Teaching English abroad is a fantastic way to explore the world. You can experience an expat lifestyle with the security of a regular paycheck, a valid visa and assistance getting set up in a new country. Today’s interview is with Lindsay Nash, a former English teacher in Korea, who has started her own recruiting agency to help English teachers find jobs in Korea.
How long did you teach English in Korea?
My husband and I taught English for two years at a public/private elementary school in Gwangju, South Korea. Most contracts are one year, but we enjoyed it so much that we stayed for a second year. And we are currently planning on returning for a third year in March.
How did you find your first teaching jobs?
We found our jobs through a small recruiting agency that we came across in all of our “Googling” to find out more information about teaching in Korea. There are so many recruiters out there (now including myself!) so it was important to us to find one that we trusted and that could answer all of our questions.
How easy is it to find teaching jobs?
Very easy. Korea is a country that places a very strong value in education. Children go to school all day, every day. After regular school, they go to private language academies. And every school needs at least one native English speaker (many schools have more than one). So there are an abundance of jobs available!
Is it necessary to have teaching certificates or training to find employment?
No. While schools sometimes prefer a teacher with experience or a certificate, it is NOT required in Korea. Before coming to Korea, I was a newspaper reporter with zero teaching experience and zero certifications. And it worked out just fine for me.
How did you get your first work visa?
It’s important to find a good recruiting agency (try ours at www.saykimchirecruiting.com) that can walk you through the tedious E2 visa process. All teachers must obtain this visa to work in Korea legally. Your recruiting agency will help you through this process, which requires you sending a lot of documents (original university degree, transcripts, resume, etc.) to Korea.
Is it possible for teachers to arrive without a work visa and look for a job?
Yes, you can come to Korea as a tourist and look for work. But why do that when you can easily find a job beforehand that will pay your flight to and from Korea?! That’s one of the best benefits about teaching in Korea. All 1-year teaching jobs pay for roundtrip flights.
What is the cost of living in Korea?
The cost of living in Korea is relatively low, especially outside of Seoul. I lived in Gwangju and payed about $100 of expenses a month (gas, water, utilities, mobile phone). Eating out is cheap but some fruits and vegetables from the grocery store can be a little expensive.
How much money can the average teacher expect to save?
You can save between $500 and $1,000 a month on average.
Do you recommend Korea for other English teachers?
Yes! Korea is an amazing country with a storied past and colorful culture. It is a country that is often looked over due to its popular neighbors, China and Japan. But, in my opinion, that’s what makes Korea so interesting. It’s a country where postcards are rare. A country hinging between tradition and globalization. A country with amazing cuisine and friendly people. I absolutely recommend it.
What did you love and hate about Korea?
Loves: Food, culture, people, landscape (mountains!), the islands.
Hates: Hate is a strong word. I’d say there are cultural differences sometimes that makes you long for home–as any foreign country will. But nothing that I can’t live with. If I had to name one thing I wished I could change about the country it would be their driving. Look both ways before you cross a street!
What advice would you offer for others thinking of teaching English Abroad?
Do your research. Moving to the other side of the world is a big decision. Make sure you are adventurous and open-minded enough to do it. It’s not always easy. It’s not a vacation. It’s a job. So make sure you do your research, ask lots of questions, and, in the end, keep an open mind and HAVE FUN! It’s truly an adventure of a lifetime.
What are your plans now?
I have just started my own recruiting company, Say Kimchi Recruiting, and I am working on connecting native English speakers around the globe to teaching positions in Korea. When I’m not doing that, I’m usually doing some freelance writing or photography or traveling with my husband. We are hanging out in America this fall and winter to be with family. We are currently residing in the beautiful mountains of Asheville, N.C.
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Really interesting interview. I’ve been curious about the whole ESL thing, and have heard that Korea and Japan are two big (and really wonderful) places to do so, but the details (like cost of living!) are really appreciated here.
Might have to try my hand at it some day just for the experience!
.-= Colin Wright´s last blog ..Today I Exhaled =-.
So good to hear a positive report from someone teaching English abroad. My sister taught English in Taiwan and she was employed well and taken care of, mostly because she also spoke fluent Mandarin, but so many of the other English teachers who were working through other recruiting agencies had terrible experiences with their jobs.
