Koreans refer to it as the Hawaii of South Korea and while there are many differences between the islands, the sentiment is clear – Jeju Island is a very nice place. During my first twelve months of teaching English in Daegu, many of my students told me that their dream place to visit in the whole world was Jeju island. Despite this, I never went. I left South Korea after twelve months having never visited Jeju and thinking full well that I never would. Fast forward a couple of years and I met a lovely young lady – oh, how they change things – who was offered a job teaching English in Seogwipo, Jeju Island. Very unexpectedly I found myself returning to Korea. Daegu was a city of 2.5 million people and while I enjoyed my time there, I very much wished not to return because my life had taken a new path. Fortunately I had returned to somewhere completely new – a place I couldn’t have ever imagined existing in Korea.
I arrived in Daegu knowing nothing about it except that it had a population of around 2.5 million people. It wasn’t that there wasn’t information available on the internet, it was simply that I chose not to research where I was going. After a skiing accident in France in which I broke my back, I had come to the decision that my next step in life would be to teach English in South Korea for a year. Coming from a small village of a few hundred people, my main requirement was that I didn’t want to live in Seoul, a city with a metropolitan population of 25 million people, simply because it was very big.
One of the best parts of teaching English abroad is getting the opportunity to go on culinary adventures and try unique foods. This can certainly still be the case for vegetarians, but it does require a bit more care and stealth when trying to figure out just what ingredients are in different dishes. In South Korea, this challenge is particularly prevalent. As a carnivore’s paradise, South Korean cuisine is almost entirely centered around meat, seafood, and rice, and oftentimes it can be hard to distinguish what is what. To top this off, a lot of the vegetable side dishes are coated in gochujang, a red chili paste that often has traces of fish bits in it. Dining out alone can also be a challenge, as meals at restaurants are almost always served family style, with large pots and bowls of various dishes making up a spread across the table. This makes it pretty hard to go out to eat with a group of people, especially if you are the lone vegetarian. In this article, I will tell you how to thrive as a vegetarian when teaching English in South Korea.
The first reason to teach English in South Korea is that it is very easy to get a job, especially if you’re a first-time teacher. Learning English is mandatory in South Korean public schools, meaning there is a huge demand for native speakers to teach. English is highly valued in their culture as well, to the extent that almost every child attends an after-school English academy in addition to participating in regular class at school. This allows potential teachers to have a variety of options when it comes to choosing a teaching job in South Korea. The requirements are also pretty basic. Legally, you must have a bachelors degree, but your major is irrelevant. Employers are more interested in you being a native speaker. However, the public school program (EPIK) recently passed a new law stating that any teacher who’d like to be considered must have a 120-hour TESOL certificate or higher qualification. Private academies (or ‘Hagwons’) get to make their own rules and decisions regarding this. Below are 9 more reasons to teach English in South Korea!
I wanted to teach English abroad ever since I started university. I was young when I started my degree and I wanted to travel before I settled in my career. I didn’t have much money to go abroad for a long period of time, so I needed to find a teach abroad program that paid well. Initially, EPIK wasn’t even among my top 10 choices. After I learned more about South Korea and the EPIK program, I was so determined to get the job that I even took some Korean classes in my last year of university. These are the top 3 reasons to teach English in South Korea with EPIK.
The first thing I learned about teaching Business English in South Korea is how much grammar my students knew. The English language proficiency in Korea is very high because the government invests a lot of money in the EPIK public school program to teach English to their citizens from an early age. My Business English students were mostly in their late 30’s and many had spent a lot of time in the USA and Canada, where they took their IELTS test. My students’ grammar was very good, but they weren’t very confident with their speaking skills. The TESOL certification course I completed with OnTESOL prepared me to succeed in the Business English classroom because it taught me to prepare a syllabus that was specific for my students.
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When I found out I would be working with a co-teacher I was very excited, but also wary. Some of my friends had told me stories about standing in the corner of the room, only being called upon by their co-teacher to say something a few times per class, doing none of their own planning, or just running a game for the last ten minutes of class. This can and does happen. In many other cultures it is important to be incredibly respectful to your elders and your superiors. It would be a terrible faux-pas to undermine an older (even if they are just a few years older) co-teacher. You must handle the situation with the utmost of tact or leave it as it is.
Since coming to South Korea, I have had the opportunity to work both with and without a co-teacher. I worked mostly on my own during the first semester here in Korea, but this semester I have a proper co-teacher with whom I share an office and work side by side for all of our classes. Both of these situations have their own benefits and challenges. My experience allows me to compare them closely and help you prepare for your teaching experience at EPIK ! In the first part of this blog series I will talk about teaching solo in South Korea.
-OnTESOL offers the most recognized TESOL certification in South Korea!-
Class sizes can vary dramatically in South Korea. Many teachers are placed in rural areas where they work at schools with less than twenty children in total, and class sizes of only three or four students. You could also end up working at a city school with hundreds of students, where the average class size is 30 students. It is difficult to anticipate which situation you will find yourself in until you arrive at your destination and get your placement. In this article, I will talk about teaching small classes.
I was very lucky to get an EPIK placement in Seogwipo, Jeju Island. If you are teaching English on the mainland, you should definitely make a point of checking out Jejudo. It is the top honeymoon destination in Asia, and is often compared to Hawaii (though in the winter that comparison falls pretty flat). Jeju Island has been named one of the new seven natural wonders of the world because of its many unique natural characteristics. Jejudo is the place to go for hiking, water sports, and scenery. It’s perfectly suited to anyone who loves the outdoors, and is an excellent getaway from the fast paced lifestyle of mainland Korea.