Tag Archives: teaching in Korea

ARC Extensions and New Passports

For my next adventure…

So today I called Korea’s immigration helpline for foreigners on 1345 (3* for English). She was very helpful and I realise that my employer really isn’t.

New Passport

If you get a new passport, you must inform immigration within 14 days. Yikes. I’m beyond that time frame already. First, I didn’t know. I thought you could roam around with both passports. Yes, I know I should have looked into it. Bah. Second, the issue date on my passport is 24 March but I didn’t receive it until 04 April, just six days ago. I didn’t think I had proof of that, but I might… an email from the Consular saying they didn’t send it until 03 April. So I’ll print that and see if it helps. It means I’ve got to go and get all this done this week. Let’s see if I can get Mr. Money on that one.

ARC (Alien Registration Card) Extension

For this, I need a contract extension and to go to immigration. The issue with this one is that I never got a copy of my contract in the first place. I’m not sure what the dates on them are. I think they are much earlier than what I actually worked, in order to avoid having to get an extension last year. So I need to sort that out. In the meantime, I need to try and get a contract extension done and get Mr. Money to immigration. Before Friday.

 

Decisions Made

Last week we had a quick meeting with the bosses. There was no “offer”.  We aren’t even sure why we had to meet with Mr. Money, he had nothing to add to the meeting. But we have come to a decision.

I will be leaving in May to move to Hanoi, Vietnam. Dan will follow when his visa is finished in September, as long as there is no monkey-business that prompts him to leave earlier.

I’m going to try and chronicle what we are going through a little with this transition. I was very curious what others in a similar situation (moving from Korea to Vietnam, moving as a couple, moving with pets) have gone through and there isn’t a lot out there. Or, rather, there is a lot, but trying to get through all the (often conflicting) information is a nightmare. So this will be our simple story about what we had to do.

Waiting (really is) the Hardest Part

We are definitely a couple on edge right now. Yesterday I went in to ask my director if we could meet this week to finalise what will be happening, especially in regards to dates. She said that she knows we need to meet, but she was waiting because her husband (the ‘money guy’) wants to make us an offer.

We have NO idea what this could be.

When all this started, I was told that my contract wasn’t being renewed, end of story. In a nice way. She doesn’t really want us to go, and I believe that. But the business can’t support as much staff as they have now, etc., so a couple of teachers are getting the axe.

When she told me that they could only keep one foreigner, I asked if she had considered keeping me and losing Dan. That was kindness to him, by the way, not cruelty. He has only worked at the same school in his nearly three years here and has often expressed a want to get some experience in another school. It would also buy us another year’s time, as was our original plan. I also suggested that Dan and I could both go in May, but she didn’t bite on that idea. “I can’t find a new teacher that quickly,” she laughed. I wasn’t laughing; she expected me to find another job that quickly. But anyway. She *did* like the idea of keeping me a year and said she would talk it over with Mr. Money.

The next day we met again and nothing was finalised. She was still mulling over the “keeping Jodi for another year” idea, but by that point Dan and I had already decided it was not a good idea for us, for multiple reasons. We said in that meeting that the options had been reduced to two: Either we both leave at our contract ends (May for me and then September for Dan) or they could let us both go at the same time at any point between when my contract ends and when Dan’s contract ends. And nothing was decided. We believe she still thinks me staying another year is an option. It’s not.

So now we are still waiting. We are giving them until Friday and if we hear nothing by then we will tell them what we are doing – I’m gone in May and Dan is gone in September. But in the meantime we are left puzzling over what this offer could possibly be. We aren’t holding out hope, any offer they make will be for their benefit, not ours. But we can’t help but be curious, and talk it over. And over. And over.

So we drink too much coffee. And think too much. And sleep too little. We start making plans and then have to stop as we don’t want to go too far down a path that isn’t going to take us anywhere.

Waiting. It’s a frustrating time, but at least it isn’t a boring one. Too much to think about!

Movin’ On

We (my husband and I) have been chatting for months now about what we are going to do when our current contracts run out. We’ve been thinking about trying somewhere other than Korea, you see. We enjoy teaching ESL in Asia, but Korea is no longer the best place to be doing it in my opinion. I may write a post on why I feel that way another day, but for now: recent events.

