Teaching English in Daejon, South Korea: Q&A with Kim Jackson [EPIK Program]

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What is your citizenship?

United States

What city and state are you from?

Atlanta, Georgia

How old are you?


What is your education level and background?

Bachelor's degree

Have you traveled abroad in the past?

Taught English abroad previously

If you have traveled abroad in the past, where have you been?

Mexico, Caribbean, Ecuador, Peru, France, Italy, Thailand, Taiwan

If you have studied abroad in the past, where did you study?


What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?

During college, I went to Italy for a study abroad program. As soon as I got there, I realized that I loved seeing and exploring new places and cultures. I had always said that my goal was to travel the world and find a way to pay for it, and then I learned about teaching English abroad which was perfect for me!

What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?

Not being able to support myself financially and being lonely

What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?
Everyone was incredibly supportive and excited for me


Teaching English KoreaWhy did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?

I knew having a TEFL certification would make me more marketable when searching for jobs. I would get the most opportunities, so it was a no-brainer. After talking with my advisor, I felt that ITA really prepared their students for teaching English and the course wasn't just read material and take a test. The course involved lots of creating activities based on what your goal is for the class and making lesson plans. I was also able to still work and save money while taking the course.

Which TEFL certification course did you take?

Online TEFL Course

How did you like the course?

I think the course really prepared me as much as possible for working as an English teacher. The instructor was very quick to give feedback and always included ways to improve my lessons and activities. Since we had to create many activities for each aspect of language—reading, writing, speaking, and listening—I felt that I had a good idea of how to make fun and interactive activities in the classroom. The course started with doing simple tasks and built up to creating an entire week of lesson plans, so I never felt lost or confused.

How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?

Obviously, there is only so much confidence you can gain from taking a course, but this course helped me tremendously. The practicum hours made me feel much more comfortable with being in the classroom around actual students. I have friends that just took an online course and they felt completely lost when they started teaching, but I felt confident in my abilities and what I had learned over the course.
Which city and country did you decide to teach English in and why?
I chose to teach English in Daejon, South Korea. I really needed to be able to save money while paying off student loans. The benefits of teaching in South Korea allow me to do this.

Teaching English KoreaHow long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay?

I have been here 8 months, and will stay until my contract ends, which is about five more months.   

What school, company, or program are you working for?

I am teaching with the EPIK program, which places me in the public schools.

During which months does your school typically hire?

EPIK has two main intakes, Spring (February) and Fall (August). There is also a late intake to fill the spots that became available for whatever reason, but that is about one month after the main intakes.

Did you secure this position in advance of arriving?

Yes, I started the application process about six months before arriving.

How did you interview for this position?

Skype/phone interview

What kind of visa did you enter on?

Work visa

Please explain the visa process that you went through.

Once you are accepted through EPIK and you have been given a placement, EPIK sends you all of the documents needed for your visa. My recruiter, Reach to Teach, sent me step by step info on how fill out the forms and how much time to allow for each step. I filled out the forms and dropped it off at the Korean consulate in Atlanta and picked up my visa five days later.

What are the qualifications that your school requires for teachers? Please check all that apply

- Bachelor's degree
- TEFL Certification
- Native English speaker

What is the best way to apply?


Please include any application resources (website, email, etc.) or other information here:

I used Reach to Teach as my recruiter, and they made this a very easy process and checked everything for me to make sure it was correct.

Tell us about your English teaching job!

I teach English in Daejon. I work in two public elementary schools (some people only have one school and some have two or three, all depends on the size of the schools). With EPIK, you are assigned a school, so you have no say where you will end up. Although, you are able to select a city or province that you would like to be placed in. My contract is for 40 hours a week, but you only teach 22 hours. Each class counts as an hour even if the class length is shorter. In elementary schools, each class is 40 minutes, so I actually teach less than the 22 hours. The rest of the time is desk-warming, lesson planning (but you don't have to do much), and killing time. Some teachers nap, so you can just about do anything during this time.

The basic pay starts at 2.1 million won (roughly $2000), and can increase if you have more than one school and/or experience. I am able to save around $500/month while also paying off stuff back home and living a comfortable life. I probably travel at least one weekend a month and am social on the weekends, but I cook most of my meals. Therefore, I don't spend a ton of money. With EPIK, you only pay your living expenses ,so that is very nice!

We have eight days of vacation in the summer and 10 days in winter. In addition, there are many holidays, giving you multiple three or four day weekends.

How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates?

