Alright! I've been meaning to make a comprehensive EPIK Guide for a while. Now that I've got my documents in order and sent out my EPIK initial application, it's time to break down the steps. This is both an initial FAQ for those considering teaching-abroad/EPIK and a master list of what needs to get done if you want to teach abroad in South Korea through their government sponsored program. Any subsequent posts concerning these forms will go into the step-by-step process of obtaining said document. For now, I've listed all required EPIK paperwork in the right hand column below.
FAQ #1: Your reasons for teaching abroad and linguistic barriers
Whatever your reasons for teaching abroad , make sure they're not heavily romanticized. Yes, getting to travel and save money is a dream, but remember that you will be a teacher--you will have students who will depend on you, who will need to take exams, who might not like or want to be in your class. Additionally, you will have colleagues who will depend on you, whether that be your boss or a co-teacher. Some programs don't offer any training, so what do you bring to the table? Are you going in blind? Do you have experience? Is that experience as a volunteer, an educator, a coach? This is not meant to discourage those without teaching experience, but more so to encourage those who are interested or have a background in education. You're not going abroad to provide a service only you can supply. You are going abroad to work with educators who happen to be veterans and experts in their communities; are you looking to learn from them? There are a thousand ways to travel and make money. Make sure you're choosing this one because it's the best option for you and the kids.
With EPIK, there's a lot of variety. Some native-English teachers have co-teachers who plan it all and other native-English teachers who put in hours of extra work. The majority say they manage their hours and workload just fine, especially with desk-warming. Desk-warming happens often in EPIK. This means vacation periods where you may be the only teacher in the building. You can't skip out on this. You can't simply not go. No matter what, your butt better be in that chair. For some, this is the worst, for others, they use the extra time to fine-tune lesson plans and pursue other interests, such as blogging, vlogging, learning a new skill, writing novels, networking, taking online courses, etc. A lot of people choose to teach abroad as a gap year. If that's the case for you, what will have to show for said gap year? You'll have time to travel on weekends and holidays, but what will you do in the spare hours of your "mundane" workday?
As you'll find out, the process to get yourself a teaching contract and visa is no quick or simple task. Besides your reasons, make sure you see this work as worth it. Factor homesickness, fears, your ability to feel discomfort, your willingness to learn a language. Yes, in many places and for EPIK, you are not required to learn the language. But if you are living in a foreign country for an entire year, then I'd say you owe it to yourself as a traveler, your students as a language teacher, and your adopted community as a guest to learn at least the basics. No one is asking for fluency, but showing an effort to speak the language directly shows your willingness to also experience the culture. For EPIK in particular, your job is to encourage the potency of learning English--the opportunity for cultural exchange. Said exchange is a two way street, but you are expected to speak to the students in English only.
So for FAQ #1 I'm asking more questions than giving answers.
FAQ #2: Do I need a degree? Teaching Experience? TESL/TEFL certifications? Does English need to be my first language
FAQ #3: EPIK, GEPIK, SMOE, and TaLK
Ah, the quartet of acronyms you've surely come across if you're looking to teach in Korea. Let's start simple: these are all government sponsored English-teaching programs. Their differences are slight, but may make-it or break-it for some of you.
I decided to go with EPIK for a few reasons, most of it boiling down to my experience level and the fact that I wasn't picky about being placed near Seoul. As you consider these programs take into consideration what you find most important. Location? Age of students? EPIK, GEPIK, SMOE, and TaLK all offer a more structured and long (looooooooooooooong) application than going privately, but working with Korea's public school system may be worth it to you.
Otherwise, let's move onto FAQ #4.
FAQ #4: Hagwon vs. Public School
When looking at teaching in Korea, you probably had a few people suggest hagwons over EPIK and vice-versa. If you've got the credentials then you may have even considered teaching at the university level. I won't go into detail about that last option, but here are some quick facts about hagwons vs. public schools.
*FAQs 5, 6 and 7 specifically discuss EPIK
FAQ #5: How much will I be paid?
Your pay depends on your "level," which is broken down as follows:
1.8-2.1 million KRW
bachelor's degree (any field)
2.0-2.2 million KRW
any bachelor's+TESL OR
bachelor's in education/related field OR
any bachelor's+teaching cert
2.1-2.3 million KRW
1 year full time teaching+bachelor's in related field OR
1 year full time teaching+teaching cert OR
1 year full time teaching+TES;/TEFL/CELTA cert OR
Master's in Education/related field (any bachelor's) OR
Bachelor's in Education/related field (any master's)
2.3-2.5 million KRW
2 year full time teaching+bachelor's in related field OR
2 year full time teaching+master's in related field OR
2 year full time teaching+teaching cert OR
2 year full time teaching+TES;/TEFL/CELTA cert
While you must be at level 2 by the time you sign your contract, level 3 applicants are welcome to apply so long as they complete one of the criteria before signing their EPIK contract. For those of you outside education, this is most easily done by taking an online TESL course. (Depending on your end goals, you may want to consider CELTA. It is very expensive, but more internationally recognized. If you're just interested in Korea, a standard online TESL with 20-hr in class should be fine.)
FAQ #6: Should I use a recruiter or apply directly?
This boils down to your organization, eye for detail, and ability to keep track of multiple important documents at a time. Scroll up, take a look at that list of required documents, and understand that each document likely involves an additional 2-3 steps.
Can you micromanage that?
A recruiter will not only help you keep tabs on all documents, but will also speak on your behalf, pushing for your acceptance into the program. If things don't work out with EPIK, many recruiters work with hagwons and directly with specific public schools to get you a placement. Big recruiting companies like Korvia also provide some benefits like a pre-paid SIM card for your arrival. Not to mention--RECRUITERS PROOFREAD ALL YOUR FORMS.
However something else to consider is how fast you want your application in EPIK's hands. If you can consider yourself a competitive candidate and your documents are among the first to be reviewed, your chances of receiving your preferred location are sliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiightly better. Applications sent directly to EPIK are reviewed far before any applications from recruiters. In fact, most recruiters don't get your applications out until about two months after EPIK opens the application period.
Ultimately, I chose to apply directly. I'll let you know soon if I end up regretting it! To be perfectly honest, though, I've spent the last few months scouring one recruiting agency's website for most application information. Korvia, even if you choose to apply on your own, outlines many key details for applying to EPIK. In addition to EPIK's website, I had this one tabbed and referenced almost weekly from August to now! (Yes, I'm that Type A).
FAQ #7: What does EPIK's application timeline look like?
Un proceso de muchas horas. Μια μεγάλη ενόχληση. 이신청 길고 자세하다.
Now that I've exhausted the limited extent of my foreign language knowledge (and probably butchered said languages in one go): this application is long. I started gathering documents in August for my February application. Rather than ramble on, I'll let the following chart speak for itself:
I pulled that straight from EPIK's website. This--also--only outlines the application process from the moment you email your initial form.
Many people, myself included, begin gathering documents anywhere from two to six months prior (or maybe I'm just the neurotic one apostilling my diploma in August for a February application). As a reminder, here's a complete list of the necessary documents:
Ready to apply?
I hope this FAQ addressed the more daunting aspects about applying to teach abroad in Korea. If you've got any more questions, send them my way! Also, it goes without saying but be sure to check out EPIK's website and explore the web for countless other EPIK bloggers! Otherwise, be on the lookout for my step-by-step guides to gathering each document!
Pedagogy and Reflection
We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience