Guest Post: Mike – GOE

Happy December! The school year is almost over. One more month plus that weird week for graduation and then we’re done!

The following is a guest post by my friend Mike.* (Names have been changed.) Mike’s perspective is especially interesting in that he is a vegetarian and did not particularly enjoy his time in Korea. Since writing this post, Mike has completed his 1 year contract and moved on. If you’re looking to teach in Korea, it’s always nice to read as many different perspectives as you can.

This is Mike’s story:

Anyong Haseyo,

I’m Mike and I’ve lived in Korea for 10 and a half months now. No, this isn’t my opening statement for Korea Anonymous, but I do have some confessions before I get into this. Confession 1: I’ve never written a blog piece before so apologies for this. Confession 2: I am a (strict) vegetarian, and as such I am on the periphery of Korean social culture which invariably centres around food and restaurants. This has no doubt had some considerable effect on my ability to integrate into Korean society, and certainly affects my views of life in Korea. Confession 3: Before this, I wrote a 3 page rant about Korea… I was trying to write this blog post and it just developed into a looooong, rambly rant.

I consider myself somewhat well traveled. I’ve visited around 30 countries across 4 different continents so far, and I’ve liked all but two of the countries I’ve visited; Bulgaria and Korea.
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Why You Should Apply for GOE

EPIK, GEPIK, SMOE, GOE: These are the most common programs you can apply for to get a public school job in Korea. What’s the difference? So which one should you apply for ?

EPIK: Education Program in Korea
EPIK is a program sponsored by the Korean government to place native English speakers into their public schools. If you apply to EPIK, you can list your preference where you want to go. Keep in mind, just because you want to go there, doesn’t mean you’ll be placed there. Because EPIK covers all of South Korea, you may be placed in  GOE or SMOE areas.

SMOE: Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education

Map of South Korea with Seoul highlighted

Seoul image from: Wikipedia

For those who can’t risk living and working outside the big city, SMOE might be your best option. SMOE places native English teachers only in districts around Seoul. However, this does not include Gangnam. Sorry, no high-life for you. Since many candidates prefer Seoul, it is a highly competitive market.






GEPIK: Gyeonggi Education Program in Korea

Location of Gyeonggi Province

Gyeonggi-do image from: Wikipedia

Gyeonggi-do is the suburbs of Seoul. It is a little more difficult to get a job in Gyeonggi-do since they prefer to have teachers who already have teaching experience in Korea. The locations from Seoul can be as far as a 1-2 hour commute.







GOE: Gyeongsangnam Office of Education
I have worked for GOE for over a year, so I have a lot more experience and information on this area. Because of that, I’m a little biased. I think Gyeongsangnam-do is a great place to work and live. It’s a nice balance between experiencing modern-Korean city life and traditional life.

Location of South Gyeongsang Province

Gyeongsangnam-do image from: Wikipedia

Gyeongsangnam-do is a southern province in Korea. It includes cities such as Changwon and Jinju and islands Geoje and Namhae. When you apply with GOE, you have a better idea where you are going to be placed than if you were to apply with EPIK. Openings are also available year-round so you don’t have to wait for spring or fall to get placed.

Because it is in the southern part of Korea, the weather is warmer in the summer and has very little snow in the winter. When I say “very little snow,” I mean zero accumulation. My students freaked out when they saw the first snowfall last year. I had to squint my eyes to see the tiny flakes glimmer in the sunlight before they melted away. The winter is bitter cold; with wind that cuts through your clothes. I’ve never felt the need to wear leggings under my pants until I moved to Korea. And when I say “warmer,” I mean get ready to sweat your (proverbial) balls off. The humidity is no joke. I rarely stepped out during the summer at the risk of instantly turning into a pool of sweat the moment I did.

I think what deters a lot of people from applying for GOE is the fear of getting placed in a rural location. There’s nothing wrong with being a city mouse, but the “country” life isn’t so bad, either. Gyeongsangnam-do may not have everything a large metropolitan city has, but it’s not the deep-woods, either. My city, Miryang, is kinda the sweet spot of Gyeongsangnam-do, if I do say so myself. It’s close to three major cities (Busan, Daegu, and Changwon), has the KTX train, and has a small town feel with a decent sized downtown. Keep in mind that I’m a small town girl, but even so, I think there is plenty of things to keep busy in this area.

When you apply to GOE, it is almost certain that you will have more than one school. This is a good thing and a bad thing. It’s bad because there is a possibility that you will have to make entirely different lessons for each school and/or you may even have to work with a range of grade levels. It’s good because you get to add on 100,000 won a month to your paycheck. Couple that with the likely addition of 100,000 won for working  in a rural location and BAM! you’re 2,400,000 won richer than the chump that took the city job. On top of the pay upgrade, I find the rural students to be more polite and the class sizes to be smaller. It’s so much fun to teach at my rural school that I sometimes wish I taught at all rural schools.