We’ve mostly decided that we would like to give Hanoi, Vietnam a try. From everything we’ve read, it sounds equally exciting, trying, and interesting. There are definitely good points (like making your own schedule and not being tied to one school) and bad (like not getting a bank account or being able to send money overseas unless you are with one school). But it sounds like it could be a great experience.

Before making a move, we wanted to be financially ready. All our debts will be paid off this year (Korea has been great for that – eliminating my debt is something that would have been very difficult had I stayed in London) so we were going to take some time to save to be really steady before we made a move… which would have been at my contract end in May 2018 or even Dan’s in September 2018.

Looks like that wanted delay has been taken from us.

I found out last week that my contract isn’t being renewed. Like many hogwans (private academies) all over Korea, our school’s enrolment numbers are down and so our director has decided to make some staffing cuts. Namely a bus driver, a Korean teacher (who was hired not even two months ago), and a foreign teacher. My contract is due up, so that foreigner is me.

We think that they (the director and her husband, the ‘money man’) are being reactionary and not really thinking through beyond freeing up some cash asap. But hey. It is their business.

I feel more for Dan (my husband and I worked at the same hogwan) – they may combine classes and drop the ‘speaking’ portion of a few so he is still not teaching more than 30 hours a week – but there is still going to be double the amount of kids. Double the amount of books. And he’s going to be the only foreigner at the school. Not fun.

We have had a stressful week thinking about what to do next. We thought through every possible scenario. We’ve tried to think how we could make our original plan of being in Korea another 18 months work. And we’ve come to the conclusion that it isn’t worth trying to stay here.

So it looks like sometime in May this year, I’ll be moving to Hanoi. Yikes. I have so much to figure out (and do, like that TEFL course!) before then. And I’m not too excited about going on alone to do something Dan and I were going to do together. In short: I’m terrified.

But the positive is this: If I go first, I can see if it is going to be something we actually want to do before we fly the cats over. I can get an apartment ready (with a litter box in it – the cats are a major complication in this scenario). I can see how easy it is to get jobs. I can start the network.

I’m scared about this one. It’s a bigger adventure than I was looking for in 2017. But the last time life shoved me around it worked out for the best. I moved to Korea, met Dan, and got my money in order. I’ve been more happy and relaxed than I have in years. I just got to stay hopeful that life is pushing me in the right direction again.

TEFL’ing

As part of preparing to move on from Korea, the husband signed us up for a TEFL course so we could grab ourselves some certification. There are a lot of countries that require teachers to have certificates in TEFL, even if they have experience.

It’s clearly a box to tick.

I’m only in the second module and already a bunch of it seems like utter bollocks. Okay, maybe that’s not fair. I’m sure it is all soundly based in linguistic studies and has been tested in particular classrooms. Just not classrooms in Korea. I’m sceptical how much will be useful in classrooms in Vietnam.

So far, there has been extremely little that I could use in my teaching here. Firstly, it has been geared primarily toward teaching adults. If you are teaching in Korea, you are most likely going to be teaching kindergarten and elementary, maybe middle school. There aren’t too many jobs teaching adults. Secondly, much as I like the laid-back, natural-acquisition of language stuff that they are laying down, that’s not how it works in a classroom that is part of a Korean business. You need results. You need concrete results, such as fully completed books and ever higher test scores.

I think the issue is that the goal of EFL in Korea isn’t to become fluent in English, it is to pass a test to get into a good university. It *is* grammar focused. It *is* rule based. It *is* about being right or wrong so it does need to be corrected. And it does start when they are about 5 years old.

To be fair, I’m only in the third module of the course, and am hopeful that in the ten modules (eleven if you count the grammar module) that there will be some other things that I can take away and use while I am here in Korea. I don’t mind the studying, and I don’t even mind spending the money… I would just like the effort and expense to be worth more than a ticked box.

To finish up today, I can see now why so many new, fresh-faced young teachers that pop up in Korea with their TEFL certificates are often so disillusioned about what teaching English as a second language here is really like. It is so idealistic in the course, as though you will have all the time in the world with a class full of laughing, engaged kiddos hanging on your every word, eager to learn the mysteries of English, to teach them how to be fluent speakers and writers. Again, hopefully as I move further along the modules, they will have more information on how to deal with communication and cultural disconnects within the school administration, how to deal with just pushing through books because completing them is more important than teaching them, or students who are exhausted, bored, and wanting to be anywhere else in the world but in yet another hagwon class before they go home to have their supper at 10 o’clock at night. Because that information would still, even after five years of teaching here, be hella useful.

