Say what???

I spent a lot of time in Korea grading mind boggling sentences like the one above. Most of the time they weren’t funny and I was left to find a way to turn them into intelligible statements. But sometimes there were real gems that would make me and the whole teachers’ room explode in laughter.

Disclaimer: I know it isn’t easy learning a second language and I applaud all of my students for trying their best. I laugh at these from a good place not a mean one. I know that I sure as hell have made people laugh quite a bit while traveling and attempting to speak foreign languages. I wonder what incredible things my Spanish teachers from middle school heard me say. I’ve been laughed at around the world for my silly attempts to communicate, and the ridiculous pantomimes that go with it. I don’t take any of this too seriously and I hope you don’t either 🙂

With that said, here is a countdown of my all time favorites: Read more

It’s Raining Inside

apartment winter indoor condensation

One of the many quirks experienced while living in Korea is the variety of apartment issues that come with a typical Korean apartment provided to a foreign English teacher. Problem #1 is usually the itty-bitty size of the apartment. I was super lucky coming to Korea with my boyfriend because we were given a two bedroom apartment, so space wasn’t an issue. Others aren’t so lucky. I will say that we were very fortunate to be given the best and the biggest apartment in our building. In fact, after we left Korea, the director of our school moved into our apartment. I’m not sure he knew what he was getting himself into though… I think he was accustomed to a higher end of living, so I wonder how he’s handling all of the issues that come with living there. For the current teachers, I think they can add having their director as a neighbor to their list of nightmares. Here’s a list of the apartment troubles we did have to deal with and the ones our director is probably currently struggling with. Maybe he’ll actually fix them now that they’re his problem. Read more

Stop It America!

This one goes out to a lovely friend who’s about to repatriate to the States after a couple years teaching English in Korea. We’ve been messaging back and forth telling each other about our plans and recently I got a message from her that said I’m the only ray of light; the only positive person amongst negative voices that tell her not to leave “the safety net of Korea.” I just have to put my foot down and say STOP IT AMERICA! Read more

Frozen and Frizzy in Korea

cold and cranky
Frizzy hair and unrelenting cold makes me cranky!

I’m cold. Not in an emotional way, I’m physically cold right now. We just moved to Squaw Valley and I kinda forgot how cold spring is in the mountain areas. So what do I do? I put on more layers. I’m sitting around in leggings, sweatpants, a long-sleeve shirt, a fuzzy-fleece and slippers. As I chill here (pun intended) all bundled up, I am reminded of our winter days in Korea and my problems of fashion versus warmth. I’m practical, so warmth won every time. But still, I couldn’t help but compare myself to my Korean counterparts.

cold korea
A typical winter outfit for me. I still felt cold despite my puffy marshmallow look.

Korean women are incredibly stylish. They run around in stilettos all day with flawless hair and makeup, toting designer bags while sporting fashionable outfits. Amazingly they don’t seem to be affected by weather unlike myself. In the winter they wear the tiniest mini-skirts with only a layer of pantyhose and a thin jacket protecting them from the harsh weather outside. During my winter in Korea, I gawked at every skinny Korean girl that ran by me oblivious to the freezing temperatures. I was layered in long underwear, jeans, a down jacket, earmuffs, and a massive scarf and could still feel the cold. How do they do it?

Conversely, in the summertime, Korean girls are able to wear long-sleeve shirts and pants and not lose a single drop of sweat. Meanwhile, my hair frizzes out, I drip with sweat and I struggle to maintain an image of being cool and serene. It’s not easy to stand next to Korean women with their impeccable style and inability to sweat. It’s actually downright frustrating. In the winter I looked rotund in my down jacket and in the summer my head looked like a schvitzing frizz-ball, while the girls around me looked trim, fashionable, and pulled together year-round. Read more

6 Key Things to Look for in a Korean Teaching Contract

letter from student
If you teach English in South Korea, then you too could get funny notes like this one. I received this from a student shortly before leaving Seoul.

I’ve gotten enough emails regarding what to look for in a Korean teaching contract that I’ve decided it’s time to write a post about it. I’ve previously written posts about how to find and get a job teaching English abroad, but none were specific to Korea. Here are six things to look for in your contract: Read more

Getting Paid While Traveling: The Low Down on Teaching English Abroad

Please visit How To Travel For Free (or pretty damn near it!) to read my post comparing my experiences in Thailand and Korea. While you’re there take a look around. They’ve got great tips on traveling cheaply on their blog. They also sell an e-book if you want to know more.

