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Daegu, South Korea English Teaching Q&A with Amanda Kime
Written by: Amanda Kime
Last Updated: February 18, 2021
What is your citizenship?
What city and state are you from?
Camp Hill, PA
How old are you?
What is your education level and background?
Have you traveled abroad in the past?
Some international travel with friends, family, business, etc.
If you have traveled abroad in the past, where have you been?
Australia, New Zealand, and Canada
If you have studied abroad in the past, where did you study?
I studied in Melbourne, Cairns, and Sydney during a one month winter session.
What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?
While I was living in Australia in 2009, I met a friend who had suggested teaching abroad to me. I had mentioned to her that I was looking for other ways to live abroad besides a work/holiday visa. It took me several years to work up the courage to sign-up for a TEFL course and take the steps to teach abroad.
What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?
First and foremost in my mind was “Will I be a good teacher?” I had no experience and wasn’t that fond of children. So, I was concerned about traveling to the other side of the world and finding out “I hate this.”
What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?
My family was supportive but concerned about how I would handle being on my own. My father was supportive but concerned about my job prospects when I returned to the US.
TEFL CLASS INFORMATION
Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
Because I had no experience with teaching, I wanted to take a course and have some idea of what I would be expected of me as a teacher. I chose to study with International TEFL Academy because the course seemed very thorough and easy to understand. In addition, I was very impressed with how friendly and helpful the staff were at ITA. I took my class while I was working, so I liked the idea of taking a course that was online but also required 20 practicum hours.
Which TEFL certification course did you take?
Online TEFL Course
How did you like the course?
I liked taking the course! It taught me practical techniques for classroom management, how to correct students’ work, and teaching methods. These are concepts it would’ve taken me longer to figure out on my own.
The practicum was very useful. I worked with a teacher at a community center who taught adult immigrants practical English vocabulary. He had taught in South Korea 20 years ago and offered a lot of encouragement.
How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
Some of the most helpful information I took from this course was for classroom management and grading. I was very intimidated by lesson planning, so having the lessons and examples was great for me!
Which city and country did you decide to teach English in and why?
I chose to teach English in South Korea in the city of Daegu. I didn't have much money in savings so I wanted to go to a country where I could save easily. Through research, I found out South Korea had many jobs available and good benefits.
How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay?
I have been here almost a year and a half. I'm contemplating a third year.
During which months does your school typically hire?
Many schools hire in February-March and around August. But hiring is year-round here.
Did you secure this position in advance of arriving?
Yes, I did.
How did you interview for this position?
- Skype/phone interview
- In-person interview
My first interview was over the phone, and I interviewed for my second job in-person with the head teacher.
What kind of Visa did you enter on?
Please explain the visa process that you went through.
The recruiter helped me apply for my visa and my first job sponsored me. Some of the documents can take a while since your FBI Background Check must be apostilled by the Federal government. The other documents required to get my visa were fairly simple to get for me. Luckily, I live close to the state capital of Pennsylvania, so I was able to walk in and get my college diploma apostilled. This was a simpler process than getting the federal apostille.
When I found my current job, I needed to transfer my work visa to my current job.
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?
Tell us about your English teaching job!
HOURS: I work from 2 - 9:15pm, Monday through Friday. Typically I teach 4-6 classes per day. When students have their winter and summer breaks from school, my work hours change to 9:30-4:45pm.
SALARY: I’m paid 2.2 million won once a month ($1835 USD) minus taxes, national health insurance, and pension.
SAVINGS: I’m able to save roughly $400 per month. I’ve heard of some teachers saving as much as $1,000 per month. That number is definitely possible, it just depends on how much you spend on alcohol, travel, etc.
SCHOOL: I work for an English hagwon (private academy). There are hagwons in Korea for Science, Math, Computers, and many other subjects. Korean students go to the hagwons after they finish school.
STUDENTS: My students range in age from early Elementary to Middle school.
VACATION: At my first job, I had a 6 day winter break and a 6 day summer break plus Korean national holidays. For my current job, my vacation time is more limited. I had four days off over New Year’s. Christmas is a one day holiday since it’s a holiday adopted from Western culture. I’ve had more time off (5 days) for major Korean holidays like Chuseok and Lunar New Year.
Overall, teachers at hagwons won’t have as much vacation time as public school (EPIK) teachers. However, with how close some countries are to Korea, it’s possible to take a short holiday to Japan, China, or Southeast Asia. Another difference is that we’re not able to choose when we can take vacation time. Holiday time is planned according to the hagwon’s school schedule.
How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates?
Currently, most academies (hagwons) have apartments they rent on the teacher’s behalf. I live alone and pay for my utilities (gas, cable). I have been pretty lucky and loved my first and second apartments. Most teachers live in small apartment buildings called “Villas.” The apartments are usually studios with a bathroom and small terrace attached.