The school rents an apartment for me and all EPIK teachers have this benefit. My school pays the rent, so I never have to worry about it. I didn't have to search for an apartment. I live alone, and most teachers live in studio sized apartments.

On a scale of 1 - 10 please rate your experience with this school.    



Teaching English KoreaPlease explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc...    

Korean culture is very different from any Western culture. Their values are different, and they tend to be very blunt but oddly terrified of any type of confrontation. This can be a problem when you have an issue with a co-teacher because it's very hard to talk through a problem-they honestly act like it doesn't exist. However, the people are very friendly and will go out of their way to help you with anything that you might need.

Public transportation is amazing! The subways are clean, buses go everywhere, and the trains are great as well. The KTX is the high speed train that is very quick but doesn't go all over the country, just to the bigger cities. Personally, I like the buses, and they can be pretty spacious and are also quick—sometimes quicker than the slower trains.

Koreans LOVE to drink. They drink any day of the week and all night long. In Daejeon, there are different areas for nightlife. One area has more of the clubs and some other areas are more low key pub-like places. All of the marts, like 7-11, have tables outside, so you can grab a beer or soju and sit outside, which is a very relaxing and cheap option. Sometimes we go play laser tag, watch a movie, or go bowling, but there really isn't much to do besides drink.

There are tons of expat and activity groups in Daejeon and in Korea, so you can always find social things to do. I joined an ultimate frisbee league that plays all over Korea, so I stay pretty busy with that during the spring and fall. There are other sports that you can play and there are hiking groups and reading groups also. Just use the expat facebook groups and you can find anything you need.

Korean food is pretty cheap and they like their food spicy and sweet. Unless you have a food allergy or restriction, you will eat the school lunch which will always have rice and soup and then a few side dishes.

The expat community is great in Korea and there are TONS of expats basically everywhere. I'm not really a fan of the dating scene here, but if you are interested in dating Koreans, you shouldn't have a problem at all. Anything "western" is beautiful to them, so I have some guy friends that are dating Korean women, but usually the girls don't date Korean men from what I've noticed.

There are so many travel opportunities here in Korea. The country is pretty small so it's super easy to explore other cities or take day trips. Working with EPIK gives you great vacation benefits. We get eight days in the summer, but that doesn't include weekends or holidays, so I actually ended up getting two weeks, and you have 10 days in the winter. There are a lot of holidays, so you will be able to travel around Asia fairly easily during our three or four day weekends.


What are your monthly expenses?

Rent is paid for by the school so no expense for me. Water, cable, and internet is included in my rent, so all I pay for is gas and electricity. Utilities are very cheap, especially during the spring and fall when you can leave your windows open. In the middle of summer, I had the A/C running most of the time, and my electricity bill was only $30.

Food is cheap if you want to eat at Korean restaurants. The Western restaurants are more expensive, but still not more than what I would pay back in the US. I usually buy groceries and cook my meals during the week. Any type of non-Korean food is going to be more expensive and I pay a lot for meat, almonds, peanut butter, and things like that. But most people order online at iherb for spices and more specialty items. This is usually cheaper than paying for it at one of the grocery stores. I usually spend about $50-60/week on groceries.

It all depends on the week, but I usually allow myself $50/week on social activities. I usually don't even spend this much. Obviously when I'm out of town, I spend more, but that's about once a month.

Transportation is pretty cheap, so I put $20 on my T-money card (subway, city buses, taxis), and it lasts me 2-3 weeks. Buses and trains to other cities are more expensive, and it depends on which type of train you want to take, but usually it's not more than $25 each way. When we go to cities that are about an hour away by bus, the ticket is only $4, so buses are pretty cheap. Usually on a weekend trip, I spend anywhere from $60-100 total.

I have a data plan with 3GB of data/month, and this is always enough. There are wireless hotspots all over the city, and once you get a contract with a carrier, your phone automatically connects. I pay $40/month for this plan.

How would you describe your standard of living?

Pretty comfortable

In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?



Teaching English KoreaWhat advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?

Definitely take the plunge and teach abroad. You will meet so many great people and have experiences that you never even imagined. If you are interested in teaching in South Korea, make sure you do your research on the cultural differences because it can be too much for some people. I don't find SK incredibly exciting, but I stay very busy and am happy with my life here. Plus, I'm able to save a lot of money while still paying off loans back home and traveling around Asia. There aren't many jobs that allow you to do that!

For more on Kim's adventures, check out her blog: https://trekkingteacherblog.wordpress.com/

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