How to Get a Job Teaching English in South Korea

Step 1: Pick a Place

The first thing you want to do after you’ve decided you want to teach in South Korea is choose a location. If you don’t have a specific city in mind, think about whether you want to be in a small town or large city. If you don’t particularly care where you end up, that’s okay, you just need to make sure you are somebody who can be happy in any type of setting.

Changdeok Palace in Seoul

Step 2: Find a Recruiter

Teaching English in South Korea is a huge business and there are many recruiters out there who will help you find a job. I recommend finding a couple recruiters and having them both try to find jobs for you. It’s best not to depend on just one recruiter.

One way to find a recruiter is by going to Dave’s ESL Café. Look through the forums and message boards and try to find a recruiter with some good reviews. Then all you have to do is email them!

Step 3: Tell Them What You Want

Make it clear to your recruiter(s) what you want. If you are trying to find a job with your significant other, make sure the recruiter understands that you want to live together in the same apartment. This is totally possible and is not as difficult to find as some might lead you to believe. Are you set on living in a specific city? If so, tell your recruiter that that city is the only place in South Korea you will move to. Also let them know whether or not you want to teach in a public or private school.

Step 4: Get Organized

Your recruiters will do the job search for you. While you wait for them to find you some interviews, you should start getting your paperwork together. The South Korean government is constantly adding new things to the list of documents you need, as of now, you need a:

  • Valid Passport (make sure it will last at least one year from your estimated departure date)
  • Resume
  • Copy of Your University Diploma Notarized and Apostilled
  • An FBI Criminal Background Check Notarized and Apostilled (these can take a long time to process so do this ASAP!)
  • Two Sealed Official Transcripts
  • Passport Size Photos
  • Pre-Employment Self Health Check

Your recruiter will inform you if there have been any changes to this list and exactly what you will need.

Step 5: Interview

Once your recruiter finds a school they think you might like, they will set up an interview for you. This is not just the school’s chance to chat with you and make sure you aren’t a nutcase, but it is also an opportunity for you to feel out what kind of school you could be potentially teaching at. Interviews are not typically long. They will ask you a few questions about yourself and why you want to come to South Korea and then they will ask you if you have any questions. It is always good to ask a couple questions. This is not a good time to discuss things like money, your recruiter will negotiate that for you. You can ask about the curriculum, the daily schedule, class size, etc. And don’t forget to ask for the email address of a current foreign teacher at the school. That is incredibly important!

Step 6: Decisions Decisions

Don’t rush into things. If something doesn’t sound right or feel right, don’t let your recruiter convince you otherwise. You will be signing a year-long contract and you want to make sure everything is the way you want it. Your school should pay for your housing, if they do not, keep looking. Salaries range from 1.9-2.3 million won. If you have teaching experience or a teaching degree you will be offered the higher end of that range and if you don’t have experience or a relevant degree you will be offered the lower end of that spectrum. Also, ask your recruiter for pictures of where you would be living.

Make sure you get the email of another foreign teacher working at the school. Ask them all of your questions. Important questions include:

  • Do you get paid on time?
  • How many people have left before their contract was over?
  • Do you enjoy your day-to-day life at this school?
  • How many other foreign teachers are there at the school? (The more the better. This can be a good indicator of how well the school is doing. A school with only a two foreigners might not be a very strong school.)
  • How many sick days do they give you?
  • How many vacation days do you get?
  • How is the medical insurance at the school?
  • How long is your commute to school?
  • How well did the school stick to your contract?
  • Did they pay for your flight and if not, did they reimburse you quickly?

These are some really important questions. Unfortunately there are many cases where recruiters leave out some serious details or try to flat out lie to foreigners looking to teach in South Korea. Recruiters get paid for finding you and getting you to sign a contract, that is their first mission. Don’t let them push you into a contract you don’t feel comfortable with. The best way to avoid this problem is by directly asking a foreign teacher who is already teaching at the school. Make sure you are confident that you are sending yourself into a good situation.

Step 7: Applying for a Visa

Applying for a visa is the last step in this process…other than boarding a plane and leaving. Your recruiter will give you all the information you need to apply for your visa. Before you can apply, you will have to sign a contract and the school you will be teaching at will have to submit your information to the immigration office in Korea. Once they have done that, you will be given the information you need to successfully apply for a visa. You cannot apply for a visa before the school submits your information.

Check out my other posts for more information on teaching abroad:

Teaching Abroad Part 1: Getting Started

Teaching Abroad Part 2: The Search

Teaching Abroad Part 3: Questions to Ask Before You Sign a Contract

Teaching Abroad Part 4: How to Pack for a Year