South Korea - Gateway to the Wide World of ESL

Updated 2010-06-29 11:51

South Korea: Gateway to the Wide World of ESL

It doesn't feel that long ago I was in your shoes; longingly scanning websites day and night trying to find my escape from the daily grind of which I had grown so tired. It had always been my dream to live overseas, but having never even travelled before it seemed like such an impossible feat; a distant dream that would never come true as I rot in my cubicle. I battled myself with weapons of fear and self-doubt for months. The countless possibilities of something going horribly wrong and being stranded, stuck, broke, or worse in an unknown foreign country seemed too much to handle. But in the end, my boredom and curiosity of the world outside won the war in my head, and I began to seriously research job opportunities abroad.

So here I am, 4 months later and 5000 miles further and couldn't be happier with my decision! I am teaching in a great school with amazing kids, have met so many interesting people from all over the world, and love the city in which I live and get to explore every day.

I decided early on that teaching abroad was the best way, really the only way for me to go overseas for a period of time sufficient to really get to know a people and culture while maintaining the means to support myself financially. My initial interest was in Thailand, and I was considering dropping a few thousand dollars (that I didn't have) to take a TEFL course in Phuket since most jobs in Thailand require a teaching certificate (AND pay extremely low). I had spoken with a few people who have previously lived and/or worked abroad, and was advised to look into teaching in South Korea. I took the advice, did some research, and am so happy I did!

The South Korean government is aiming to have a foreign teacher at every public school in the country within the next year or two, and Hagwons (private schools) already seem to share the common goal of employing at least one foreign teacher per school. This creates considerable demand for English teachers in South Korea. The sole requirements for a position are as follows:

1 - You must be a native English speaker

2 - Possess a valid passport

3 ' Have a Bachelor's degree from an accredited school.

*(You must also be able to pass a drug test and be HIV negative to obtain the alien registration card upon arrival in the country.)

Not only is it fairly simple to obtain an English teaching position in this country, the job pays very well - about 2.1 ' 2.4 million won for first time teachers with no experience or certifications. Plus your rent is paid for by the school and accommodations are made prior to your arrival in Korea. It is fairly simple to save a good chunk of your paycheck each month; far more than possible in other Asian countries.

I was offered many positions before finally accepting the right one. I can't stress enough to wait for a position that is a perfect fit for you. If you are extended an offer that doesn't sound good over the phone, it will be even worse when you are thousands of miles away in a foreign country. There will always be other offers ' make sure you are happy with the one you accept. Also make sure to do some research on the school on blacklist websites before officially accepting any offer.

A few things to take note:

1. I would not recommend a teaching position overseas if you are at all stuck in your ways; the culture here (or anywhere, really) is quite different and it is imperative to keep an open mind and a sense of humor about things.

2. Keep in mind that most contracts are a year long, and there is really only one, maybe two chances to go home throughout that time. If you don't feel you can go that long without seeing your family/friends, think twice about accepting a position abroad. I am very close with my family and friends, but technology nowadays makes it easy to keep in touch. Between Skype, Facebook, Email, etc. you should do just fine. Also, it is easy enough to meet other foreigners around town if you crave companionship of other English speakers.

3. Be aware that you will sometimes have to deal with some sideways glances and may feel like an outsider at times. Although, in my opinion, any of this is far surpassed by the kindness and intrigue displayed by others who are curious about you and your country. South Koreans are a very genuine, good natured people, and are usually willing and eager to help out if you are in need.

All in all, living overseas is the opportunity of a lifetime. You will meet amazing people, eat wonderful food, see new and beautiful things, and learn so much about yourself and the world you live in. Best of luck on your journey!


Recruiting Agencies

Interpacific Recruiting -


Job Board sites

Dave's ESL Café -

Teach English in Asia -

Gone2Korea -

ESL Job Feed, Korea -

About Korea

Official Tourism site -

Life in Korea -

Korea Bridge -

By: Brittany Weyen

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