[The Traveling Teacher] On Getting There

Oh my goodness, getting to the point of teaching abroad is a journey all its own. From the paperwork to the classes to the phone calls and interviews to the applications, it's a daunting enough task to turn even the most adventurous away. I started my process about mid-spring and have just received my official contract in the mail last week. Let me tell you, if not having patience is one of your traits, you might want to rethink things.

Anyhow, I'm starting this series on my blog to help document my time spent in South Korea! I don't want to completely turn this space into a TEFL Teacher blog (because there's a trillion that are more detailed and much funnier than I could ever be), but I do think I've learned a few helpful things along the way so far and anticipate learning much more in the future. To be perfectly honest, I'm going into this year wanting to float in life a bit. I've planned my academic career down to the T for the past 21 years of my life, and I want a chance to just...explore. I don't know what I plan on doing after the year is up or where I want to be, but I'm open to anything. I just want to keep learning and keep exploring and keep discovering. I'm not ruling out living in Korea long term, but I'm not ruling out teaching in other places or entering a permanent career track either. Just know, even while I'm in my "floating" time, I'm still paying off things like bills and student loans, so I'm not totally lost in life!

For the first part of this series, I thought I'd layout what I have done to reach this exact point-- a contract in hand, a visa trip on the way, and an official start date of October 15th:

1) Figure out WHERE you wanna go! Frankly speaking, I would not have wanted to teach anywhere else. Spain was a bit of an option, but after working with the part time teaching place I did when I studied abroad, I didn't think I could grit my teeth that hard for the next year. I love you with all my heart Spain, but I don't think I could work long term with you. Short term, maybe. And that's still a possibility. I'm not opposed to China either, but if I'm going to be in Asia, I'd prefer Japan and Korea (I know, I'm betraying my ethnicity!). All in all, though, I've invested a lot of time in Korea and Korean culture, so I ultimately wanted to return there. I wanted to improve and at least become conversational in Korean, and I want to learn more about this little country in which I spent 6 weeks so long ago.

2) Figure out HOW you want to get there. I kind of took the long way around it, but until recently the EPIK/GEPIK site was not as easy to navigate as it is now. There are a lot of options to getting to your chosen country (from now on I'll specifically refer to Korea). Initially I thought of applying for a Fulbright, but after some research I basically learned that a) I can get paid more elsewhere and b) I'd get taxed out the whazoo with a Fulbright. Then I got an e-mail from Adventure Teaching one day early in the spring semester, and I was intrigued. I totally recommend them, by the way, and I'll write a more extensive post on why they're so awesome in the near future. Basically, you're not going to find a ton of reviews on them because they're fairly young for a company, but I absolutely loved working with them. They're so friendly and patient and great at communicating!

3) Apply to said company. I had to fill out an application online, and then I had a phone interview to be accepted into the company itself. It's exciting, and you're allowed to shout-text your friends because it means you are seriously trying to get over to teaching in Korea. It's just a matter of time and what jobs open up. But know that your company is doing its best to help you get there.

4) Decide, decide. Where do you want to be? What are the ages that you want to teach? Private or public? City or countryside? I lived in Seoul before, so I told my recruiters that I was literally open to anything and anywhere. I'm teaching in a public school in Jeollabuk Do, and I could not be more excited!

5) Get your documents in ASAP. So the way my company works is that they have a set of RED documents they want you to get to them in Korea. These documents will then allow them to put your profile out to schools all over the country. These documents take the longest time to get because they involve everything from getting an apostille on your diploma to getting an apostille on your background check. If I hadn't had been so caught up with my theses and finishing school, I would have gotten on these much earlier! I wound up kind of skipping this step, because...

6) More applying! While I was waiting for my documents to come together, my main recruiter e-mailed us about their public school coordinators, Touch 4 Teaching. I basically had to apply to specific positions in T4T (but through my recruiter rather than the generic app). The only one I qualified for was the position in Jeollabuk, so I applied ASAP (well the day before the deadline). It involved generic information and qualifications, and it also required you to write an essay on why you wanted to teach English and a sample lesson plan.

7) Take a TEFL course. I technically didn't need to as I'm an English major, but as someone with little formal education, well, education, I found this course so helpful. Plus as an English major with a 120 TEFL Hour Certificate I get paid a teensy bit more starting out. The nice thing about AT is that they have a relationship with BridgeTEFL, so I was able to take my courses online at 1/2 the price just about! I recommend just taking the 120 hour course because anything less than a 100 isn't enough for most schools, and it's just safe to have the extra 20 hours. Plus it'll help kill time while you're waiting!

8) Phone Interview. So you'll have a phone interview with your province. It's okay to be a little nervous! Just make sure you're genuine and earnest. Show how flexible and open you are to new cultures and environments. Also, you may have to make a short video!

9) Send in more documents. I had to send in more documents and copies of said documents right after I was officially offered the position. These were sent to immigration in Korea, and I had to wait until I got my official contract in the mail.

10) Get your visa! Still in this process. Will report when I've gone through everything!

P.S. Things No One Tells You:
  • Your Diploma- I even searched around online to see if anyone has had this problem, and I couldn't find anything. So, having gone to an old, private school for college, my official diploma is entirely in Latin. It's not even something I noticed, nor did anyone ever tell me it would be an issue until it, apparently, was. So, if your diploma is any language but English, I suggest getting an official translation from your school with a seal just in case. 
  • Shipping- Shipping almost made me cry. They told me about Visa costs (around $40-$50), but no one told me that for me to ship some measly documents from Pennsylvania to South Korea it would cost $60. Do you know how absurdly expensive that is? I mean, if I go through USPS's options, it can be as low as $5.00, but my company strongly recommended using Fedex or UPS...
  • You won't get an official interview time. So, I was ecstatic when my coordinator told me I had an interview for a school. She asked me what times were good for me, and I gave her a broad time frame, thinking they would set up an appointment or even have a Skype interview. I heard no response from anyone, so I was just waiting. Then, as I was in the middle of getting ready to go on the elliptical I get a call from a South Korean number. I had my interview sweating in my car...
Hope this helped! Feel free to ask me any questions about it! I can't wait to share more and learn more! I'm already watching YT channels and looking up tips and such. 

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