Teach in Asia|October 19, 2011 8:46 am

Teaching in Korea: How to Ensure a Great Experience

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Teaching in Korea can be a wonderful, uplifting, eye-opening experience, or it can be a total nightmare. Which way it goes for you depends very much on how you plan your stay overseas. This post is going to tell you 3 things you must do to ensure that you have a great experience while teaching in Korea.

1. Choose a City

I have met lots of English teachers in Korea who live out in the countryside. Some like it. Some don’t. But they all have one thing in common; they let their recruiters decide which city they were going to live in. This is a bad idea. Why? Mostly because some people simply can’t handle living outside of Seoul or Buson. Others can’t stand to be in them!  For the former, the problem is that the number of other Western people, Western food, Western-sized clothing, and  all other things Western, decreases rapidly as these cities become part of the horizon as you look out the back window of the bus you’re taking out of town.

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For the latter, the high concentration of all things Western ruins their “authentic” overseas experience. What do you think? Do you want be in Seoul where you can get everything from a beef burrito to a boyfriend from Bulgaria? Or do you want live out in the countryside where you’ll be forced to learn the Korean language, make Korean friends, and take part in Korean customs. Neither experience is necessarily better than the other, but each is wildly different from the other. So, to ensure that your teaching in Korea experience is a good one, tell your recruiter exactly where you want to live, and resist their attempts to place you elsewhere.

2. Hold Out For the Position You Want

When teaching in Korea, you have several different workplace opportunities to choose from. For example, it has been mandated by law that every public school in Korea must have a native-speaking English teacher, which means there are lots of these public school jobs available. These jobs are stable, secure, and they pay a pretty uniform wage. These are standard 9 to 5 jobs. There are other English teaching jobs in what are called hagwons. These jobs typically offer higher salaries and fewer working hours, but they also tend to be less stable than government jobs.

In addition, you can find jobs teaching in major corporations, like Samsung, LG, and Hyundai. You can teach kindergarden students, adults, and everything in between. Think about this carefully. Could you handle teaching kindergarten-aged children every day? I would not survive in that atmosphere, as I don’t do particularly well with small children. What about you? Which type of Korean English teaching experience are you looking for? Kids? Adults? Public schools? Private schools? Corporate instruction? Given the fact that you’ll be teaching Korea for at least a year, this is an important decision to make.

3. Get Yourself Some Training

There are two reasons to get some TEFL training before teaching in Korea. First, the flailing economies of the West are driving thousands of young people to Korea to teach English. You’ll be competing for work with them and all of the regulars who have been teaching in Korea for years. Having a TEFL certificate may make the difference between getting the job you want and losing out to someone more qualified. If you’re unsure about these certificates, just check out this free trial.

Second, the training is quite useful. Being a native English speaker doesn’t mean that you know how to teach English as a second language. 5 years ago this didn’t really matter, as teachers were so hard to find. Now, though, qualified teachers abound, and you’ll be expected to get results from your students. In addition, learning about teaching methodologies, classroom management, lesson plan designing, and ESL grammar builds your confidence and improves your ability to do your job.

Final Thoughts

Teaching in Korea can be a great experience or a horrible one, depending on how you plan your experience. To ensure a great Korean teaching experience, choose a city where you’ll be happy. Choose a working environment where you’ll be comfortable, and get yourself some TEFL training before applying for jobs.

Best of luck to you. and if you have any questions about teaching in Korea, just place it in the comments section below. Or, if you prefer, click on the “contact us” button above and send me an email.

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