Wednesday, June 29, 2011

In the Mail

The Canada Post strike is over. Actually, it ended yesterday. Thank goodness! It's lovely to finally get mail again... even if that means getting bills in the mail, too.

Anyways, I collected all of the documents I need for my visa application, so I sent everything off today with XpressPost. *Fingers crossed* there aren't any problems with my application. Let's see how long it will take for my passport to return. See you soon, Passport!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Contract is Back

I got my contract back today :) Now the visa process can begin…

On June 10th, I sent 3 signed copies of the contract, 1 signed 9-part addenda, 2-35mmx45mm passport photos, 1 official copy of my transcripts (sealed), a notarized copy of my police check and a notarized copy of my education degree.  Luckily, these were sent off right before Canada Post went on strike and thankfully left the country before the strike started. Otherwise, who knows what would have happened… At least my passport wasn’t with this initial batch!

FedEx delivered 2 of the contracts (stamped) today. Note: the SMOE office keeps one contract for its own records. One contract will be for me to hang on to while teaching, the other will get submitted to the Korean consulate for me to apply for a E-2 visa which I will need to teach in Korea. I also received a Notice of Appointment which is to be submitted with my visa application.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Applying to SMOE

Once I decided that I wanted to teach in Korea, the next few steps were pretty easy. I filled out the application form on the SMOE** (Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education) website and wrote a short essay on why I wanted to work in Korea. Then, I sent in my application form and an updated resume. I was contacted shortly after by head office and was given a short phone interview. Basically, the people at SMOE want to make sure that applicants understand what is expected of them during the program and what the program can offer them.

For instance, I was told that I would be teaching 40 students and a winter/summer English camp for students during the holidays. However, I will always be teaching with a Korean teacher, as foreign teachers are not allowed to teach in the classroom by themselves according to Korean law.

What about the perks? I will get 21 days vacation days (most likely 5 to be taken in the winter and 16 in the summer).  Each teacher will be provided with an apartment and a small settling-in allowance. I will have to purchase my plane ticket myself, but will get reimbursed most of the cost on my first payday.  Whether or not the amount given will cover my entire plane ticket will depend on the price of the plane ticket. More on that later…

As a side note, if I end the contract within the first six months, I will need to repay my flight and settling-in allowance. If I finish my contract, I will be given money to help pay for my trip back home, an equivalent amount to my arrival flight. My contract will be a year long, but I will need to attend an orientation session which will be unpaid.

One problem I’m having right now is that I cannot book my plane ticket yet, as I am still unsure when my orientation is going to be, nor do I know how many days it will be. It could be just a few days or up to 10 days. I’ll keep you posted.

**The SMOE program is also known as ETIS (English Teachers in Seoul), but not to be confused with EPIK (English Program in Korea) which places teachers outside of Seoul.

Interested in Korea?

If you would like to teach in Korea, too, you have some decisions to make. Aside from where in Korea you would like to teach and when you want to leave on your teaching adventure, deciding between hagwons (private schools) and public schools is a big first step.

From what I have heard from others who have gone to teach in South Korea, there are advantages and disadvantages to each type of school. Hagwons usually have much smaller class sizes than public schools. Think 15 students versus 40. Hagwons may also have only evening classes, so you will want to know what you are getting yourself into. The way a hagwon is run depends on the owner, so you may have a joyous time abroad or want to go home as soon as you set foot in the place. Stories abound of teachers who have not been paid or of owners who treat their employees very poorly. My advice: Do your research of a hagwon before signing any contracts.

I decided to go the public school route. Yes, there are more students and the pay might be slightly less than a hagwon; however, my contract is through the government which reassures me that I will get paid with regulated hours. The agency I will be working for is called SMOE (Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education). It places teachers in public schools throughout Seoul.

A similar agency, EPIK (English Program in Korea), places English teachers in Busan, South Korea.

Other government-sponsored English teaching opportunities:

Countdown to South Korea

At the end of August, I will be heading to South Korea to teach English. This will be the longest I have ever spent away from home. Once I arrive, my goal is to write at least one posting each week. Check back often for blog updates. I'm looking forward to sharing my teaching adventure with you :)