Tag Archives: Daegu

My Korean TV Debut

9 Jun

Whilst downtown one Sunday in February with some friends, nursing a hangover and having lunch in Travelers, a Korean TV programme broadcast on SBS asked us if we would mind being filmed as part of the show…

The programme is about unusual and interesting Koreans, and that week it was about a 76-year-old ajumma (old woman) who left school at 12 and has since taught herself English. All we had to do was chat to her for 5 minutes in English then give our reactions to her speaking ability, all scripted of course. And before we knew it, we had made it on to Korean TV!

Being the shy, introverted person that I am, I told all the teachers and students at school about my starring role and told them all to watch the show at 8pm on Thursday. The kids were all suitably impressed with the new ‘celeb status’ of their teacher, but surprisingly they declined my offer of an autograph…

Chocolate eggs no more

25 May

Since I was almost at the legal drinking age, and the chocolate eggs were no more, Easter Sunday meant bank holiday Monday, and therefore you could find me ‘religiously’ sitting in a beer garden with my friends, enjoying a drink or two… But not this year! Easter Sunday started with a 6am rise to make it to downtown to the 10k start line.

Posing for a photo with some ‘fans’ after the race

It was HOT, and despite my training, I can assure you no personal best was recorded! Done by 9.30am, me and my cousin headed back to my apartment to paint our boiled eggs and head up Palgongsan* (Daegu’s biggest mountain) to roll them down.

Ready for the mountain!

This was not the sole reason for going up the mountain. I had been wanting to visit Donghwasa Temple for a while. I’d heard about the large standing buddha, and along with the many colourful lanterns decorating the temple in preparation for Buddha’s birthday at the end May, we weren’t disappointed.

BIG Buddha at Donghwasa Temple

A monk on a bike!

Lanterns decorate the temple for Buddha’s birthday


I have a weird fascination with the eves of temples….

*How to get to Palgongsan: Take the red subway line to Ayanggyo, then take the number 1 bus. It should cost about 1,200 won, and after about 40 minutes Palgongsan is the last stop.

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!

Great Scot!

17 Feb

“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up.
It knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed.
Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up.
It knows that it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a lion or a gazelle
when the sun comes up you’d better be running.” (Anon)


In an attempt to regain some kind of fitness level whilst in Korea – I’ve signed up for the Daegu 10k in April. It just so happens my cousin is visiting from down under at the same time so, being the avid triathlon participant that she is, I signed her up too! Team name: ‘Great Scots’ (before anyone questions my cousins authenticity – she was an Ayrshire lass originally).

Note to future prospective visitors: If you come and visit me, running a 10km is not mandatory! Honest. Please come visit me!

It’s now the middle of February and the race is 7 weeks on Sunday. Thankfully, I’ve already started training, I joined the gym at the end of January and have been building up my running on the treadmill, I’ve also just started swimming again, and as soon as the weather picks up I’ll get back out onto the road and start pounding the tarmac Liz McColgan style!

I would love to run it in under an hour, but realistically I don’t think I’m going to get my PB in this race. I’m more worried about the sweeper bus catching me after 1 hour 30 minutes, or worse still being overtaken by an ajumma!

A gaggle of ajummas

Note: An ajumma is a Korean granny – they are legends in their own right.

Last stop Daegu!

16 Sep

I’m sitting on the bus from Seoul about an hour and a half away from my final destination of Daegu. My new flatmate should helpfully be meeting me off the bus and then we need to try and lug 45kg of luggage across the city to my new apartment. This will be doubly fun since I ripped the handle clean off my bag when lifting it off the carousel at the airport!

All in all I’ve had a fairly stress-free and uneventful journey. Both flights at Glasgow and Dubai were late in departing by around an hour but that’s about it. I managed to sneak an extra 8kg onto the flight free of charge (thankfully they didn’t weigh my hand luggage!) result! Lauren 1 – Emirates 0.

I almost missed my connecting flight at Dubai as I was too busy lapping up the free wi-fi and playing on my new MacBook – I’m in love! But despite being nearly last on the plane, the flight was near empty and I had a whole row to myself which helped me to sleep most of the way (I’ll kick jet-lags ass!) I did watch one film called ‘All Good Things’ – it was average. On the Glasgow Dubai flight I watched Invictus (which I probably rated higher than I should because I love Nelson Mandela and Morgan Freeman) and I also laughed my head off to Michael McIntyre. In-between the tears folk must’ve thought I was a right crazy!

Nevertheless, I met a Chinese girl on that flight called Tracy (English name). She has just graduated from Glasgow Uni in Accountancy and is now flying home to Beijing to find a job. So we swapped email addresses in case I ever happen to find myself in Beijing.

Incheon airport in Seoul is a BIG airport! It took me nearly an hour to get from the plane, transported to another terminal, through customs and to baggage claim – where you have that inevitable wait to see if your bag does actually turn up. That being said, the airport is easy to navigate and well signposted in English. I had absolutely no problem, Skyping my mum, buying a bus ticket, getting change to call the school and buying some food- and did all of that in about half an hour.

My first food on Korean soil was at Kraze Burgers (it was either that or McDonalds) so being the ‘when in Rome’ kinda girl that I am I dived right in…. and who knows, I could have had my first taste of dog and I don’t even know it!


Better to arrive late to the party than not at all right?

11 Aug

So about a month ago at the beginning of July I was told that EPIK rejected my application at the final stage.  No reasons given why (much to my frustration) and no sign of returning my costly documents for my visa application… to say I was gutted would be an understatement.

But not the kind of person to be defeated, I took the weekend to collect my thoughts and started to adjust my plan of action. I was still dead set on teaching abroad, preferrably South Korea, and with the help of the great team at Flying Cows Consulting they found me a place in a private school in no time!

The idea of working in a private school, or Hagwon, can be quite off-putting when you start to read online about all the bad experiences people have had. But as long as you do your own thorough research, speak to the other foreign teachers at the school to get their honest opinion and experiences, and of course trust your own gut instinct – then you should be ok.

Of course there are some disadvantages to working for a private school rather than a public one – namely that the orientation/ training isn’t as comprehensive, the class hours are generally later – 2-8pm, 3-10pm etc, and you get less holidays. But there are also advantages such as the class sizes are a lot smaller, the dress code is less formal and you can make better money…

Taking all that onboard I have decided to hold my breath and jump in feet first! I found out this week that I have a teaching position in a private school in Daegu and I leave 4 weeks tomorrow on the 9th September.

The school itself is called Ding Ding Dang (actually) and it is in the Dong-gu area of Daegu – North East I believe. So I have handed in my notice (for the second time now) at work and am in a mad rush to get everything organised for my new adventure. The Visa is the main thing occupying my mind right now, also the task of trying to fit my life into 2 bags of a combined weight of 37kg, organise my leaving party and start the emotional rollercoaster of saying goodbye to all my friends and family… it’s going to be tough.

On that note – i’ve got car insurance to cancel and travel adapters to buy… see you on the other side!