COUNTRY INFORMATION - FUN!
Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc...
There are many cultural differences between Western countries and South Korea. Some I was prepared for and others I was not. I knew the work culture would be different; however, I wasn’t prepared for how stressful it could be. An employee’s thoughts and opinions are handled differently in a Korean work place than in America. The best thing you can do is to be as flexible and open-minded as possible. Realize that you’ll probably offend someone at some point and they’ll most likely offend you. Navigating cultural differences is a delicate process.
Public transportation in Daegu is good. The subway system has three lines and is easy to use. Subway stops are announced in Korean, English, and Chinese. Almost all of the signs at subway stations are in English and Korean. The challenge can be the buses. At bus stops the bus routes are often written in Korean only (with the exception of major stops).
Daegu has multiple universities and a decent foreigner community so there is a good, lively nightlife. While I don’t always partake in the action, I enjoy that everyone from young children to the elderly are out and about past 10pm. It’s a welcomed change for me after living in a U.S. suburb where most people are inside their houses by 6pm.
There’s always something happening downtown in Daegu. The way I hear about most events is through Daegu Facebook groups or word-of-mouth. There are several language exchange groups in Daegu that meet at least once a week. I attend a language exchange class twice a week in the downtown area.
I think Daegu has a great expat community. People are very welcoming and it’s a good place to make friends. Most people stay in touch through a variety of Facebook groups. Events will be posted there as well as adventure trips. A great resource for expats is The Daegu Compass. It’s a small booklet-sized magazine that’s produced monthly in English and Korean. There are fun articles written by volunteers as well as tips on how to order food over the phone and key Korean phrases.
Some people choose to date while they’re here. Korean-Western couples aren’t everywhere but are becoming more common. Interracial relationships are definitely a lot of work. In Korea, dating is often done through introductions. Most people I know have met their significant others at a social gathering like a language exchange or party. Online dating is also fairly commonplace. I’ve have met several people who met someone through Badoo or Tinder.
Travel opportunities around Korea are plentiful. The high-speed train, KTX, as well as slower trains and buses allow expats to see almost any sight in Korea. Sometimes getting accurate information for “things to do” can be challenging. Things change rapidly here and it can be difficult to find up to date information or websites in English.
COUNTRY INFORMATION - MONEY
What are your monthly expenses?
My rent is paid by the hagwon (academy) that I work for. The utilities I pay include gas, floor heat (gas), cable, and electricity. I try to spend less than $10 per day on food during the weekdays. This is easily doable if you stick to staples like gimbap or Hansot. Coffee is expensive here so coffee lovers beware! Starbucks, and coffee shops in general, are very popular here. Buying coffee every day can easily eat into your budget.
Korean culture is all about sharing. If you’re out to dinner with Korean friends, you’ll split the bill between everyone…even if you drink only one beer. My primary mode of transportation is the subway. I usually spend approximately $10 per week to keep it topped off. Taxis are inexpensive compared to major cities in America. A taxi ride from downtown to my neighborhood (a 20 minute subway ride) costs about $10-11.
I unlocked my U.S. phone and purchased a 1-year contract with the Korean mobile carrier Olleh. I definitely recommend this process if you are able to do it. Unlocking my phone was easy and made getting a plan much cheaper. I pay about 38,000 won ($35 USD) per month for my plan. Wi-fi is everywhere here so it isn’t necessary to purchase an unlimited data plan.
I absolutely recommend researching cell phone options before traveling to Korea. Cell phone plans here can be expensive and confusing if you’re not prepared. There are helpful blogs and articles online; just be careful to check the date that the information was written.
How would you describe your standard of living?
I’m able to pay my bills, live comfortably, and send money home every month.
In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?
I recommend not accepting a job if they offer you less than 2,000,000 won ($1,775 USD). As far as I’m aware, 2.1 million won ($1850 USD) is the average wage offered for most hagwon positions.
ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE ENGLISH TEACHERS
What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?
If you're thinking about it, Do it, do it, do it!!!! While I’ve been here, I've realized that “Failure is okay.” If you come here and don’t like it, fair enough. At least you tried it and discovered teaching/living abroad isn’t for you. Trying out teaching abroad and going home early is much better than having regrets. Life hasn’t always been easy in Korea, but I wouldn’t trade this adventure for anything.
After studying abroad in Australia, Amanda found herself searching for ways to expand her international experience. It took a couple of years before she committed to taking the plunge and signed up for an online TEFL course with International TEFL Academy. She has since been experiencing the adventure of a lifetime teaching English to children and exploring the culture of South Korea in the city of Daegu.
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