty of horror stories about very poor accommodation and very late pay leaving teachers with no more money at the start of their contract… Were you able to discuss that? I am worried that asking about the state of my accommodation or first date of pay would make me sound like I don’t want to teach, I just want a paid holiday! Which of course isn’t true. I’ve put myself in thousands of pounds of debt to get this teaching qualification and I don’t have many savings left to last me longer than about 1-2 months. Thanks again for this article. Take care x

    • LiveLauren January 12, 2015 at 11:42 PM #

      Hi Jen, thanks for reading my post – I’m glad you found it useful! By preferences, yes I mean age groups, and also location i.e. city or rural. You don’t generally have a say on teaching hours or salary. In terms of your concerns about accommodation and and pay dates – I’d always recommend speaking to the current English teacher at the school, as you will be able to ask more personal questions and they will hopefully be honest with you. This will allow you to gauge their experience of the school in general. Then once you have collected as much information as possible on the school – I’d still trust your instinct.

      Don’t be afraid to ask for photos of the accommodation – but beware – most apartments are very small. I was lucky in that I shared a two-bed apartment with the other English teacher at the school – so our apartment was bigger than most.

      I’d also recommend choosing a school that has at least 1 or 2 other English teachers already there (for your first year anyway). They are a good source of support and you don’t want to feel isolated by being the only foreign teacher there.

      Finally, having your PGCE means you are more qualified than most of the EFL teachers. You could consider applying for a position at a university – which offer greater benefits in terms of salary, working hours and holidays.

      I hope that answers all of your questions. Good luck! 🙂

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