Miryang has a fantastic Education Office. The MOE puts on a yearly cultural field trip for the Guest English Teachers (GET) in Miryang. They take us to another city in the Gyeongsangna-do province for two days and one night… during the weekday. ARE YOU HEARING THIS? I’m getting paid to travel, eat, and sleep in Korea. Last year, we went to some tourist sights, ate at a traditional restaurant, made pottery, stayed at a nice hotel; all 100% paid for by MOE. MOE has also been super supportive and helpful when we have questions that can’t be answered by our co-teachers.

Moving beyond the city education office, the GOE is rather supportive as well. Back when I first started, I didn’t feel like I had much connection with GOE. Now, there is a new coordinator who genuinely seems to want to help the GETs. He has set up a website ( to help GETs transition into Korean life and arranges some mildly entertaining/helpful workshops. He tries very hard to get the feedback of current GETs in order to improve the experience for the newbies.

Guest Post: Josh – Changseon

The turn over of a new month means saying good-bye to the new friends you’ve made. Working as a teacher in Korea is like a revolving door. People come and go and when it’s your time to go, you tend to reflect on your life for the past year. Life in Korea is different for everyone, and if you are thinking about coming to Korea, then it’s good to hear from many different people’s experiences.

This is a Guest Post by a friend who recently left Korea after his 1 year was up. *Names have been changed.


1 year in Korea, was it enough? I’m not sure. When I first got to Korea I didn’t know what to expect and by the third week I was ready to go home. Culture shock, anxiety, depression, and loneliness hit me like a massive storm. This probably isn’t the best way to start telling the story about my time in Korea is it? But that’s what happened to me. There is hope though so please read on!

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Culture Differences: Post-Natal Care and Nurseries

I got to talk to my language partner Daniel and his wife Chloe today. It had been a long time since I have been able to meet them over Skype. It was good to hear their voices. Our language skills have regressed over our lack of meetings and practice. :/ ㅠㅠ

Chloe and Daniel are expecting their first child by November 22. I am so excited for them! They will be fantastic parents. During our conversation, I had remembered something Daniel told me about the post-natal care for the mother and the baby in Korea. It’s quite different than the United States.

In the US, a mother has the baby at a hospital. The next day, the baby goes through tests to make sure he is healthy. By the third day, a mother and baby can be discharged and sent home.

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How to Open a Birth Family Search – Holt Children’s Services*

Step One: Read “How to Request Adoption Records
Complete Steps 1-3.

Step Two: Write a Letter to Birth Family
Include basic information about yourself and family, why you are searching, what you are doing now, what activities you enjoy, etc.

Step Three: Find Pictures of Yourself
I personally skipped this step, but you can feel free to send old or new pictures of yourself.

Step Four: Send an Email
Attach all documents and send an email to Hotmail? Yes… Hotmail. I bet ya didn’t even know that people still had Hotmail much less an international organization. I was skeptical, too, but it’s legit. Make sure to put “Post Adoption Services” in the subject line and give a brief introduction in the email body.

*This picture is actually of KSS (Korea Social Services), another adoption agency. For some reason, I thought to take a picture of this agency and not one of my own. :/

My Adoption Records and Birth Family Search

When I finally decided that I wanted to open a search for my birth family, I wasn’t sure where to start. I knew I was adopted from Holt in Korea and Bethany Christian Services in the USA. I decided to start with BCS.

April 7, 2014
I went to the BCS website and filled out their contact form for what they call “Post Adoption Support.” I received an email that said I would get personal contact from Bethany within two business days.

April 14, 2014
I haven’t heard from anyone. I called 1-800-BETHANY and was told that the person who handles international adoptions only came in on Wednesdays and that I should expect a call from “Josh” on the 16th.

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How to Request Adoption Records – Holt Children’s Services

My first step to opening a birth family search was to request my adoption records. My parents had some paperwork in a filing cabinet in the house, but I always found misplaced papers between files. I wanted to be sure I had everything. Requesting my file was fairly easy after I found the right contact. You can read more about my experience later. But for now, let’s focus on how to get your adoption files in hand.

Step One: Make Sure You were Adopted from Holt Children’s Services
Holt Children’s Services is a different agency than Holt International Children’s Services. If you know you are from a Holt agency but are unsure which one, you can always contact both.

Step Two: Fill Out Paperwork
Petition for Adoption Information Disclosure
Holt Request Form
Fill out as much as you can.

Step Three: Scan the Information Page of Your Passport
It’s the colorful page with your picture on it. If you do not have a U.S. Passport, you can read my step-by-step guide to getting one.

Step Four: Send an Email
Attach all three documents and send an email to Hotmail? Yes… Hotmail. I bet ya didn’t even know that people still had Hotmail much less an international organization. I was skeptical, too, but it’s legit. Make sure to put “Post Adoption Services” in the subject line and give a brief introduction in the email body.

Step Five: Wait for a Response
I know it’s hard. But remember, Korea is 12-13 hours ahead of us so you may get a response in the middle of the night.

That’s it. Pretty easy, right? For more information about Holt Children’s Services of Korea you can go to their website.

If you’re interested in going a step farther, you can open a birth family search.