When I decided to teach in Korea about 3 weeks ago, there were some basic things that I had to understand. Some I researched beforehand, while others I learned during the application process. One thing I knew for sure was that teaching at a hagwon would help me accomplish my goals.
Before you start applying, it's important to solidify your knowledge on a few topics.
Why Teach in Korea?
Identify your motivations. This will be the key to enduring all the hardships you'll experience in the next year. Homesickness, culture shock, long working hours, ostracism, xenophobia, extreme weather conditions, etc. are all very common difficulties that foreigners face. Will your ambitions push you through them for 12 months?
My Backstory & circumstances
I have been job hopping for the past few years, while freelancing as an artist on the side. Ultimately, my end goal is to work as an artist at a video game studio. Not at Blizzard or Riot Games, but somewhere that welcomes a more Asian oriented art style ("anime"). Think Puzzle & Dragons and Sid Story. I have been drawing art for indie visual novel games for several years, but I want to level up my skills and join a talented team of game developers in a full-time capacity, not as a contractor or freelancer.
You may ask how this ties into teaching abroad. Korea is well known for their factory of hagwons available everywhere. They have hagwons for subjects like English, Coding, Design, Math, TOEIC, and Art. The school I want to attend is called Dream Factory. Their level of artists is phenomenal and utilize the techniques I hope to learn.
However, to attend an art academy, I would need to be able to pay for housing, transportation, and daily necessities. Hagwons give me the flexibility, salary, and benefits that will allow me to see through my long-term vision.
If you want to teach in Korea, you will need to obtain something called a "Visa." This is a document that grants you government "permission" to stay in a country for a longer time. Korea will place a Visa on your passport in the form of a sticker. To be eligible for a Korean visa, you must meet certain requirements.
You must hold a passport from one of the following 7 countries: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom and Ireland, and the United States. Residents from these 4 countries may be eligible to apply to teach, but the standards are stricter: India, Malaysia, Philippines and Singapore.
You must have an undergraduate degree from an accredited 3 or 4 year university.
Most foreigners fall under an "E-2" type visa, allowing a person to teach at a school (including hagwons) for 1 year before they need to renew their visa or leave. However, for those with Korean parents, you would be eligible for an "F-4" type visa, which has many more lenient restrictions and allows you to stay for 2 years before needing to renew.
There are other types of visas, but 99% of foreigners interested in teaching in Korea will apply for an E-2 or F-4 visa.
Regardless of which visa you're getting, you'll need the following materials:
An Apostille is a vetting system done at the state (diploma) or federal (criminal background check) level in which an authoritative figure will claim that all the information is true. These items are necessary to obtain an E-2, but are also submitted to the Ministry of Education to prove that you meet the minimum requirements to teach. F-4 visa applicants will need them as well.
How to get Passport Photos
Bigger grocery stores like Walgreens and CVS will have that service readily available. They cost about $7 for 2 photos.
How to get an Apostilled Diploma
* If you've misplaced it, ask your school for a replacement diploma for a fee.
** Most universities also accept your diploma copy via mail, fax or e-mail (for out-of-state graduates). Contact your school to ask about their notarization process.
How to get an Apostilled Criminal Background Check (CBC)
(Other Names: FBI Background Check, FBI Criminal Background Record, National Criminal Record Check, Identity History Summary Check, Criminal History Record, Rap Sheet)
Get a Criminal Background Check from the FBI
See full instructions here.
Authenticate your Criminal Background Check with an Apostille
See full instructions here.
Once you receive your criminal background check from the FBI or an FBI-Approved Channeler, you will need to send it to the U.S. Department of State in Washington D.C. to get an apostille.
Still Confused? This was my best attempt to give you a simplified summary for a complicated apostille process. You can read more detailed explanations on the following links:
Once you've gotten your Apostilled Diploma and Apostilled Criminal Background Check, you've completed about 90% of the work to obtain an E-2 visa!
Personally, I am not getting an E-2 Visa, so I'm not too familiar with the process. I highly recommend calling your local Korean Consulate (if available) and asking what is standard procedure. Below are links that go over the steps.
A school did give me a very brief rundown of what to expect after gathering my Apostille documents.
"[O]ur school should submit your diploma and FBI background check to the immigration office and then we have to wait about one week to get VISA application number. After I get VISA application number from the immigration office, I should give it to you so that you can apply for E2 VISA with the number. It will also take about another one week to receive E2 VISA."
- Gyeyang Global Language Center
What's great about the F-4 is that the process is somewhat straightforward and does not require interviews like the E-2 does. Essentially, you have to prove you are Korean.
* If your parents have NOT renounced (gotten rid of) their Korean citizenship, that is a separate process that will need to be done in person at your local Korean Consulate office. It may take up to 3 months.
The "Korean" Job Hunt
When I started my job hunt, there were a lot of minor things I've noticed about the application process. Knowing them might be helpful before you start seeking a teaching job.
Finding a Job
How to Research
Knowing where to look for resources and help during the entire application process is essential to making well-informed decisions. And there are many available, if you know where to look. Below is a list of links I've visited frequently.
General Help & Information:
Government Related Information:
If all else fails and you still can't find what you're looking for, good ol' Google is the way to go.
Welcome to my blog series "Korea Teach to Learn," dedicated to my teaching plans at a hagwon (private after school program) in Korea. The first few posts will outline my background, motivations, and pre-hagwon processes.
There are so many resources that will help you make a decision if you're on the fence about teaching in Korea. My blog will be a little different because my reasoning is obscure, and I'll talk mostly about my day to day life with updates on my own learning experiences. Hopefully, you'll enjoy a thing or two during my journey as I live in a completely new environment overseas!
Who Am I?
Hello! My name is Sora and I decided to pursue an opportunity to teach in Korea a few weeks ago. A month later, here I am, signed on to teach at a hagwon for a year. Don't get me wrong, the idea has been brewing at the back of my mind for a couple years, but I never took full reign over the thought until now.
What makes me different than most teachers is my motivation to go abroad. I will be teaching at a hagwon to learn at a hagwon. A majority of people choose Korea for reasons like saving money, experiencing life abroad, the culture and food, career change, having the time of your life, and so on. I'm here to be a student by day and teacher at night.
Hagwon or Public Schools
One of the biggest debates if you're contemplating on teaching English in Korea is to decide where to teach. There are two main types of education in Korea. The first is called a hagwon (a private for-profit institutional education program), and the other is your typical public school (schools funded by the government). There are a lot of things to weigh when you decide one or the other, such as benefits, location, salary, students, class sizes, etc.
Truth be told, I chose a hagwon because 1) you can choose your own location, and 2) I sort of decided this on a tiny whim, so it was difficult to nab a recommendation letter on short notice. Only public schools require LOR.
Which one would be best for you? It differs by person.
I recommend doing a quick Google search on the pros and cons of teaching at either types of schools. Here's a couple: The Pros & Cons of Working at a Hagwon and Private vs. Public Schools, What's Better?
Where to Start
There are lots of things to consider when teaching in Korea. The next few blog posts will go over the following topics specifically for hagwons. Because I knew that a hagwon would best fit my needs, all my research is based around them.