Frequently Asked Questions
1. How much teaching experience do I need before I go? How lost will I be?
It’s true that education majors are most welcomed at schools, but reality can’t always meet the market’s needs. Many candidates don’t have any real teaching experience or formal training of teaching ESL students when they go to Korea to teach. If you’re a first time teacher with an unrelated major then ESL Job Link advises getting TEFL certified. Getting certified will greatly increase your chances of securing employment. Volunteering with public schools or after-school programs a couple of times a week before you go is also highly recommended.
2. Do I plan the lessons myself? If I do, how difficult is it?
At most schools they have all the class materials and lessons laid out for you. You have to make a monthly plan using their guides and curriculum materials. Some schools are different and require you to come up with activities yourself but at most places you do not have to.
3. Overall, how is living and working in South Korea?
It’s great living in a metropolitan city; there are always many things to do…shopping, eating out, exploring culture, and whatever else you like. You will find everything you can here and much more. Seoul is the social, fashion, and cultural hub of Asia. There are many foreigners in the city so you won’t have a problem making friends with people who speak English. Korean people are kind and always willing to help you out.
Working full-time there is also great. The benefits are great and you can make enough money to travel and go out a lot. Love teaching children and hard work are the keys to success in your workplace and you will soon be recognized as a best teacher from your school.
4. How will the kids in my classes be?
This is all up to you and what you make of it. It depends on how well you are able to manage their behavior in the classroom and how well you interact with children. Most of teachers rarely have a problem with any of them. Just remember that they are kids and they act crazy sometimes and will drive you crazy sometimes, but overall you will find most of them to be kind and respectful.
5. Can I use a cell phone there?
This is easily taken care of when you are there. Using your work visa, you can sign a contract or get a pre-pay phone. Some schools lease cell phones for their foreign teachers and teachers pay for their bills.
6. How much do I pay for utilities?
School will pay for rent and you are supposed to pay for utilities. Utilities normally cost you less than $100 per month.
7. What travel opportunities exist for vacation periods in Korea?
Some teachers explore Korea more thoroughly, but others use their vacation time to travel to different parts of Asia. Many of them seek tropical climates and time away from the hustle of the big city. Popular destinations are Thailand, Vietnam, The Philippines, China, and Japan. Flights can range from $300-$600 dollars. It can be very inexpensive to travel within those countries; however, Japan can be quite expensive to travel to.
8. What do I do for fun?
You can enjoy shopping, going to cafes and bars and going out to eat. There are many fitness centers in a city if you want to excise every day. If you like online computer games, the Internet speed is awesome in Korea. Mountain hiking is one of popular outdoor activities many teachers enjoy because there are many beautiful mountains every corner of Korea. Snowboarding and skiing are the sports that you would like to do in the winter.
9. How is saving money there? Can I open a bank account easily?
This depends on your spending habits. Some teachers save more than $1,000 a month. Yes, you can open a bank account easily at any Korean banks and also transfer money into your US banks cheaply. The exchange rate went down a lot this year and has become more stable than last year. You are advised to watch the markets closely and transfer money when the exchange rate goes down.
10. What are the apartments like?
The apartments are roughly twice the size of an average dorm room with a bathroom. They have a bed, a wardrobe, a gas stove, a microwave, a refrigerator, air conditioner, and a washing machine, etc. All the standard living amenities are included in the apartment. Your contract will stipulate what exactly is included in your apartment and each school will have slight variations on what’s included. They are usually located very close to your school.
11. When do you get health insurance coverage from school?
It will take approximately 1 month to get health insurance after you arrive at school. It’s up to you to buy a traveler’s health insurance before you go to Korea.
12. How much cash do I need to bring? Can I use credit cards there?
Generally speaking, you will not receive your first pay check or the Entrance Allowance (public schools only) until the end of the first month of the contract. You may need to exchange US dollar into Korean won before you go to Korea or bring about $500-$700 in cash to exchange at the airport or a bank near your school. Please don’t forget to take a couple of credit cards with you just in case. Since all public schools give you Settlement Money and some private schools Advance Money to help you settle down at the first month, you don’t need to bring too much cash with you.
13. Is South Korea safe? What kind of security concerns would I have to be aware of?
South Korea strictly prohibits the possession of guns and illegal drugs by laws. There are much fewer crimes derived from gun violence and drug use in Korea, compared with those in other western countries. However, traffic accidents are the ones that foreigners should be aware of.
14. Would the war between North Korea and South Korea break out in the near future?
South Koreans have lived peacefully more than five decades, after being separated from North Korea. Even if many westerners are concerned about North Korea’s recent military threats, the two Koreas haven’t had major military confrontations to threaten civilians’ everyday life since the Korean War that broke out six decades ago.
However, considering heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula, we feel obliged to advise all teachers through ESL Job Link to register with your embassy.
The U.S. Embassy keeps track of American citizens in South Korea and will contact you in case of any emergency. If there is any reason to be concerned, the embassy is the first place you and your parents should contact. Registering with your embassy is something you should always do.
Embassy of the United States of America
15. How many bags can I check in for free when I take a flight to Korea?
You may check in one or two bags for free and the weight of each baggage depends on your airline. Most airlines accept baggage up to a maximum of 50 pounds per piece. Please visit the website of your airline before you pack.