Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Day 9: How to teach English in Korea (with EPIK)

First off, big news: I booked my flights to Italy!! HURRAY!! I'm officially going February 20-March 2! I'm pretty pleased with the prices of the flights and stuff, although EasyJet was kind of a pain because they wouldn't let me use my US debit card as a debit and instead I had to select "MasterCard Credit" (which made the final total $3 more due to their credit card fees boo). But anyway, it's now booked! I can't believe I'm going to Italy!!!!!!!!

Buongiorno Colosseo!

Also one of my friends here in France is going to be in Naples and visit Pompeii with me which is exciting. I will have someone to take pictures of me! I rarely travel with other people so this should be interesting and fun.

Anyway, today I wanted to talk about getting a job with EPIK, the English Program in Korea. I taught in Korea from August 2011-August 2012. It was definitely an interesting experience with pros and cons, but I'm glad I did it anyway, even if I didn't always love it. I met lots of wonderful people who I'm now lucky to call good friends, which is securely in the PRO column.

Getting colorful at a Holi celebration in Busan, Korea, with my friend Tegan

BTW, before you ask, yes, it's SOUTH Korea.

So, I know the application process has changed a bit since I applied so I'll try to take that into account but I may not know everything that's different. The best source of information would be directly from EPIK. However, I will go over my own person experience in applying, which is from an American perspective (Canadians, Brits, Irish, South Africans, Australians, and New Zealanders can also apply though).

First, EPIK has intakes generally in February and August. I did the August one, so my dates will correspond to that intake but I will put (x months before) so you can work out the dates if you are interested in doing February instead. I started the process of applying in January. Yes, you have to plan that far in advance.


  • Apply for your criminal background check as soon as possible when you know you want to apply for EPIK. In the US, this will be done through the FBI and the whole process can take 2-3 MONTHS for it to come back. Filing for this late and delaying your application like this can cause you to be placed somewhere you don't want, or not be placed at all if they are full.
  • Once you get your background check back, then you must send it off AGAIN and get it apostilled. Every state Secretary of State's office as well as the US Department of State does apostilles, but most states will only apostille state documents. The Feds will definitely only apostille national documents. Therefore, you will probably have to send it to DC to get the apostille attached. If you're wondering what the hell an apostille is, it's basically a document based on an international convention that will certify, to another country's government, that it's an official government document from your country, and hasn't been forged or falsified. Yeah, complicated. 
  • You will also need to get your university diploma apostilled. For me, this was really easy. First, I made a copy of my diploma (NEVER apostille the original diploma; those things are expensive to replace!!), had a notary public notarize the diploma copy saying it was a true and original copy of my diploma. (Note: the notary public service was provided free at my university's records department even though I'd already graduated; check with your school to see if they do this.) Then, I drove to my state capitol and went to the Secretary of State's office and they attached an apostille to it for the astounding sum of $5. Other than the drive of about an hour, it took all of 5 minutes in the office. Each state is different though, so call your state's SOS office to check. Some offices may require you to mail the document or make an appointment as they may not take walk-ins. 
  • Other things you'll need are two letters of recommendation (scholastic/professional sources only), 2 original sealed transcripts from your university, and a copy of your passport photo page. It's also greatly to your benefit if you have a TEFL certificate. I did an online one that cost $190 which bumped me up in salary and gave me an extra 200,000 won (about $180) a month. So basically after the first month working, it's paid for itself and the I profited the rest of the months. ** Note: if you have a master's degree in any subject, a bachelor's degree in English, Education, or Linguistics, or a teaching license in your home country, you do NOT need the TEFL certificate for this pay bump. You already qualify. 
  • Preliminary applications (just the application form with letters of rec) are accepted starting April 1, and I submitted mine April 3. 
SO MUCH PAPERWORK.

Next, if you application is accepted, then you will have a phone or Skype interview within a week or two of notification. Due to the time difference this may be at midnight or some other strange time for you. I also happened to have mine on the worst day of tornadoes Alabama has ever had, April 27, and I lost power at my apartment during the interview! Fortunately, I was on my phone, not my computer, so it didn't disrupt my interview. 

You will receive an email officially accepting you 2-10 days after your phone interview if you pass. I got mine May 2. Once you receive this, you'll be invited to send in the remainder of the paperwork asked for. By this point, you should have all your paperwork, including FBI background check with apostille, ready to send ASAP. I FedEx'd my documents to Korea a few days later, and they were received May 12. 

After they receive your documents.... it's a long wait. I finally received notification that I was placed in Busan on June 20, about 5 weeks later. A few days later, I booked my flights for August. They tell you not to book until after you receive your contract and/or apply for your visa, but I was too impatient to wait. 8 days after the email, June 28, I got another asking me to confirm my mailing address so they could send me the contract and notice of appointment for getting the visa. I received the documents around July 1. 

Once you have that, you can then apply for your visa. You can mail in your information or go in person. I chose to go in person because my consulate was in Atlanta, which isn't far from where I live. It took about half an hour total, including wait time, when I arrived. I received my passport back through the mail 3 days later. 

A nice shiny new E-2 visa for Korea.

Finally, when you have your visa all taken care of, you pretty much just have to sit tight and wait to leave. I had about 3 weeks left once I received my passport back. I finished up my TEFL course, stressed over packing (and of course ended up packing too much), and had a goodbye party with friends and family. I left on August 15, spent 2 days in Seoul and then went to orientation starting August 18. 

Phew! So, that's the application process for Korea. 

As you can see from today's and yesterday's posts, getting a job abroad involves LOTS of dead trees. But, I wouldn't trade the paperwork for anything, because once you get there, it's worth it. Teaching/working abroad is one of the best ways to travel. Not only are you experiencing a different culture in daily life, but during holidays you have the chance to travel with that money you've made at your job too. While in Korea, I was able to travel to Thailand, Cambodia, and Japan; while in France, I've been to England twice, and planning to go to Italy (see beginning of post) and Germany this spring. 

I am planning to write a post about the pro's and con's of actually being a teacher abroad next time. Some things about it may surprise you. Stay tuned for that! :)

One last note: there are other ways of teaching in Korea that do not involve EPIK. They include teaching at a hagwon (a private after-school academy), teaching in public schools by applying directly through the Office of Education in that district, and teaching in Korean universities. I have friends that have done all of these, but I don't know much about them myself. I can, however, recommend you read Waegook Tom's blog as he works in a hagwon currently. He's also the go-to guy for advice about LGBT issues in Korea too. If you'd like to read some more blogs about Korea, try Audrey at That Backpacker, and Sheryll at The Wanderlust Project.  Or, my friend Hannah

See you soon!
xx Kaylin


(Pictures: 1- wikipedia; 2- mine; 3-carcrashpain.com; 4- takemeout2night248.wordpress.com)

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