How to Successfully Teach English in Korea:
So you want to teach ESL in Korea?
It truly is a wonderful plan and experience if you execute it properly! I would love to tell you how to succeed, so that it makes life easier for all potential teachers and Korean people who you will meet at work.
First let me start by listing some of the wonderful benefits to teaching in Korea:
1. It’s an incredibly rich experience.
2. It’s an excellent way to make thousands of friends of all nationalities.
3. It’s so much more meaningful than being a mono-culture person like most of our “home-town” friends. Life is short and we age fast. If you don’t do something worthwhile with your life, you can stagnate, (get depressed, get a “diagnosis”, get fed drugs and brainwashed into thinking you have a mental disease!) Living in a new culture is constant growth and adaptation!
4. It can be an awesome way to make money. This does depend, however, on how you “play your cards,” but that’s why you’re reading this.
5. It’s a wonderful way to pay off debt, especially if you have free accommodations, which is pretty normal.
6. It’s a wonderful to see more of Asia. How rich and convenient is that?
7. Getting away from your own country may help you to lose that superficial, material, meaningless mentality. Without all that propoganda in the media about looking perfect, buying a huge house, five cars, boats, etc, you’ll be able to see how differently the world can be. Every family-house-philosophy is different and so is every country! By travelling you will see what is good and what is not so good.
8. I’ll probably add more later.
How to teach in Korea: (and be successful)
Well folks, why don’t you all grab yourselves a warm cup of coffee or tea and gather in front of the fireplace, and I will be happy share to my hard earned wisdom and common sense for the next generation of intrepid ESL Adventurers! The first thing to mention about teaching in Korea is that you need a University Diploma. It didn’t use to be strictly enforced, but after a few high profile Degree Fraud cases erupted in the news, the authorities are very serious about checking everybody! So if you didn’t graduate yet, you better keep studying. This rule essentially does improve the quality of teaching in Korea, which is of course good! One interesting point to mention about this: while most University degrees take four years. I know that in Saskatchewan my cousin completed his Bachelor’s degree in three years and was accepted in Korea.
Once you’ve graduated, it’s a piece of cake to find a job in Korea. It’s slightly more challenging to find one that you consider perfect. One of the easiest ways to teach in Korea is when you have a friend who would like to set you up at a school in Korea. Or possibly let you stay at their house until you do, which would be very quick. But please, do not forget to bring your diploma and a few official, sealed transcripts from your University! It will definitely speed up the process.
Another method to get to work fast in Korea would be by using one of the more popular ESL Websites. I recommend the following:
There’s tonnes of job listings at these websites and also loads of great tips about what’s hot, what’s not and where to avoid, of course!
Another good way to get teaching in Korea, but with perhaps a little more doubt involved, is to utilize a recruiter. Check the job boards at the bigger universities in Vancouver or your own province and see if you can’t find a “working in Korea” advertisement. Odds are that there will be a Korean Recruiter hiding behind a bush ready to pounce on you!! This was actually how I went to Korea for the first time back in the summer of 1997. The sweet thing was, I got a free airplane ticket to Korea. The bad thing was the contract I signed in Vancouver for a “School Director in Korea,” turned out to be a pack of lies. I will tell that story in another chapter. Read on bold adventurer!
Assuming that you have your school picked out and an agreement has been reached for you to work somewhere, the next business is a work visa. Most likely you’ll be getting an E2 Visa. You may hassle through the process at home, by getting various letters, information, telephone numbers from your school, and then visiting the Korean embassy in Canada. There’s one in Vancouver, though I’m not sure about the rest of Canada. Once you’re there, you’ll pay a small fee, get some stamps and most likely they’ll send your results back in the mail. It may be instantaneous now with the initial preparation work done before hand.
Next, if you will be picking up your visa in Korea, then be prepared to take a small trip to Japan in order to do so. There’s a great chance that your school will cover the entire cost of it, but you better work hard to show you’re worth it! The Japan trips are great. It’s usually for two or three days that you may find yourself there in a different world. Once there, you’ll visit the Korean embassy in Japan, perhaps take a few photos and get processed! Make sure you have the correct documents all prepared mind you. I have a friend who went there looking for fun on his Visa Trip. He spent all his money in a few days and went to get his visa at embassy only to realize he was missing important documents from his school. As a result, for one unexpected week, my buddy Brian took to the streets of Fukoka trying sell his Beatles’ CD’s and made himself a personal massage therapist to some rich Japanese women! He survived, but the story is unbelievably funny! We’ll get him to write it up and post it here!
