11 July 2010

Part I: Becoming an English Teacher Abroad

A dream of mine for many years now is seemingly soon to be fulfilled as I dot my i's and cross all the t's of my application to teach English in Korea. This highly pursued career of all wanderlust careers is crystal clear, or it at least seemed that way. Of course one would expect the lengthy application and visa process, but who would have thought to refer to a time line of important events, deadlines if you will... wait, what are the deadlines? That's precisely what I should have asked myself many months ago when I started laying the foundation for the mental commitment to a one-year teaching contract. But silly me, I had no clue, so now it's my job to clue you in, the next potential teacher of English.

Things You Should Know

If you are planning to teach in South Korea:

The public schools of South Korea hire new teachers to begin their contracts twice a year, once in March, and once in September. From what I hear the latter is the main hiring event. Now for the time line... This means you will need to arrive in-country for orientation about two weeks prior, so mid-February and mid-August respectively. Additionally, this puts the date your application is due roughly two months before the orientation, so mid-December and mid-June, respectively. But don't let these dates fool you, if you're serious about your intentions, its best to submit your materials at least one-two months before the deadline.

What materials are needed to apply?

Well firstly, you should have or plan to get very soon, your passport. If you don't have one, this probably means you have not traveled extensively, which should not discourage you, but it will be a factor in the hiring process; the more time you've spent abroad, the better. Second, the application itself. You will be filling out a 6-8 page EPIK application. That's short for English Program in Korea, www.epik.go.kr and is the hiring team for all the English teachers in the public school system. Third, you will be asked about your location preferences. If you want to teach in Seoul, you will also fill out the SMOE, or Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education application to be considered as a teacher in the capital city. Just be forewarned, this application includes a lesson plan sample, and if it's your first lesson plan, I suggest using resources such as Dave's ESL Cafe, www.daveseslcafe.com, a site that is practically indispensable for ESL teachers around the world. And finally, your initial EPIK application requires submitting two letters of recommendation. This can be challenging for many people, even seasoned teachers, to find appropriate references, and furthermore, for these references to find the time to write something that's going to get you hired. It is perfectly acceptable to write your own draft, having your references edit, sign, and return a scanned PDF to you to include in your application materials.

What's next?

Now you simply wait for a response from EPIK. I returned my application mistakenly one week past the deadline and I heard back from them about three weeks later. I am assuming because I have a TESOL certification. Now I suppose you're itching to know about certifications? I'll leave that business to the next installment of "Becoming an English Teacher Abroad"

What about private schools?

Private schools, also known as hagwons, hire throughout the year. There are so many hagwons it may be impossible to sort through the job listings and find the one that's appropriate for you. I suggest going through a recruiter. There are many to choose from, but do your research and don't be afraid to call the recruiter and speak to a real person about the process. I also suggest reading through the teacher forums on Dave's ESL Cafe. Many people use them as a way to vent about their employers, but it is a good way to connect to current and past teachers and get your specific questions answered.

If you have any burning questions, I would be happy to respond on twitter @travelminded