Tuesday, May 20, 2008

How to Find a Job in Korea

So my real reason for creating this blog was to chronicle the entire process of going to Korea to teach English. Remember at the point that I'm writing this, I haven't yet left for Korea. Today is May 19th. I've been officially accepted to work at Sogang Language Program (SLP) in Seongdong-gu, Seoul. I will be heading over to Korea mid-July to start training to start teaching for the August term. More about my school later though.

I'd like to explain here about how I found my school and what some other options are that I chose not to do.

I connected to my school through a recruiting agency called Gone2Korea (www.gone2korea.com). There are many recruiting agencies out there, most of them offer similar services. Essentially, a Korean school pays them to find western teachers for their schools. For this reason they should not be charging your for their services. With Gone2Korea, I just filled out a small form on their website, and from there they did all the rest of the work. Within 24 hours I had a phone call from a very nice guy named James, who is based in Toronto. He conducted a quick interview with me, basically asked me why I want to go to Korea and what my expectations were as far as teaching goes, so that he could find a good school to match me with.

Most of the jobs out there are preschool and elementary school age, but there are some jobs teaching middle school, high school and adults. My main experiences have been with adults and university students, so I was hoping to work with older students. The problem with teaching adults is that it usually requires a split shift. Since most adults work all day, adult classes are usually offered early mornings and late in the evenings. That schedule I think would be a little much for me, especially since I'm not good at napping during the day.

Preschoolers range from Korean age 4-7 (international age 2-6), elementary ranges from grade 1-6 (age 8-13 years old, Korean age), Middle school grades 1-3 (ages 14-16 Korean age), High school grades 1-3 (ages 17-19 Korean age). Remember Korean age can be calculated starting from the day of birth as age 1, and adding another year when the new year turns. So, Korean age is one-two years older than international age.

Once we got through the general interview, James explained to me all the nitty gritty details about the immigration process that I would need to know. Some of these important details that I did not know about before were:
  • Make sure your name appears exactly the same on all your documents. For example, if your diploma says (for example) John Doe Smith, but your passport says John Smith, you may have a problem. Luckily, I did not have this problem, so I don't know what to tell you if you do encounter this. But I would definitely make sure that all the documents that you need to procure (transcripts, criminal background check, etc) are written with whatever name is written in your passport.
  • A health examination before leaving your country is not necessary, but might be helpful. It's not necessary, because your school will send you to a doctor once you get there to get probably any test you can think of done. The health form that you need to fill out for immigration is very, very basic. It's mostly just, do you have any disease that could pose a threat to public health (you know, HIV, Cholera, the Plague etc), list all the illicit drugs you've done in the past.. really no questions that you need a doctor to tell you... hopefully.
About two days after the interview, I got an e-mail telling me that they had found a school for me, and we scheduled an interview for the following week. Keep in mind that, because there is a 14 hour time difference between Korea and Eastern Standard Time, Interviews are generally conducted late at night, since that would be morning in Korea. Of course this would vary depending on whatever time zone you are in around the globe. My interview was on a Tuesday night at about 10:00 PM.

The interview I had was very simple, the girl interviewing me was another young American teacher at the school. I think the only question she asked me was why do you want to teach English in Korea. The rest of the hour we spent talking was just talking about the school, teaching curriculum, apartment situation and Seoul in general. She was very helpful, and honest I think for the most part about the school. From what I hear, teachers conducting interviews are pressured into sugar coating the school so that they can get teachers to come. Although, who knows, I haven't started working yet, maybe the school really is a dump, but I won't know that until I get there.

After that, I got in touch with the teacher that I would be replacing at the school. She had similar, mostly positive things to say about the school. I would definitely recommend speaking to at least two people from the school. Why? Because, if you only speak to the person you are replacing, you may get a biased opinion, since they may be trying to get out of their contract early, and can only do that once a replacement has been found. Of course they will tell you only good things about the school since they want to get out of there as soon as possible. I think it's also important to keep in mind, though, that a job is a job. Even in the US there are plenty of bad jobs or contract disputes. I've had plenty of bad jobs in the US to realize that the chances of me finding a dream job in Korea are pretty slim. Every job has its ups and downs.

So, after talking to those two people at the school, I was offered a contract, which I accepted. Keep in mind, for me, all communication was through Gone 2 Korea. I have not had any direct contact with the director of my school. Gone 2 Korea sent me all the necessary paperwork that needed to be filled out/ procured to be sent to my school in Korea to be sent to Korean Immigration.

Paperwork to be sent to Immigration
  • Photocopy of passport (color)
  • Criminal Background Check (CBC)
  • Notarized copy of diploma
  • Three passport sized photos
  • Signed contract
  • At least one copy of official sealed university transcripts
  • Health Statement

Paperwork needed at the consulate interview
  • One passport photo
  • Official Passport
  • Photocopy of Passport (color)
  • Visa application form
  • One set of sealed transcripts
  • Visa processing fee (money order or cash)
  • Copy of diploma
  • Photo copy of health statement
  • Photocopy of Criminal Background Check
  • Have the address and school's director available

I would like to go into detail here about a few of these that were a little confusing for me at the time.

Notarized Copy of Diploma- This (and the CBC) are a two step process. First you must get a photocopy of your diploma. Black and white should be sufficient. You must then have the photocopy notarized. You cannot bring your diploma to any notary public to be notarized. Probably the only place that your diploma can be notarized is at your university. My university has a member of the staff of the registrar's office who is a certified notary public who was able to notarize the diploma. My suggestion would be to contact someone from your university's registrar's office to decide the best way to notarize your diploma. I was lucky, because I live only a 5 minute drive from my school. You may have to have your notarized diploma mailed to you. This may also prove to be a difficult task, because once you obtain your notarized diploma, it must be sent to the secretary of state (of your state, not of the federal government) to get an apostille. An apostille, as far as I can tell, essentially authenticates the notary's signature. This may need to be done in the state where the notary is registered, so if you live in a state other than the one where you obtained your degree, you may have to mail your notarized diploma to the secretary of state of the state where your university is located. (secretary of state of the state sounds redundant, but I don't know of any better way to phrase it) Your university's notary may have more information regarding this, because this is not something I needed to worry about.

Criminal Background Check- This also needs to be notarized and receive an apostille from the secretary of state. A federal background check should not be necessary if you are from the US. I got a State background check from the state of Vermont (I'm a resident there until May 31st). It took about a week to receive. Make sure it has a notary's signature/seal.

University Transcripts- These need to be sealed and probably should have a stamp or signature across the seal. Since you can't see them, you should check with the registrar how the name appears on the transcripts. Make sure it appears the same as it appears on your passport. Most schools require two total, one for immigration and one for the consulate. My school required four, since the school wanted two copies for themselves.

Once you have all these documents ready, you will need to take it to FedEx or UPS (I think). There are only two carriers that have the capability to get your documents safely to Korea in a timely fashion. I had no idea how much it would cost to send one envelope with documents to Korea. It cost me about just over $50.00USD, which was way more than I thought it would be. I sent my documents priority, but for me, the economy option was actually more expensive than the priority (how does that work?). But, my documents got there with no problems. Oh, and also, when you go to FedEx, they will need to look up the neighborhood in Seoul (if you're going to Seoul) to send your package to. Keep in mind that there may be spelling differences between what the school gives you and what their system uses. Just do your best.

It takes up to a few weeks (although probably less time) for the paperwork to go through immigration. Once it goes through, you should receive a code which you will need to bring to the consulate. At this point, I have received my code, and I will be heading to the consulate in the next few weeks. I will update again once I get my visa with any tips for the consulate.

**school ages and Korean age information edited 4/4/2010

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