When I first applied to teach English in South Korea I had no idea how lengthy or intense the process would be. While the first few steps went quickly, there were weeks spent waiting before I could progress further.
If you have considered teaching English abroad, don’t become discouraged. While the process was lengthy and some steps were incredibly overwhelming, the peace that comes over you when you finally land in South Korea is incredible. And makes the entire process worth it. There’s something incredibly calming about feeling the wheels of the plane touch down. The little voice in your head whispers, You did it. You’re finally here.
So, why Korea?
For the purposes of transparency, one of the biggest factors that led to me seeking employment abroad was a quarter-life crisis. I spent the majority of 2017 and 2018 researching English PhD programs and studying for the GRE. When I took the GRE for the second time and received identical scores to the first time, I panicked. My scores only qualified me for two programs, programs that had acceptance rates below 10 percent. It definitely didn’t help that I really disliked the town I was living in and felt that trapped. So, in fear of getting stuck somewhere I was incredibly unhappy, I applied to some recruiters with the encouragement of a friend.
How I Got Here
When I began looking into teaching Korea I chose to use a recruiter rather than applying directly to jobs. I applied to a few recruiting agencies, but heard back from Korvia within 24 hours about an intake interview. The next recruiter I heard back from after I already had an interview set up with a school.
I didn’t know much about the process and didn’t know anyone who had taught abroad. Thankfully, my recruiter at Korvia helped me to navigate the entire process, from an initial intake interview where they got to know a little bit more about me to aiding me in filling out and submitting my application to the school where I sought (and gained!) employment. While I can’t speak to what it’s like to just apply for jobs on your own, I can say that using a recruiter made the process a lot less stressful for me.
The applications to teach in Korea are pretty lengthy and they can seem overwhelming. They even ask questions about your weight and how many tattoos you have. When I read that question I wondered if I should even apply considering I have a few visible tattoos. But after reading some blog posts and other websites, I decided to keep moving forward.
Another part of the process was putting together a video introducing myself. I watched so many videos from past and current teachers on YouTube so I would have a better idea of just what should be included in the video and how to make the best impression.
I still remember where I was when I got the job offer from my school. I was sitting in my office at my current job. The first thing I did was call the two people who wrote my letters of recommendation. Then I went to my director’s office and told her about the job offer. And that I would be accepting the job offer the following day after reading over my 18 page contract. She was one of few people at Misericordia who knew I was considering taking a position overseas, and her support never wavered. I am still incredibly grateful for her support.
So after I accepted the job, I had a long list of things to do before I could leave for Korea less than three months later. First, I had to get an FBI background check, apostilles for my background check and for my college degree, copies of transcripts, and more passport photos than I could keep track of.
Along with working full time and getting my documents ready, I also needed to finish my TEFL Certification. To teach overseas, you need to complete a 120 hour online course. Some schools require a classroom component as well. I did not have to complete the classroom component, but spent countless hours completing my online course. I received my certification from myTEFL.com.
The Final Preparations Before Moving to Korea
Once all my documents made their way back to me, I completed my certification, and got all my passport photos taken, I sent everything off to my recruiter in Korea. Not long after, I received my Visa Confirmation Number and made my way to New York City. Fortunately, I lived close to New York, so I took a bus to apply for my visa. The following week, I returned by train and picked up my passport. I would leave for Korea in just under three weeks, so having my passport back was a huge relief. My flights were booked and my bags were packed. I said goodbye to my friends and coworkers at Misericordia. And I had moved out of my first apartment and spent a few weeks visiting family and friends back home. It was finally time to go to Korea.
If you are considering teaching English abroad, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have and point you in the direction of resources I used regularly before coming to Korea.