Getting to Korea

I started blogging in the summer of 2005, the first time I was heading to Korea. Around then, blogging seemed like a relatively new concept (as in, I didn’t know anyone else doing it) that would be better for sharing my experiences of teaching in Korea than sending bulk emails every once in awhile. And  even though we now have a billion more ways to share things than we did in 2005 (before smart phones!), I’m thinking the odd blog post will still be a great way of sharing some of my experiences in Korea.

As a first post written in Korea, I thought I would go into a bit of detail of what getting here was like. Not loads, because for most people it isn’t very interesting, but for anyone thinking about coming to the ROK to teach, they might find it fascinating.

Step One: Find a Recruiter that Doesn’t Suck

I sort of failed on this one. I found my recruiter through the forums on Dave’s ESL Cafe (and if you ARE thinking about going to Korea to teach, you should check out that site). The recruitment company came recommended, and maybe some of them are good. Unfortunately, the guy that I worked with was, at best, meh. It felt like he did the absolute minimum he could and getting information out of him was like pulling teeth. He would send me copypasta emails with erroneous and, at times, incorrect information. Scares me that if this had been my first time to Korea, I wouldn’t have been able to call him out on it. He basically went incommunicado the minute my visa was obtained and the flights were booked. I think my chances of having his support if something goes wrong here are slim to none (and slim just went home). But c’est la vie. I’m here now so it worked out despite his weinerness.

Step Two: Rock a Skype Interview

The interview process for Korea is very simple. Speak clearly and try to not look like you hurt small children.  Add a winning smile and enthusiasm for teaching (even if you’re faking it) and your job offer is 98% in the bag.

Step Three: Obtain your E2 Visa

This isn’t hard, but it does take some time. Not as much time as it takes to NOT GET YOUR BRITISH VISA (haha) but still count on it taking about a month. It works like this:

a. Get a job
b. Send all your paperwork to Korea
c. Get a “visa reference number”
d. Put the aforementioned number on another application and send it to your local consulate
e. Win.

It’s a bit more complicated that than (if you want details, let me know in comments and I’ll help out if I can), but that’s the essence of it. Part C and D take at least 10 days a piece, which is where the delays come in.

::SIDE NOTE::

I ended up with further delays because by the time my visa came back, it was pretty close to the Christmas vacation. The school asked me to delay coming until January, and although it wasn’t ideal for me, I agreed.

What y’all should know about this is that it meant I was home for nearly three months. THREE MONTHS. And you know who put up with me hermiting in her house,  whinging about governmental paperwork and eating all her food? My blessed saint of a mother, that’s who. I’m still trying to figure out just how many flipping Anytime candies from Korea I’m going to have to send her to thank her fully.

::END SIDE NOTE::

Step Four: Get Your Booty on a Plane

My flights weren’t too bad this time around. They flew me (the school pays for the flights) the same as they did last time – Vancouver to Seattle, Seattle to Seoul. Which basically sucks balls because it is an extra 6 hours of travelling than a direct flight is. But whatevs. Free flight, amirite?

Last time I took this trip I ended up with a delayed Van > Seattle flight which meant SPRINTING across Seatac to catch the next flight. And then I had the centre seat in the centre set of five seats in a packed flight. I got up twice the entire flight and didn’t sleep a wink. It probably didn’t help that my back was a mess of agony (it turned out that I had herniated all the discs in my lower back, something I wouldn’t learn until I saw a doctor in Korea).

This time around I had a pleasurable stroll through Seatac and then an aisle seat with no one beside me for the long (12 hours!) portion of the flight. Heck. I even slept.

Once in country, a dude with a sign put me on a bus. This is pretty fucked up. I’m still not happy that I had to take a BUS after 20+ hours of travelling, but hey ho! I survived. The school director met me at the bus stop and took me to my flat. Which then lead to us going to the shop to buy cleaning supplies.

Which is a post for another day. I’m going to leave this here and start catching up with myself over the course of this week. I’ll post about the state of the flat I was given (here’s a spoiler: It was freaking filthy) and my first night in Korea. And tomorrow is the first day teaching, so I’ll have a thing or two to say about that.

That is, if I survive the first day. Cross your fingers for me. It’s been a while since I’ve done this.