Perhaps Korea is the place to consider, then…?
.-= Kristin´s last blog ..peek at your paradigm =-.
Great interview! Anyone who wants to travel and live life like a Digital Nomad should consider teaching English (TESL) as an easy and well-paid option. You can teach kids, teens, adults and literally pick any country in the world to live for six months or a year. With no teaching experience and one short 3-week class, I am now living in eastern China, 1.5 hours from Shanghai, teaching English to high school kids who honestly treat me like a pop star from the USA – they love learning and they love foreigners. The job is much easier than we ever expected, I’m working less than 20 hours a week and the cost of living here is very low. I picked China for the challenges and 180-degree different lifestyle and culture, but Korea offers the highest pay to teachers in the world. Thanks for reminding me why I love it here and how much adventure I can pack into one day here in the Middle Kingdom.
.-= Sean Ward´s last blog ..Saying Goodbye to Tibet =-.
@ Colin Teaching is a great way to experience the world. In Japan, it is also quite possible to save $500 to $1000 per month. (If you don’t blow your money in the bars every weekend.:-))
@Kristin In Japan, there are occasional stories of teachers getting cheated by employers but I would say that it is generally safe.
@Sean Thanks for the comment. It is great to hear about your positive experiences.
Oscar - freestyle mind
That’s very interesting. I’m not english speaking so I could not take the it but it’s a great opportunity for those who want to work oversee.
.-= Oscar – freestyle mind´s last blog ..How to Take the Red Pill in Your Life =-.
I am not sure what your native language is, but there are many French and Spanish teachers in Japan as well. I don’t know about Korea first hand but there is probably demand for other languages there also.
I always love reading about the cost of living and expenses in other countries, so that part of this interview was especially interesting. Although I don’t think I would ever want to teach, it’s definitely an awesome opportunity for anyone who does. Great interview!
Although I didn’t teach in Korea, I had a great opportunity to teach in Japan through JET (which I highly recommend, the program is through Japan’s Board of Education).
The island I lived on was very close to Korea, so I had a few opportunities to visit Pusan and Seoul (via train). Love the food!
.-= Ken Kurosawa´s last blog ..10 Tips to Get More Out of Google in Less Time =-.
Dave and Deb
Excellent advice. I have a friend going to teach English in Korea this year. It is her first time doing anything like this and I have sent on your post.
This is great information to know for us. We are going to be traveling around Asia starting in November, who knows, we may pop into Korea for awhile to rebuild our funds before moving on. Now that we know that it is possible to get work pretty easily, we just may give it a try. Thanks for always providing us with Excellent information!
.-= Dave and Deb´s last blog ..Marriott Fifty Dollar Giveaway =-.
Korea is a good place, but you definitely need to do your research on a school-by-school basis. I taught on a tiny, rural island for a year and I loved it, but there were a few folks who had been placed there randomly and couldn’t deal with the isolation.
.-= Kelsey´s last blog ..On Balancing Realism and Enthusiasm =-.
Great interview, John.
My nephew taught English in Gwangju a few years back, he had a blast doing it. My daughter is currently in Turkey as an exchange student and wants to return there after finishing her studies here in the states to teach English in Turkey.
I am amazed at the quality of interviews you do and people you profile. Keep up the great job.
.-= Rasheed Hooda´s last blog ..An Absolutely Brilliant Way to Be Yourself =-.
I’m in Japan at the moment, having just finished a contract with one school, and now looking for another. After relative isolation in a small town, I need a city. But it’s taking longer now to find a job, as I’m over 50. But I’ll find something soon (it’d better be soon, money’s getting tight again). I have nothing to go back to at home, the economy there’s a mess, there are no jobs. So I’m here. I want to start up freelance editing and writing again, too. So I’m eager to get settled again soon. I may try Korea, but I’d probably have to return to the States first to get my documents in order. A shame, because I have a 3-year visa for Japan.
I think that perhaps 500 is a bit on the low side for savings. It seems like most teachers who are reasonably responsible with money can save $1000 easily enough.