This past year in Korea has been unequivocally one of the best experiences I have ever had. It was not the easiest process for me to get here (more on that later), but every ounce of effort it took to get to Korea was all worth it. I’ve been interested in traveling to South Korea since I made my first Korean friends at the international middle and high school I attended. My sister was also in the Army and was stationed in Korea for 2.5 years. I had only heard good things about Korea and was ready to live abroad and experience a new culture. Early on in my senior year of college I met Don Kwon at a job fair. In hindsight, I don’t think I could have met a better, more organized and supportive recruiter than Don. I had so many questions about the application process and how to be successful for a year in Korea. Don answered all my questions right away and put me in contact with experienced English teachers in Korea who answered even more questions that I had.
As a foreign English teacher in Korea, you have the option to work at either a private academy or public school (please email me if you would like more information on this). Since I had attended small private schools my whole life, I decided to go the private school route with smaller class sizes, but longer hours. I told Don I would like to work in Seoul and shortly afterwards he got me an interview at a private school in Seoul. The phone interview went well, and a few days later I heard back from the school with a contract offer. I was very excited to be offered a teaching position at a private school in Seoul, and after reading through the contract thoroughly, I signed it and started to prepare for my year in Korea. I prepared all necessary documents the school required and sent them in the mail. I waited and waited to hear back, anxious to know if my documents arrived safely. I eventually found out the school had not received anything in the mail from me. I unfortunately did not have a tracking number on the package, so I had no idea where my package could be. The school then had no choice but to hire someone else since school was about to start and I wouldn’t be able to acquire all the documents again in time. I was absolutely devastated. I went from having a good teaching job in Seoul to nothing. I then started to question whether or not I was supposed to teach in Korea and that maybe it happened for a reason. I started to look and apply for other jobs, but my heart wasn’t in it. I then realized how much I truly wanted to teach English in Korea.
Luckily, Don is the best recruiter out there, and he didn’t give up on me after the school had to turn me away. He reached out to his recruiting partners in Korea and ended up finding a public middle school job in the countryside. I interviewed with the school and started the application process all over again. This time, I made sure every package I sent had a tracking number on it to ensure nothing would get lost in the mail. When I found out my school had received my documents in Korea, it was a very good day! This public middle school job probably could not have been more opposite than what I originally signed up for, but I believe it was the best thing that happened to me.
Before I moved to Korea I had no idea what to expect, having little to no teaching experience. I knew I was going to be the only foreign teacher at the school and I didn’t know how many people would be able to speak English. I was both nervous and excited. However once I arrived, I was so impressed with all the teachers who made an effort to speak with me in English. Everyone that I met at Namsa middle school was friendly and nice to me, and I couldn’t have been any happier teaching in that community. All of the student’s were also so great! Many of them welcomed me to the school and made me feel special to be their teacher every day. They would always say hi to me in the hallways and be very respectful. It made my first teaching experience very enjoyable!
My advice to you is to start completing all the required documents you need as soon as possible. I also recommend shipping all important documents with UPS or FedEx so you have a tracking number and are guaranteed nothing will get lost in the mail! Once you arrive at your school I found a smile goes a long way. Many Korean teachers get stressed out often, so as the foreign teacher who has less work, I always tried to stay positive and smile at my coworkers and students. At the end of the year everyone told me how much they would miss my smile and kindness towards everyone. The extra little effort you put in at your school will truly go a long way and will without a doubt leave you unforgotten.
None of this would have been possible without the help of Don Kwon and ESLjoblink. He is an expert at what he does, and has many valuable connections. I feel so fortunate to have had Don as my recruiter and strongly recommend him to anyone thinking about teaching English in Korea.
By Ellen Raaen, Business Marketing major, Concordia College, Class of 2012