Are you considering a year of teaching in South Korea? I can’t recommend it highly enough. But here are a few things to consider before signing that contract.
Make sure you have a reputable agent. It is easy to click on the hundreds of job adds looking for teachers and offering great benefits. But be wary. There are people out there who will take advantage of someone with little or no experience. A good idea for starting out is to sign up with GEPIK or SMOE two reputable programmes for native English teachers.
Be careful of Hagwons, if you know that you want to work for a private kindergarten make sure you spell out exactly what you expect to your agent. If you have read about my initial experience in South Korea you will know why this is so important. You don’t want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere.
If you have teaching experience, CELTA/TEFL or a teaching degree make sure you demand more money than the advertisement. Most places advertise for teachers with no experience and offer around 2.0 – 2.1 million won. If you have the credentials you are worth more than this and can get up to 2.5 if you know how to negotiate.
Acquaint yourself with a Seoul subway map and do some calculations. If you know you want to be close to the centre of Seoul or to where your friends are, make sure you choose a school within reasonable distance of these areas.
Ask to have the email or skype address of a teacher currently working at the school. There is no better way to enquire than from someone who has experienced everything first hand.
Demand photos of the apartment you will be living in and make sure the school or organisation has the apartment well furnished. I knew a few girls who were plonked in terrible apartments full of mould and with very little furniture. (Yes I slept on the floor the night I arrived)
Be clear about the hours you are expected to work. There are many jobs which may require you to do split shifts i.e. very early hours and very late nights. If you are ok with this then go for it. But if this is not what you were expecting then speak up. Most public schools will require you to work 9 – 6. Hagwon hours can be better or worse it all depends. My first job was 9.30 – 4. Find out about weekends, some schools may require you to work one Saturday a month.
Ultimately just make sure you are given as much information as you need to satisfy your concerns so you will not be met with any nasty surprises upon your arrival.