Apr 28, 2012

D-Day (or: Man, Immigration is Hard Work!)

Note: At the time of writing, it is approximately 7:30 in the morning, I have been at work for 4.5 hours, and am delirious from lack of sleep. Ah, the joys of working in the news. So when you find me waxing poetic: grain of salt, please.

I would like to take this moment to give props to anyone who has ever up and moved countries (ie the ancestors of the vast majority of Americans). This stuff is HARD.

Yesterday was what I lovingly dubbed “D-day”-- the “D” being for “documents.” I spent the whole day running around making photocopies, going to the Public Records office for an Apostille stamp, being rejected for the Apostille because my degree photocopy wasn’t notarized correctly, going to the UPS store where it was notarized originally and firmly (but kindly) demanding the guy do it correctly for free, going BACK to the Public Records office, and finally getting my Apostille stamp. I also went for a run, but that’s neither here nor there.

I had an interesting conversation with the man at the Public Records office. He said they’ve been getting more and more young people heading over to Korea to teach English. Then he pointed out something that I recently realized myself: in a way, this phenomenon is the opposite of the American Dream. Young, smart, highly educated Americans are being forced to leave the country to find decent employment. Mr. Public Records remarked that this brain drain is a rather sad state of affairs. I can’t say I disagree. In 50 years, I’ll be very interested to see how history treats this recession and how it affected my generation.

On a more upbeat note, I got my FBI background check back the other day. Woo! I'm officially NOT a criminal (and there was much rejoicing). Shipped it off to DC yesterday for the Apostille. Once I get that back, I get to send the whole packet to Korea. After that, I’ll get my contract and notice of appointment, and FINALLY find out what city I’ll be living in(!!).  Aside from the obvious reasons for why that’s exciting, it also means that I’ll finally be able to let my coworkers in on my plans. It’s hard to keep a secret like this for 6 months.

To my coworkers reading this: I'm planning a whole post on this, but I'm sorry for being a lying creeper for the last six months. Please forgive, I meant no harm.

Apr 22, 2012

Public vs Private

Note: I do not claim to be any kind of expert on this subject. This is just a very, very simplified overview of  teaching in public vs. private schools in Korea, based purely on internet research and talking to people with experience.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the process of getting a job as an English teacher in Korea, here's the rundown:

When looking to teach in Korea, you can go one of two ways: public or private school. Each has its own set of benefits and detriments.

Private school (also called Hagwons)

Jobs are arguably easier to get, pay is generally higher, usually working with several other native English speakers, schools are always hiring--so you could start any time of the year

Odd work hours (often the equivalent of America's "second shift"--aka 3pm-10pm ish), fewer days off, less job security (in extreme cases--you could end up working for a sketchy company that may or may not actually exist), teaching is profit-driven (the goal is to please the customer, aka the parents), not education-driven.

Public school (EPIK--English Program in Korea)

Better job security (you're working for the government), more vacation time, normal work hours, teaching goals are education, not profit

More competitive application process, slightly lower pay, likely will be the only native English speaker in your school, program only hires for two start times a year: Fall and Spring.

The moral of the story: if you're looking to head to Korea, do your research when deciding which route to go. Decide your priorities (money, start date, vacation time, etc), and pick which works best for you.

Here We Go...

I suppose I should start at the beginning. About 6 months ago, I realized I needed to shake things up. I'm not talking like "find a new hobby" change, or "make new friends" change. We're talking a Big Life Change. One of my biggest regrets is that I never studied abroad in college. I love traveling. I come from a family of modern American nomads. Wanderlust is in my blood.

I knew I wanted to move to a new country. The question was: where? And more importantly: how to pay for it? That's when I discovered this hidden (or not so hidden, depending on how in-the-know you are) world of teaching English abroad. My first thought: "Score! I can finally put my heretofore useless Linguistics degree to work!"

You may be wondering, "Meg, of ALL the countries in the world, why South Korea?" The answer is simple: Money. Lots of it. I know that sounds like a terrible reason to pick a country to live in, but it's the truth. South Korea has the biggest market and highest pay for native English speakers in the world. There are tons of perks, too, like reimbursed round-trip airfare (um...hello? you had me at reimbursed), free housing, and all the benefits of a full-time job. As a 24-year-old who works a part-time job (read: 34.5 hours), with another part-time food service job to supplement, and who is still on her parents' insurance (thank you, President Obama!), the lure of health insurance and paid vacation was enough to make me start drooling.

After a lot of consideration between public vs. private schools, I decided to try for a position with EPIK, the public school program. I completed a TEFL course here in Boston last month through the Boston Language Institute and applied through a recruiter, Footprints. So far, they have been excellent! They've answered all of my questions, and have walked me through the very daunting application process (more on that later).  If you're looking for a good recruiter, I highly recommend them.

Anyway, I'm currently in the process of submitting my GIANT MOUNTAIN of documents, which are needed to secure my contract. I don't know where  in Korea I'm going yet. There's also still the very real possibility that something could go horribly wrong-- resulting in me not getting a job at all.  It's all very up in the air, so I'm trying to stay positive, not get overwhelmed, and, most importantly, not get completely freaked out about the prospect of uprooting my life and moving to another country.