My Journey toward Teaching in Korea

Back in the autumn of 2014, I made a decision: I was going to teach in Korea. I had been thinking about doing it for years but there was always something keeping me in the States. Relationships, a career, the familiarity of where I was, and the fear of the unfamiliar, I always had an excuse. However, that autumn I found myself out of a romantic relationship and after a summer trip, found that Korea wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle. So I threw myself in to the process 100%. Here’s where the journey has taken me thus far:

OCTOBER 13, 2014
I started by getting myself a recruiter. I had done extensive research years prior and remembered one recruitment service that stuck out above the others I filled out the application and received an email detailing the name and contact information of the recruiter assigned to me.

OCTOBER 14, 2014
My recruiter, Amanda, recapped my application and sent me a TON of information. I had to make myself several checklists of things to do. The most important being TEFL/TESL certification. Upon Amanda’s suggestion, I signed up with TEFL Online.

NOVEMBER 2, 2014
I begin my 120 hour TEFL course. I’m a bit more than disappointed with the program that I enrolled in. The units are passable with a 70% score and, to my understanding, one may re-do the unit if the score falls below 70%. In addition, the 120 hour program does not include any in-class credit which is highly desired among schools. This is the problem I am facing now. More on that below.

FEBRUARY 4, 2015
I am informed that EPIK no longer use recruiters. This severely limits the schools I can apply to. Basically, EPIK handles all the schools outside of Seoul and the Gyeonggi-do region. Amanda tells me that I can apply with GEPIK (the Gyeonggi-do region) through recruiters. So no big deal, right?

FEBRUARY 27, 2015
I finish the TEFL program and begin freaking out about things being left out of my hands.

MARCH 1, 2015
Amanda reassures me that there is nothing to worry about. She moves my application to “active” status.

MARCH 16, 2015
I receive an unexpected phone call from a GOE (Gyeongnam Office of Education) Public Schools recruiter. The recruiter, Joseph, explains that my experience as an educational interpreter might suffice for the 20-hour in-class requirement. He sends me an email outlining the application process. The start date would be in June. JUNE!

MARCH 30, 2015
I receive an email from EzEnglish with an offer to apply for a position in Gumi. I got this email the morning of my spring break. I woke up at 4 am to catch a 7 am flight. After that, everything was a whirlwind and it completely slipped my mind that I had to reply within 2 days.

APRIL 2, 2015
I email Amanda asking for advice on how to politely decline the EzEnglish offer. The hours of 1:00pm – 9:00pm did not appeal to me.

I also email Joseph with an update on my application. He informs me that my interpreting experience in the classroom does not fulfill the 20-hour requirement and asks if I can get the hours.

I freak out again.

APRIL 3, 2015
Haven’t heard back from Amanda. Since I’ve already eclipsed the 48-hour rule, I decided not to push it and send the rejection email without Amanda’s stamp of approval.

APRIL 4, 2015 (Today)
I’m finding myself in a weird position. I have a few roads I could take and I’m not sure if I should focus on one or multiple.

First Road: Find a program that offers 20-hour in-class credit and continue my application with GOE.
The Problem: All the programs I have found are full programs with the 20-hour in-class credit. I have already completed a 120 hour course. I can’t seem to find any where that will just offer the in-class credit. While taking another TEFL course wouldn’t hurt, I really don’t want to pay $1,500 to re-take a program. If I discover that I love teaching English, I will consider a “legit” program such as CELTA.

Second Road: Go it alone and apply for EPIK jobs. People are doing this. If other people can do it, I can do it too. I just really like the idea of having a support group during the process and in Korea.

Third Road: Open my application to Hagwons (private schools). I specified that I only wanted to apply to public schools. I had a few reasons for this. Public schools have better work hours, better vacation time, are government backed, and the jobs are more secure. Korean Hagwons are not like the private schools we have in the US. If I had to compare Hagwons to anything, it might be akin to an intense version of Sylvan or Kumon. I have read horror stories of Hagwons closing down without notice, not paying on time, and poorly treating their expats. Granted, there are also horror stories about public schools, but none are as terrifying as finding yourself standing outside of a closed school with no job and no money.

Where I am Now:
1) Find a 20-hour in-class program
2) Send off my fingerprints for FBI/CBC verification and then send to be apostilled
3) Confirm Korean Nationality Status Check with Korean Consulate
Since I claim Korean ethnicity, I have to have my nationality confirmed before I can even apply for jobs. I’ve been dragging my feet on this one because it may require a personal visit to the closest Korean Embassy in Chicago. I am already required to visit the Embassy when I have to apply for the actual visa. I would really love it if I didn’t have to make two trips.
4) Figure out whether to apply for an E-2 or an F-4 visa.
An E-2 visa is strictly used for English-teaching expats (immigrants). It expires after one year. An F-4 visa is permitted to Korean-born expats. This visa would allow me work rights similar to native Koreans. i.e. I could get a job not limited to teaching. This visa is good for at least 2 years.
5) In order to apply for a visa, I have to confirm my Korean Nationality Status. In order to confirm the KNS, I have to have a notarized copy of my Korean Family Registry. Which means, I have to contact my adoption agency again and hope they can help me out with that.
6) Continue to freak out.
The earliest potential start date is in June. It would be lovely to know if I have a job especially if I only have 2 months to wrap up things in the States, spend time with family, figure out how to pack a year of my life in 2 suitcases, and so forth. The standard start date is in August, so there’s still time.

I can’t help but feel anxious and wonder if this is really the path I want to take. In the past, I considered moving to a foreign country to teach as a long pause button on my life. A few years ago, I was starting a career in interpreting. Not long after that, I was engaged. There was no time to pause. Now, when it would seem the most opportune time, I find myself wondering if I’m too old and should just get on with my life. Find a good man, have some babies, go to grad school. But I know in the deepest part of me that if I don’t go now, I never will. I can’t go to Korea if I have children. I can’t go to Korea if I go to grad school. I don’t want to live my life in regret, and this experience is one that I would regret if I don’t try my best to obtain it.


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