I got an email from a recruiter saying that a school is Suwon was looking for someone who spoke Korean. I have been learning Korean for the past 3 years, but my abilities hardly reflect someone who has been studying for so long. I explained this to the recruiter knowing that it would probably mean I would be passed by for an interview. However, the next morning I got another email with an interview request for that evening.
I was pretty stoked. My first interview! This was really happening! I spent the whole day researching example interview questions, practicing my responses, and asking my Korean friends for advice.
Here’s what the job offer looked like:
Job Location: Suwon
Start Date: July 2015
Salary: 2.3 million Won
Grade Level: Kindergarten – Elem.
Class Size: 10-12 students
Work Hours: M W F 9:30 – 7:00 pm; T Th 9:30 – 6:00 pm (complimentary lunch included)
Class Time: 40-50 minutes
Housing: Paid, furnished single apartment
Distance from School: 10 minutes away
Return Airfare: One-way ticket
Severance: 1 month salary after 1 year contract is complete
Vacation: 8 days paid holiday; national holidays
Foreign Teachers: 6
Korean Teachers: 6
So here is where my emotions clouded my judgement. Looking over the offer again, there are key signs that scream HAGWON! (Why I Don’t Want to Work for a Hagwon)
1) Salary = 2.3 million Won
I have never seen this much money offered to a first year teacher in public schools. The pay scale is fixed based upon experience and qualifications. There’s no way I should be eligible for an upper level salary.
2) Class Size = 10-12 students
The typical class size for a public school can be anywhere from 30-50+ students. In my brain, I was thinking, “Oh, this must be located on the outskirts of Suwon. It must be more rural. That would explain the small class sizes.”
3) Work Hours = 9:30 – 7:00 pm and 9:30 – 6:00 pm
A bit odd for a public school. But then again, I currently work at a school that doesn’t start until 8:30 am while the rest of the nation’s schools start at 7:15. Whatevs.
4) Vacation = 8 days plus national holidays
This is where I am kicking myself in the brain. 8 days. That is the standard vacation time for hagwons. A public school gives 20 days. Honestly, I didn’t even look at the vacation time on the offer. I was so enamored with the idea of having an interview, that I didn’t even process that this was a hagwon position.
The Skype interview was scheduled to be at 10:00 pm EST / 11:00 am KST. I sat at my computer at 9:00 reviewing my interview responses and thinking about some last minute questions I wanted to ask the interviewer. By 9:55, I am staring down my screen and waiting for the telltale Beep Beep Boop. hwik hwik. Beep Boop. signaling that I had a video call. 10:00 hits. Nothing. 10:05. Still no call. 10:10. Dear God I’m going out of my mind! At 10:12 I get a ping from someone I don’t know. It’s the school. We are finally ready for the interview.
A kind looking lady was on the other end. She couldn’t be more than 40 years old. She had a bright smile and her English was very clear.
Have you ever taught before?
How will you make lesson plans?
What is your best and worst quality?
English portion of the interview: complete! I did well. Yay! And then she says, “Now the CEO wants to talk to you.”
CEO? That’s when it really sinks in. This is a hagwon. I don’t want to work for a hagwon.
The CEO looked like a cross between Park Ji-Sung and Choi Hong-man. Ji-Sung’s poofy hair and long face, Hong-man’s nose and eyes. He wanted to sample my Korean ability. Uh-huh. So I introduced myself in my broken and nervous Korean, answered a few questions, and practiced my confused-face a lot.
After I fully convinced the CEO that I can’t speak Korean, the kind lady appeared and answered a few questions for me.
The next day, I got an email from the recruiter that the CEO said he needed more time to think about it. I’m not sure what he needed to think about. I was clearly not what the school was looking for. Even knowing this, I worried about what I would do if I were offered the job. Would I be so desperate to go to Korea that I would take a job I didn’t want? After lamenting to and getting sage advice from my besties, I came to the conclusion that I wouldn’t be happy in a job where my employer wanted something I couldn’t give them.
A few days later, I got the rejection email.