Teaching in Korea

Teaching in Korea

Finding an ESL job

By doing various searches under ESL, TESL, ENGLISH, TEACHING ENGLISH, TEACHING IN KOREA, I came up with a whole lot of sites which advertise teaching positions in various countries. A good site was Dave's ESL CAFE .  http://www.eslcafe.com

It has lots of information and links about teaching English abroad.

I prepared an electronic resume, and sent it out.

I found a listing with a Canadian group called Goal Asia , they specialized in Taiwan and Korea. They treated me well and were helpful and direct in their dealings with me. They dealt with an agency in Korea. The institutions that are looking for teachers often go through agencies and pay a fee. It is usually free for the teacher.

They warned me that I was positively over the hill as far as teaching in the Orient, I'm 46. Younger teachers are preferred.  Now that I'm here I realize it's not just age discrimination but also issues of age and power structure, energy requirements, ability to adjust.

I was really interested in Korea and concentrated my efforts there. I had been here once before for a week on my way to visiting my daughter who was teaching English in Japan. I had liked it and hoped to be able to come here for a year.

I sent out maybe 15 e-resumes and most got replies almost immediately.

Some Advice

When you make out your resume, it should be formatted simply and ideally a text file (just using the note pad in Windows accessories will create a text file). Keep in mind that most computers will not be able to interpret fancy formatting. Keep the language simple and the experience relevant. Often the people who are reading your resume don't understand English very well.
It helps to include a photo. In Korea and in other Oriental country appearance is important. You should look professional

Often you don't need to have a teaching degree but you need a University degree. ESL or TESL training helps but is not always required.

While you're doing all this get moving on getting your passport, and any vaccinations you might think you need. It often takes a couple of shots to get immunity so start as soon as you can.

Korea is not a dangerous place to go healthwise but you should be curent with your Tetanus, and having Hepatitis and Typhoid would not hurt. Remember you might be travelling to the Phillipines or to other less well developed countries than Korea.

When you see a listing you like, send a cover letter with your resume attached and your photo in jpg format. Don't send big files. Your jpg should not be too large otherwise it is more time consuming to send and the chance of error is greater. It should be a good photo, appearance is important.  In a lot of schools you are going to be a status symbol so you should look the part.

I decided to go overseas on August the 15, and it took less than 2 weeks to have a confirmed job.

Its really helpful to have a good idea of where you would be willing to go, what you are interested in and how much money you need and what you are willing to do.  When you start sending out resumes things can go very fast.

A useful web site for me was a currency conversion site that allowed me to get good info was   Dave's ESL Cafe.

Once you send your resume and get a reply then if all goes well you will likely speak on the telephone with your prospective employer,  you will likely get a contract describing the job.  It seems to me that the contract is pretty straight forward.  Read it carefully, it should tell you salary, living conditions, travel, holidays, duties, work hours, days of work (a lot of  places are open Saturday, and often the work week is 6 days).  Find out what kind of teaching methods they expect you to follow and exactly what they expect from you. When all is equal go for someone that speaks English.  It helps enormously. Don't expect the job to be exactly what the contract described but it should conform in the important things.

Don't assume things. Working conditions and established practices are quite different and it really helps to ask if you have any question at all. In Korea people often work longer hours and on Saturday and some employers will assume you dont mind doing this also.  

While you're applying, find out what the local costs are.  A small salary in one place can buy a lot more than a large salary elsewhere.

Costs in Korea

(Note that the following was written in 1999!)

Right now costs in Korea are similar to Canadian costs. Fruit and Veggies are about 3 times the cost, a kilo of bananas are 2000 wons on the street and a big apple is 1000. A chicken cost me 4000 wons yesterday.

You can get a decent meal for under 4000 wons. (Korean food). A liter of milk is 1200 wons.

Clothing is cheap and good. I bought a nice wool turtleneck sweater for 10000 wons.

Transportation is cheap. The local bus costs 600 wons a pop and a train ride to Seoul from Wonju (2 hours away) is less than 5000 one way.

Electronic goods and Cameras are more expensive than in Canada. Film processing is about the same. It cost me 6000 wons yesterday to develop 24 exposures.

Be honest in your dealings, it takes a huge amount of money and effort to bring you to Asia (or wherever) and you want to give and receive as few surprises as possible.  Don't assume anything but at a certain point a little trust is necessary.

I've heard all kinds of horror stories but I was very lucky. My agency and my director turned out to be honest and straight forward.

Remember that if it doesn't work out you can always come home. (Make sure you always have that amount of money set aside, it's a huge feeling of security not feeling trapped)

E mail me, I love to get mail.
Return to Home