Teaching English in Dongtan, South Korea: Alumni Q&A with Jacob Lietzow

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What is your citizenship?
United States

What city and state are you from?
Canton, OH, USA

How old are you?

What is your education level and background?
Bachelor's Degree.

Have you traveled abroad in the past?
Some international travel with family and friends.

Where did you travel to?
I visited Peru with a couple of my best friends for a 10 day vacation and have traveled within North America for other vacations.

What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?
It was a combination of things. I had a friend that taught in Seoul, South Korea for 2 years and raved about his experience. At the same time I was unhappy with my career and wasn't sure what my career aspirations were but I knew my biggest personal goal was to travel and see more of the world. This was the perfect opportunity to test a new career and fulfill my personal aspirations.

What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?
I was nervous about the language barrier, making new friends, becoming homesick, falling out of touch with friends from back home, and teaching young students.

What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?
Most of my friends and family were supportive and excited for me to travel teach abroad. My mom was very concerned and still is but that's what mom's do.



Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
I chose ITA after researching a lot of different options online. The sheer volume of content ITA has and size of the alumni network put it head and shoulders above the other online options and with a full time job I was unable to take a course in person.

Which TEFL certification course did you take?
Online TEFL Certification.

How did you like the course?
The course was very informative. Beyond the expected lessons on grammar and classroom management it prepared me to deal with the challenge of moving abroad by myself for the first time. Researching the culture of my target country was very beneficial for me.

One major problem with online classes is that you don't get a lot of communication from other students but the discussion board was always active and felt as close to a traditional classroom as possible.

Perhaps the most beneficial portion of the course was the practicum hours. I completed mine with a local non-profit where I tutored a couple of intermediate level students at a local library once a week. I was nervous about tutoring but after doing it for 10 hours or so it became really rewarding and teaching abroad felt like it could actually be a good option.

How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
The program has helped me prepare for moving abroad and allowed me to feel comfortable stepping into a classroom with confidence on day one. Understanding classroom management and a student centered learning environment has given my classrooms a fun, and nurturing atmosphere for students to learn and make mistakes

How long have you been in South Korea and how long do you plan to stay?
I have been living & teaching English in Dongtan, South Korea for the last 6 months and I plan on staying for at least another 18 months.

Why did you decide to teach English in this location?
I chose Korea because they make it very easy on first time teachers. Paying for airfare, housing, and a nice salary made it easy for me to feel as comfortable as possible moving to Asia.

What school, company, or program are you working for?
I work for a hagwon (private school) named Jeong Sang (JLS).

During which months does your school typically hire?
My school hires year-round.

Did you secure this position in advance of arriving?
Yes, I interviewed for and accepted the position beforehand.

How did you interview for this position?
I had a Skype/Phone interview.

What kind of Visa did you enter on?
Work visa E-2.

Please explain the visa process that you went through.
The visa process was fairly quick and easy. I had to get an FBI background check, get an appostilled version of my college diploma, send 4-5 passport sized photographs, along with a few other things that didn't take long to compile.

What are the qualifications that your school requires for teachers?
Bachelor's Degree
TEFL Certification
Native English Speaker

What is the best way to apply?
Through a recruiter. I used the recruiting agency Korvia to get my position. I highly recommend working with them.

Tell us about your English teaching job!
I teach English in Dongtan and I work M-F from 2 pm - 10 pm. My class schedule differs every day with as little as 4 classes a day and as many as 7 classes. I have classes with kids as young as 6 years old and as old as 13 years old. Typical classes last 50 minutes and most of the lessons are planned for us but we are encouraged to make it our own and introduce other material. Once a semester we are required to come in for 2-3 hours on a Saturday where we lead shorter classes with kids who are considering enrolling in the school.

I am one of two native teachers at the school but there are many more expats and teachers in the area. All the Korean teachers also speak English fluently and teach English to the classes.

I have 10 days of vacation time although it seems like it is difficult to get that time off. Koreans work very hard and they expect you to be at work. I make 2.2 million Won per month and am able to save about half that even though I do very little cooking at home, travel around Korea a lot, and enjoy the night life here.


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

I love living in Korea, it is extremely easy to use the public transportation and it is always clean and timely. The food here is some of the best in the world and the food markets in Seoul are incredible. There are quite a few expats living here and it is relatively easy to meet new people through apps like MeetUp.

What are your monthly expenses?
Rent: FREE!
Utilities: 150,000 Won - 200,000 Won per month
Phone: 80,000 Won per month
**(I use Google Fi so I can keep my phone number back home and I use a lot of data. My coworker pays 25,000 Won per month)
Food: 250,000 Won per month
** (I eat out a lot and you can spend much less than this if you cook at home)
Transportation: 50,000 Won per month
Travel: 100,000 - 200,000 Won per month
Social: 100,000 Won per month
Savings: 1.1 million Won per month (About $1,000)

How did you find somewhere to live?
My school provides housing.

How would you describe your standard of living?
I live very well here and am never concerned about my finances.

In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?
If you earn 1.2 million Won you could live comfortably, however, that is severely under market value.
 Teach English in South Korea TEFL Alumni Review


What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?
Talk with people who may be a couple degrees away from you that has taught abroad. Friends of friends are offer new insights and speak candidly about their experiences. Think about your personal goals, talk with the advisors at ITA and trust your gut

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