Talk to me. Don't be afraid to be long-winded. I welcome oversharers. I've done reams of research on teaching in South Korea, but I still have lots of questions. And the only people I really trust to answer them are you. Spill, please. What's your Korean story?
My goal is to save as much money as possible in the shortest time possible. I have debt to pay back, and more years than I care to count of under- and unemployment to address. I'm also deeply burned out on the American economy and trying to somehow accommodate it. And I could sure use a serious change of scenery. So, after weeks of research, I've deduced that I can make the most money most easily teaching in Korea (given payrates, free housing, and cost of living).
But I'm left with questions. I realize I absolutely don't have the energy for a hagwon,
and I wouldn't teach kids to save my life. What I want is a university job or something similar teaching adults, with a 2.5 million KRW/month or better salary, no more than, say, 25 hours/week of classes, and the usual attached apartment, bonus, insurance, and other perks.
Opinion on Korea is fiercely divided on the internet. But even if it weren't, I'd still have some doubts. Apologies for the lengthy questionnaire, but these are the things I wonder....
1. What are the odds of my getting a university job of this kind in Korea from the States?
- I've got 2 years teaching experience in Japan (both middle school and college) + 3 years teaching experience in the States (college).
- I've worked in educational editing (lots of ESL books, a few famous; and some grammar books), and I've done some government writing/editing.
- I've also conducted several author tutorials, on and off over the years.
- I have an extensive background in foreign (non-Asian) languages.
- In general, I look good on paper and, in fact, I was a really good teacher.
- In person, I also happen to fit the physical stereotype of the "foreign teacher" in all my, you know, light-haired exotica, et al.
- But my teaching experience is nearly 20 years old.
- And I have no CELTA, DELTA, TESOL, or MA.
2. When can I expect to start seeing ads for the fall semester? Or should I just start applying to lists of universities I have found and, if so, any idea how I find the contact person in the English Department's name on a Korean University Website?
3. Can I really save $12-$20 grand there in a year, living a la graduate student; that is, frugally but not badly, assuming a base salary of 2.5 million KRW/month?
4. How stable is the won-to-dollar exchange rate? I've read about its lows during the Recession, and I know you're not my economists, but I'm just wondering what the view is from those who've followed it long-term for similar personal finance reasons.
5. Which is better? On- or off-campus housing? And what does teacher's housing tend to look like and include?
6. How likeable is Seoul? I was there years ago, and I remember it as being really gray and bland. But I'm not sure if that was a fair assessment, even then.
7. How polluted is Seoul? How sprawling is it?
8. Can you use English-language GPS in Seoul!?! How hard is it to navigate, generally?
9. Is it difficult to make friends there? Teachers, businesspeople, single men, whomever.
10. Are there many Westerners there in their 30s or 40s?
11. Did going to Korea help your career in any way?
12. Did you learn Korean?
13. Do you think China would have been more interesting?