When I have told people that Shana and I will be heading over seas to teach English the most common question has been, “Where did you get an idea like that?” That question is accompanied with the occasional, “That is just crazy,” followed by some form of, “Do you speak Korean? How can you teach English without knowing any Korean?” I thought I would use the initial post for our blog to explain how we came to our decision and maybe answer a few other questions as well.
About December of 2011 Shana and I were planning for our big wedding in August 2012. We reached out to Shana’s aunt Rebecca and uncle Michael to see if they could make it to our wedding. Michael as it turns out married a Korean woman and runs an English school in a small Korean city called Mokpo. Rebecca was living in Portland but had just spent the last 5 years teaching English in Korea as well. We didn’t think too much of it at the time other than, “Well… they probably are not going to come to the wedding…”
Fast forward to nearly a year and a half later we started doing a little research about Korea and teaching English overseas. We attended a seminar in December 2012 and signed up for a TESOL certification course. This course gives you a basic understanding of teaching English as a second language as well as some basic guidance for curriculums construction and reviewing grammar. After the certification the rest is elementary. We just need to find a teaching job that we want.
Why South Korea? South Korea has a very high standard of living as well as providing the highest average salary for an ESL/EFL teacher. An apartment almost always comes with the job. The average teacher in Korea makes about 2.3 million KWN in a month ($2300 USD, about 1000 KWN to 1 USD). The 3% Korean government taxes are already taken out of the salary before they pay you. As a teacher you pay for cell phone, utilities and food. Most teachers save between fifteen to twenty thousand dollars during their time in Korea. Most countries are not as lucrative as South Korea but a few are close. China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Brazil and Turkey are all near in average salary. Japan has a very high average salary but the cost of living is also incredibly high and the apartment is not included in the salary. Vietnam also has a very high salary but the standard of living very different in Vietnam versus South Korea or Japan.
Most ESL/EFL teachers work at a “Hagwon.” The closest thing to a hagwon in the US would be a Kaplan Test Prep school or any sort of supplementary tutoring school that has a formal setting. English is a required skill for Koreans and the hagwons are where they go for help. ESL teachers also teach at public schools but those jobs are a bit harder to get because there are less of them. Some teachers, if they have experience, can teach ESP (English for Specific Purposes). This would be a class on using English in the medical field or writing a peer reviewed journal.
Shana and I will likely end up teaching at hagwon of some sort. At hagwons the age groups vary greatly from little children to adults with very different levels of English command. There are always Korean teachers there with you who design the curriculum and provide translations as needed.
We’re not crazy we’re just looking for a new adventure and Korea seemed like a great place to start. Sometimes you just have to say, “Why not?”
As soon as we have our contract in place, the school will buy our flight and we will be on the way. Our next update will be what city we are going to be living in and when we will be leaving America.