Teaching in South Korea pt. 1

My junior year of college, I decided I wanted to try living overseas. I had heard some stories on YouTube of people teaching English, and it interested me a lot. I grew up a “military brat,” but hadn’t been overseas in almost ten years. Quite a few people around me thought I was crazy, but they had never even been outside of the state, let alone the country.

I transferred colleges to give myself better opportunities, and began researching various ways I could live overseas. I was interested in returning to Japan, and even spoke to one of my professors who had actually worked in the JET program for a few years. He told me to look into, offering to write a recommendation letter for my application packet.

Whilst researching JET, I discovered a few programs in South Korea. I had lived there for four years as a child, but couldn’t remember much. My father told me he had actually considered Seoul his favorite duty station, cementing the decision.

I would have a bachelor’s degree by the time I went, but I didn’t have any teaching certification. Thus, I couldn’t apply for EPIK. Instead, I applied for the TaLK program. All you need is two years of college courses. That’s it! The catch, you will work at a rural school. EPIK teachers work in both rural and metropolitan areas, but TaLK is exclusively rural.

The application process is relatively easy.  I applied for the fall intake, so the timeline will vary. Everyone’s experience is different. A couple forms, the tax exemption and national background check, can take up to three months to receive. However, you don’t need them right away. You can apply for the program, and submit the national background check later. The tax exemption form is for you give your school later.

I applied almost right after the began accepting applications. Perhaps a couple weeks after my initial application, the Korean Education Center in D.C. called me to schedule an interview with the director. I had passed the first round!!!

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I remember shaking from nerves and excitement in the student center. I live just outside of D.C., so I preferred having my interview in person. I believe it’s easier for the interviewer to judge your body language, and for the interviewee to maintain eye-contact.

The interview with the director, I felt, was actually easier. She was very nice, and the questions seemed to be basic follow-up questions. Did I know any Korean, what did I know about the TaLK program, why did I want to apply.  The only issue I ran into, was in regards to my lesson plan. It was much too advanced for elementary school students in a rural school. I thought for sure that meant I wouldn’t get in! I stayed up until 2 o’clock the next morning making a new lesson plan.

Mid-April, I received an email from the TaLK office to schedule my Skype interview! It was very nerve-wracking, and lasted almost an hour. I just about broke down when I discovered my step-mother’s laptop wouldn’t pick up any sound. My little brother tried to turn on his Xbox and download Skype, but he only had his gaming headset, which isn’t exactly professional ha-ha!! Thankfully, my headphones worked on my step-mom’s computer, so there weren’t any issues.

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The questions Mr. Woo asked me were wide-raging. From my experience living alone, to what foreign foods I liked. He also gave me a few teaching scenarios, gauging my reactions and proposed solutions. What would I do if students fought in my classroom? What if I showed up to work, only to find out the school was closed?

I received my tentative acceptance offer around the first week of June, and I don’t think I’ve ever run down a flight of stairs so quickly. My father, who was in the kitchen, thought someone had died ha-ha! I shoved my phone in his face, “LOOK AT THIS!!!” We were both in shock for a few days, but I was actually going to move to South Korea.

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I had a couple European trips planned, so most of my packing didn’t take place until mid-July. Two weeks before I would leave. I bought everything I would need, and left the packing for when I returned from Italy. I was home for MAYBE three weeks during the summer. That was stressful, but I was blessed to be able to travel so much then.

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TaLK has a list of recommended clothing/items each Scholar should pack with them. Contracts are given every six-months, so there isn’t much of a commitment. You can take as little, or as much, as you wish. TaLK does reimburse plane tickets, but they won’t reimburse overage fees. So if your suitcase is too heavy, you won’t be refunded. You also receive a settlement allowance of five hundred dollars, if your apartment is already fully furnished you can use this money to buy personal items you couldn’t bring with you. However, I did bring a thousand dollars of my own money with me. Thank god I did, my apartment was empty when I moved in.

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Since this post is getting lengthy, I will end with my flight over. Next time, I will discuss the month long orientation, and my move in day!

If you have any questions about the application packet, check me out on fb!


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