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.

Weather
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.

Location
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.

Schools
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.

Support
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 (www.dowajo.org) 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.

20 Hour In-Class Certification

Perhaps I’ve complained about this in previous posts. I really did not want to take the 20 hour in-class portion. When I first heard that many of the programs in Korea were starting to require this certificate, I didn’t quite understand what it meant. My recruiter from Teach ESL Korea suggested I take the 120 hour course from BridgeTEFL since more and more programs required the 20 hour in-class component. But here’s the thing: the extra 20 hours are not in-class work. It’s an extra 2 modules for adult learners and young learners. I definitely feel like I was grossly misled here. The extra modules pretty much rehashed everything that the first 10 modules covered. Feeling a little had, I decided to aim for a job with GEPIK (Gyeonggi English Program in Korea). GEPIK did not require the 20 hour in-class certification.

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Interview #3: GOE Program

2016 NOTE: The GOE Coordinator has changed since this post. The new coordinator’s name is Jin. He’s a great guy, speaks English fluently, and much less uptight during the interview from what I’ve heard. Don’t get too relaxed, though. It’s still a competitive market, and you should prepare as if you were interviewing with Daniel.

2016 NOTE: Roy no longer works for Hands Korea. There is a new recruiter named Brian that is less than stellar from what I have heard from his recruits. There is also a high chance that he will not contact you in a timely manner if you are female. Again, this is based on personal accounts from people who were recruited by him.

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June 10, 2015
I got a call from yet another recruiter. This one’s name is Hero from Hands Korea. He seemed like all the other recruiters except he is one of the two who actually called me on the phone. (Joseph from STAR Teachers was the other one.) The next day, Roy from Hands Korea e-mailed me applications for both GEPIK and GOE.

June 22, 2015
I got a Skype message from Roy at Hands Korea. He had set up an interview with Gyeongnam Office of Education (GOE). The Gyeongsangnam-do (Gyeongnam for short) is a broad area that wraps around Busan.

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Interview #2: Pyeongtaek Songhwa Elementary School

June 25, 2015
Recruiters are confusing the daylights out of me. I have my initial contact, Amanda with Teach ESL Korea, SunYoung from GoESLAsia, Joseph with STAR Teachers, Hero/Roy from HandsKorea, and Scott and Sean with EZ English. It gets so confusing trying to remember who I talked to and what I’ve told to them.

On Thursday, June 25, I was just sitting down to an outdoor concert with my friends when I got a phone call. It was Scott from EZ English. I haven’t heard from him since the first week of April. Via Skype, Scott informed me:

“all gepik declined you due to no expeorence, gyopo etc
but i ketp recommended you and finally iset up 1 interview
and no more gepik job” [sic]

Yay an interview! However, he gave the interview time and information to the wrong person. He didn’t even realize the mistake was made until the school already talked to the wrong candidate and the school informed him that they were not talking to a 30 year old gyopo. He begged them for another interview time and got one… at 1:30am my time. To top it all off, I was the one required to make the long distance call to Korea for the interview.

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May Day

After my little blitz of activity with the Suwon interview, things settled down for me in May. I was working with my recruiter from Teach ESL Korea (Amanda) and Korean recruiters from STAR Teachers (Joseph), Ez English (Sean), and Ez Recruiting (Scott). Joseph encouraged me to get a 20-hour in-class certificate because many public schools in Korea prefer it opposed to online only coursework. I dragged my feet about it because it seems that nowhere in Ohio is there an affordable program. Everything is college-based here. Joseph did his best to give me resources to find the requirement, but nothing seemed feasible. I checked with my TEFL Program and asked if they had an in-class program. I was told that I would have to find places to volunteer and have someone sign off that I did the work. Hang on. I’m paying money to do ALL the work and getting a lousy piece of paper in return? Thankfully, Joseph told me that the volunteer project wouldn’t cut it.

I thought I would still be okay without the 20-hour class because GEPIK doesn’t require it. Only EPIK and GOE do. (And probably SMOE and Busan’s program asks for 40-hours, I think.) However, Joseph sent me an email explaining that STAR Teachers no longer works with GEPIK. The only program left is GOE. Crap.

I emailed Amanda with my concerns. If STAR Teachers doesn’t work with GEPIK, does that mean I can’t get a job? She responded that Teach ESL Korea is cutting ties with STAR Teachers due to reliability issues and would re-connect me with Scott from EZ Recruiting.

After not hearing from anyone, I beginning to panic.