Life in Korea

Becoming an ESL teacher

I don’t know how many weeks I spent researching blogs of teachers in Korea. I found a lot of peace of mind in reading about their every day lives and how much they enjoyed teaching here. I also read a lot of terrifying blog posts about the “blacklist” and horror stories some schools put their teachers into. In order to find yourself a great school and living situation, it will cost you time and patience. Here are some tips to help you get started.

  1. Get a Bachelors degree– This one isn’t necessary for all countries, but it is becoming more of a standard requirement (especially for visas). You don’t need a degree in teaching, although that would certainly put you above many other applicants,  but any degree will do. I’ve met accountants, engineers, musicians, and business majors that are all working in Korea just to give some examples.
  2. Get certified-  Whether it’s an online or in-class certification,you must have some sort of “Teaching English as a Foreign language” certification. There are many different options out there, but in my search for the one that will help you most globally, I’d say the CELTA and the TEFL are your best options. I have an online TESOL which works well, but looking back I wish I’d have chosen one of the two I’ve stated above.
  3. Choose a country– Some countries are easier than others to find jobs and support. For example, if you want to teach in Europe and don’t have a EU passport it’s almost impossible someone will hire and sponsor you. Of course there are programs out there to help, such as CIEE that, for a small fee will help you out with Spain or the Czech Republic. Asia, however, is much easier and offers better benefits (free housing, pension, health insurance, free airfare etc) than most places.
  4. Find a recruiter– Once you’ve decided your location, it’s time to find a recruiter. Again this isn’t essential, but will definitely help with the transition and finding you a school. After some research I’d decided that going to Korea was something I wanted to do and I contacted  TeachESLKorea for my next steps. In Korea the need for English teachers is always growing, and has some of the best pay and benefits in Asia. For public schools you might be better off using CanadianConnections (not only for Canadians I found out) as they seemed to be able to place you in the JLP and GEPIK programs.  *As a side note* Choose the right program! Learn the differences between public, international, hagwon, and private! Getting an interview is exciting, but being sure you’ll be happy with your decision is important since most contracts are for one year!
  5. Get the correct documentation– The recruiters will help you with this one, but it’s also very standard for most teaching ESL visas around the world. You’ll need a background check (sometimes federal sometimes local, check the immigration site of the country you’re going to), an apostille of your degree (to prove it’s legit), passport photos, signed resume, signed contract, health documents (usually provided on the immigration’s website or through your recruiter), and in some cases a bank statement (to be sure you have enough money to support yourself for the first few months or the time of stay).
  6. Prepare yourself- This one is especially important. Many times you don’t get training when you start teaching and you’ll be thrown into it. This, on top of being stressed from not speaking the language and being in a foreign place, can be especially overwhelming. Try to know the age of the children and what to expect by contacting previous teachers. I’m not saying you need to lesson plan everything before you get there, but knowing some games and pinning some things on Pinterest will save you! Another good tool for Korea is Waygook as they post many games and  textbook specific material.
  7. Have fun– You’re going to embark on an amazing journey that will change you. You’ll see new places, make new friends, and have an exciting life during your time abroad. Don’t take any opportunity for granted and be sure to be the best teacher you can be!


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