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Jack in South Korea – his first-hand account

September 22, 2017

Jack studied the Cambridge CELTA with ELTS in July 2016, and has been kind enough to send an account of his first job in Korea and a lot of interesting pictures. Here are his thoughts on the experience – and as you can read, a rewarding and productive time:

After some visa trouble and having been awake for almost 30 hours (to anyone who can sleep on flights I salute you) I arrived at Incheon international airport to begin a new life here in South Korea. Still though, I needed to get to my city. I arrived in Daegu the morning after, still tired, and met the EPIK co-ordinater for the city.  She took me to the regional office where I would meet my new co-workers for at least the next year. Nervous? Yes, but excited and in all honesty I was so tired I couldn’t concentrate on much else other than staying awake.

I had started my application in November and it was now March. The process to apply for the EPIK program here in Korea is rather long winded but for those of us who have gone through any CELTA program it is a breeze. A lesson plan, a Skype interview both a relative ease. The paperwork after is the tricky part but nothing so hard as to be called strenuous.

I was now told where my new schools would be, taken to my new apartment, around 10 mins from downtown Daegu and 5 from the schools and also shopping with some of my new co-workers. They told where to report to during the week and what they would like me to teach for my first lesson. Was I nervous? Maybe, but in all honesty I just wanted first to go to bed and then start teaching!

The first day at my new school was a plethora of excited 6-12 year old Korean children occasionally mitigated by a curious teacher asking where I was from or telling me “Handsome boy”. Being from the UK every time I heard these words I died a little on the inside, complements are scary.  I met the principle to the tone of some bad Korean on my part and “handsome boy” on hers. This was it, time to start my life here in Korea and, so far, it’s been 놀랄 만해요!!!

I work for the office of education here in Daegu and was recruited through EPIK. EPIK puts teachers into public schools all over the country from the big city to the smallest village school. I work in the city of Daegu, in fact the hottest city in Korea which I found out only after I got here! I teach 24 lessons a week to children from age 8-11 but I have friends who teach in middle schools, some high schools as well as English centers. I always teach alongside a Korean co-teacher. They have been great to work along side and all of the teachers I work with are incredibly friendly and knowledgeable. 

For the 1st year teachers here you earn a minimum $2000 dollars and then depending on experience where you live and qualifications you can go up to $2700 a month. Cost of living here is really low I find myself being able to save at least 1/3 of this even on months I have been travelling every weekend. Bills are around $40 a month and the only really expensive thing here is fruit which is a minor annoyance compared to what one gets back.

Living here in Korea has been *insert superlative here*.  I really can’t describe the fun I’m having. I am involved with sports teams and volunteer with north Korean defectors. I take Korean classes twice a week and go to language exchanges on Saturdays. I travel a lot, at least 2 weekends in every month and have been lucky enough to meet many wonderful locals and expats that live here. The food is great the people are, in the most part, friendly and the weather here has been wonderful; however I’m yet to experience winter and have been told it gets down to -12.

It can’t all be roses and not everyone here gets the same experience I get. There are lots of private schools here that don’t offer the same benefits the public schools do and the holidays are not as good. With regards to EPIK and the public schools you spend a lot of the school holidays ‘desk warming’ as you yourself only get 2 weeks off in summer and winter whereas the kids are off for 1/2 months. So, if you’re not teaching camps you will be sitting at your desk all day. Keeping in touch with home is also an annoyance with time zones and work schedules I can call once a week if I’m lucky. Also and worst of all……AMERICAN ENGLISH!

All in all though so far I have loved my time here. I hope I can persuade a few more people to join me because I can not talk highly enough of my time here! I’ve liked it so much I’ll be signing on for another year even if I have to play “soccer” for a few more months.

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