I guess the first thing to talk is about applying for an English teaching job in Korea. EPIK (English Program In Korea) is a Korean government program which sources people from select western countries to work as English teachers in Korea. As an applicant all communication with EPIK is facilitated and managed by a recruiting agency. I have been told there are only 5 or 6 recruiting companies EPIK uses but there are a lot of 3rd parties who find applicants and then funnel them through the official recruiting companies. The official recruiting companies change from year to year so be careful of that. I contacted two of the official recruiting companies.
The first company I contacted was teachaway. In short they took months to get back to me only to say that apparently there were no jobs available (which I knew was a load of bullshit). If you don’t want my business fine, just say so. Don’t feed me lies. I DO NOT RECOMMEND TEACHAWAY.
The second company I contacted was Gone2Korea. These guys are based in Canada and are fantastic. I have absolutely nothing negative to say about them. Every step of the way they were prompt with replies, professional and helpful. A couple of days after sending them my resume and cover letter I had a friendly chat over Skype with them to help kick off my EPIK application.
The Application Process
I won’t focus too much on the technical details as they can be found on the Gone2Korea and EPIK websites and are likely to change from year to year.
Teaching English in Korea has become VERY popular. As a result, for the first time there are more applicants than there are teaching positions available. I think this is due to two things.
- The tsunami in Japan and the following nuclear accident I think has scared many people away and as a result they are applying for the next most modern westernised Asian country (Korea).
- The global economic down turn means there are a lot of people looking for work and are very worried about the long term future of the USA.
Stage 1 is your initial EPIK application which has things like your personal essay, a lesson plan, medical history and what city you would like to teach in. You also have to include two letters of recommendation which must be from a supervisor at a company you have worked for. EPIK doesn't care about reference letters from friends and family. Stage 1 is an electronic submission (you don’t have to post anything). Take your time to get this stage right. It is what will determine if you get an interview with someone at EPIK.
Stage 2 is (I think) the most important stage because it is the most time critical. When they say that the first people to get their documents submitted are the first to get jobs and the most likely to get work in their preferred city, they are talking about getting stage 2 documents submitted. Depending on your qualifications they will vary, but for me stage 2 included an:
- A notarised and apostilled copy of my engineering degree
- Apostilled copy of my criminal record check
- A signed hard copy of my application I electronically submitted in stage 1
- Hard copies of my letters of recommendation
- Colour photocopy of my passport profile page
- Photocopy of my TESOL certificate
- A notarised copy of my engineering degree cost $110. I then had to get it apostilled which because when it is notarised it becomes a double sided document, costs $80. So that is $190 for one piece of paper right there! Talk about a licence to print money :@
- Your police check will cost you $42 and take between 15 and 25 working days to be issued. Since it is also a double sided document, getting it apostilled will cost $80. Note that if it is dated too early (more than 6 months before you start) EPIK will reject it. Talk to your recruiting agent for more information.
- I used the “Express International Courier” service Australia post offers. They didn’t have any 500gram satchels so I had to foot the bill for a 1kG satchel which cost me $51.60
I won’t discuss Stage 3 and Stage 4 as I have not been through them yet. Stay tuned for an update in the next few months.
I was freaking out pretty bad about my interview. It was the make or break thing. I couldn’t be a pedantic perfectionist about it like my stage 1 documents. If the interviewer got the impression I wasn't serious or just didn't like me.... no job for Phil. James at Gone2Korea helped me out by sending me some great information to help me prepare for it. I was interviewed by Korean woman over Skype one morning just before lunch. She spoke excellent English and was very nice. I greeted her with a friendly “Annyeonghaseyo” and the biggest simile I could muster (you know what they say about first impressions). By the end of the interview I caught her smile (just for a second before returning to her stern face) a couple of times. She finished with a “It was very nice to speak with you, I had fun” and I was done. Two days later I was notified by my recruiter that I had passed my interview and I could send my documents whenever they were ready.
I will leave it there for now. Stay tuned for more updates.