To friends, family and anyone else who finds their way here...
Like many others have done before me, and like many others will do after me, I have decided to make a blog to document my journey through the English Program in Korea (EPIK) and ultimately outline my life whilst teaching and living in South Korea!
My name is Lindsey, I will be 22 years old in May and I live in London. I have lived here all of my life, and before I travelled to South Korea 2 years ago, the nearest country I had travelled to was probably Spain! My interest in Korea started around 2-3 years ago - I studied beginners Korean at the Korean Culture Centre UK in London (for free!), and the more that I discovered about Korea and it's culture, the more I wanted to be there experiencing it first hand.
For those who are interested in my process of applying to teach in South Korea, I am going to outline my experience so far; I decided to apply to EPIK because it is a government run program, which means that I am employed by the Korean government and therefore my contract is with the Ministry of Education (MOE) that they choose to place me with. Each 'province' or 'metropolitan city' has their own office of education, where you are 'recommended' to by EPIK after you pass your interview. The alternative is to apply privately to different schools or hagwons (small schools with classes of about 10-20 that are set up for private-profit), which means that your contract may be a bit dodgy, but of course this doesn't always happen to everyone!
Anyway, after contacting someone who works for EPIK, it was suggested that I apply direct to them as it "cuts out the middleman" aka recruiters - if applying through a recruiter, you ship your documents to the recruiter and they sort it out for you and check your documents for errors (bonus!) but, it also means your documents aren't directly in the EPIK office's hands until the recruiter forwards them on...
So, after deciding to apply direct I began to start collecting documents and fill in the application form as found on EPIK's website (:http://www.epik.go.kr/) to start in Fall 2012 (August). The application form process was quite straight forward, with the exception of the personal essay and lesson plan outline! It was hard for me to put into words how having a degree in psychology and (soon another in cognitive neuroscience) would be helpful for teaching English, but I think the most important part of the process is asking yourself if it is really something you want to do and essentially whether you are committed to the idea of TEFL in korea. If you are someone who is thinking about applying to EPIK for the next intake then I'd advise starting a course in TEFL asap so that when it comes to writing your lesson plan you will have a rough idea of what to write! There are also many resources online with lesson plans for TEFL, so I did a google search and researched what is expected in a good plan - one good website I found is: http://strange-lands.com/
The process of sending off the application was a bit nerve wrecking for me because I was on holiday at the time (2nd April) and worried about time zone differences. Thankfully it got received and my interview was scheduled for 6.30am on Thursday 12th April.
I logged into Skype at around 6.10am, waiting for an add for what felt like hours! At 6.30am on-the-dot I got added by 'EPIK coordinator' and was promptly called...the guy was really nice and down to earth. First off we went through my application and he gave me some corrections to make, then it was on to the actual interview - I can't remember all the questions I was asked, but the best thing you can do to prepare is to just be yourself. I did write down possible questions but in the end when I was being asked, the answers just came because I had mentally prepared so much for that moment and I felt passionate about what I had to say.
The questions lasted about 20 minutes, during which the line cut out because of the amount of people doing interviews in the EPIK office! Luckily, I was called back and he went through some final things such as: whether I was aware I have no control over where I'm placed; that I know marijuana is illegal in Korea; that I am willing to commute up to 60 minutes to my school; that I can be placed in multiple schools etc. < these things were also in the application form so it was all easy going.
For me, the interview went quite smoothly (apart from the cut-out!) even though I was mega nervous. The coordinator was really nice and I felt like he really enjoys his job which is good! Overall, the interview lasted me around 35 minutes.
I was told it would take up to 3 days or so before I heard the results of my interview, but thankfully I heard the day after (Friday 13th)! I passed and could begin collecting my documents to be shipped.
The coordinator attached:
- a contract for Seoul MOE (where I will hopefully be recommended - as it is first-come-first-served for places, you don't get recommended until they have all your documents at the EPIK office).
- a sworn declaration that I would finish my TEFL course (it is compulsory this year to have 100 hours at least)
- an agreement outlining things like I won't drink during orientation, won't take drugs, be sexist or racist etc.
As well as 2 copies of each of the above, I would need to include the following:
- 2 copies of the application form- A copy of university transcripts that are sealed, I had ordered them beforehand and they cost me £15 for 2 sets (might need one for the VISA process)
- 2 copies of the Seoul consideration form (sent with original application form)
- 2 recommendation letters (must be from different people, and places usually e.g. uni and work)
- An apostilled copy of my degree and a photocopy (cost £33)
- An apostilled criminal background check (original) and a photocopy (cost £35 for the CBC and £33 for apostille)
- Proof of TEFL course (luckily I've completed so I just photocopied all my PDF certificates, cost was around £150 I think). If you haven't completed, then you'll need a 'letter of enrolment' and you'll need to finish the course by a date outlined by EPIK for the term you're applying for.
All documents that require signatures need to be physically signed in pen ink (not printed signatures)
After trying for ages to book postage with UPS or FedEx, I found out you need a special login that they send you so opted to send with Parcelforce. Big mistake. Although Parcelforce postage cost £50 with discount, they did not even show up to pick up my documents, and didn't call me to say they wasn't coming!
So...I decided to call up UPS (should've done this first) and they quoted £65 for 2 day delivery. As I'd spent a lot of money already, the extra £15 seemed like nothing for the peace of mind that my documents would actually get collected from me and be sent so quickly as positions with EPIK are 'first come, first served'. I am currently tracking the process of my little packet of documents - it has flown from Stansted, UK, stopped off at Germany and is now currently waiting in China...wish it was me actually!
I saved this till last because I don't really know where to put it. Well, I started my TEFL course mid-January and have just finished it (23rd April). I took the course with i-to-i (http://www.i-to-i.com/tefl-course/) and it cost me £150 because I bought it on GROUPON (www.groupon.com). You get 3 months to complete and then you have to pay for an extension if you can't complete in this time. There are always deals for TEFL courses on groupon so if you're planning ahead, you can keep checking each day until a deal pops up. The course with i-to-i covers all the basics of teaching English, from grammar to constructing lesson plans. Although it is quite repetitive in content (e.g. the main 60 hour course has elements of the 20 hour grammar course too), it ensures that the information you are learning sticks in your mind. I completed 5 of the 6 specialist modules (each 10 hours), all were fairly interesting and the majority involved constructing a lesson plan for each of the circumstances (e.g. teaching business english, large classes etc.). Assignments get marked promptly - the quickest time I had mine marked in was 10 minutes! Overall, the course was challenging but not too complicated - I guess the most important thing I learned was that the English language is mega complex and I can definitely sympathise with those who are learning it...so I hope I can be a good teacher and explain it well!
Timeline: EPIK Fall 2012 application process
April 2nd - Application sent via email
April 5th - Interview notification
April 12th - Interview
April 13th - I passed! (Friday 13th is lucky for me :D)
April 24th - Documents sent
April 26th - Documents arrived at Incheon, await confirmation from coordinator that they have been received!
Total money spent so far
1) Transcripts - £15 for two sets
2) CRC from Disclosure Scotland - £35 incl. postage
3) Solicitors signature of certification before apostille process - £10 for CRC and degree copy
4) Apostilles for CRC and degree copy - £66 incl. postage
5) TEFL course - £150 (This doesn't apply to me, but if you take the course with i-to-i and need a letter of enrolment, it will cost you another £10)
6) Postage with UPS - £65
= £341!!! Wow, make sure you are serious about going to Korea and teaching before you apply!
All in a month's work ^_^