Another interesting Visa possibility is if you happen to get married to a Korean. Once you’re married for a certain length of time, you will be able to obtain the wonderful F2-Visa! The F2 Visa was a wonderful improvement to life in Korea because with it, you’re able to work anywhere you want, and to work as much like. It’s a really wonderful situation because as a worker in Korea, you’ll be tempted to teach private lessons to make a lot of extra money, however, without an F2 Visa it’s officially illegal. It still goes on all the time, but you really need to be careful. You could end up deported from the country or even fined a certain amount of money!
Life in Korea:
Ok now that you’re lucky to have your Visa affairs sorted out, you may want to start thinking about where you’d best like to live in Korea. Actually this may have been important to mention before you found a job. But I’ll assume you read this whole article before taking the plunge.
Depending on your personality, you’re most likely going to have a difficult time if you choose to live in a tiny little isolated city. If you are isolated, you might start to get a little bugged out like Franz Kafka’s ‘Metamorphosis’. Wherever you go, you’ll probably want to make a quick trip to Seoul to see what it has to offer. It’s also important to connect with your own people to be aware of what’s going on around you. Of course most of this is on the internet too, but it’s important to have those first experiences. Our Psychology professor took us into the library on the first day because he knew people had some minor anxieties about things they didn’t know and just going once would dramatically increase the likelihood of a person utilizing the resources available. In Seoul you can find virtually every kind of food in the world. Korean is wonderful once you get used to it, but just like Koreans crave kimchi, you may find yourself in desperate need of a turkey dinner, wich you can find at certain hotels in Seoul. The big foreigner’s district in Seoul is Itaewon, but the whole city is really exciting and it’s usually active 24/7 in some places. Kyobo Books is excellent for finding both good reading and teaching materials. The western restaurants are spread throughout the city, however, many of them can be found in Itaewon. Gecko’s is a fun spot. You’ll meet hundreds of fellow foreigners while you’re there. The Indian food is amazing too. If you want to buy western groceries, there are several little shops in Itaewon, however, you may want to visit Nam-dae-mun market instead. It’s just a short walk from city hall. Once you get there look for the underground shopping center, which sells black market groceries from the US Army Base. If you happen to become friends with a US Soldier, you can actually enjoy the comfort of shopping at their on-base super-markets. In all, there are too many fun things to mention about Seoul here, Insadong, Namsan Tower, City Hall, Tongdaemun Market, several huge parks, etc. Our purpose here, however, is to just help you succeed as a teacher.
With your Seoul experience hot under your belt, you may find yourself gravitating towards working there. There are thousands of jobs in Seoul and many attractions. The subway system is also pretty awesome. With the good foods, excitement and friends, I quite enjoyed my life there. On the other hand, I spent my first six years in the town of Cheongju, a city of approximately 600,000. I had always been a person who loved languages and the study of cultures. As you live in smaller cities, you’ll realize that there’s is often a greater pureness of the people and culture there. In these towns and smaller ones, the Korean people will be just as fascinated with you, as you are with them. This is great because it sets people up for ‘natural learning’. Everybody loves to learn when there is a genuine curiosity to learn. One obvious advantage I see is that you really need to learn some of the language to survive, which brings us to a new section.
The Korean Language:
Anybody who wants to be really successful in Korea and or even a star, should try to pick up some of the language. Many people feel overwhelmed at the task and go about it the wrong way, then give up. That’s unfortunate and you’ll find that in life, a good teacher is the most valuable asset you can ever have. That’s why I will simplify things for you in a really easy way and put you onto to the road of success!
The Korean Language has one of the most intelligent systems of writing in the world. Hangul was created by King Sejong and his scientists. It’s an incredibly logical and consistent language, with few discrepancies and it boasted what I think is the simplest alphabet in the world! Seriously, it only contains 24 simple characters, which I’ve taught to dozens of people in often 20 minutes!
First off, I recommend you search YouTube for the “The Korean Alphabet”.
There is also an audio file study sentences for each word.