Teaching English Abroad: How to Get Started & What to Expect

Well, it’s official. Johnny and I have accepted a position in Gunpo, South Korea to teach English to the youngsters. But…Gunpo…you ponder. Where is that anyway? How did you find this job? What’s the deal? Ponder no further-I’m here to explain.

The Job

Our start date is August 21st, with JEL language school, where we’ll be teaching elementary school to high school aged kids (Monday-Friday from 2pm to 10pm). JEL, located in Gunpo, is a private language school that the kids go to after their regular schooling. On our Skype call with the existing teacher, we got to check out the classrooms. They look awesome-fully stocked with books and notepads, with the classroom walls covered in pictures and posters. In terms of living expenses, the school pays for our accommodation and flights, plus we earn a nice salary. Not a bad gig.

How Did We Get Started?

Oxford Seminars offers 3 weeks of in-class schooling as well as a 60 hour online component, after which you get your TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification and they help place you at a school in your preferred location. It’s expensive, but it provides you with awesome tools and techniques in terms of teaching, and supplies you with both online and printed resources to take with you on your teaching adventures.

Once you’ve completed the course and obtain your certification, Oxford sets you up with a placement advisor, who sends out your resume and cover letter to their contacts in the countries you showed an interest in. From there, the various schools reach out to you, and you set up online interviews. In our case, the first step was speaking with a recruiter, after which we had an interview with the school director. She was awesome! They sent us a job offer a few days later, and now we’re in the process of obtaining visas to go to South Korea. The time between starting the course and leaving for Korea (in our experience) is four and a half months, which is a pretty quick turnaround time! In addition, the Oxford advisors consist largely of former teachers who have undergone the exact same process, so they’re great resources if you have any questions about your new life abroad.

Now where exactly are they sending us…

Gunpo, where the JEL school is located, is a small city located 45 minutes south of Seoul in the Seoul National Capital Area. A mere Subway ride away, it’s close to all the action of the country’s capital. What drew us to Gunpo is the massive Mt. Surisan Provincial park that overlooks the city, as well as the 73% green space that the city boasts. But the natural beauty doesn’t stop there. In April, Gunpo hosts the Royal Azalea Festival, where the city is filled with beautiful pink flowers.

Alas, the list goes on. Gunpo has a “street of culture” with a hub for pedestrians located in Sanbon New Town. This area features a vibrant commercial district full of restaurants, bars, clothing boutiques, and other typical fixtures of a Korean city. In addition, the city is rife with temples, such as the Surisa temple, located near the city centre.

The combination of Gunpo’s urban and natural landscape have us thrilled to begin life there, and the prospect of being immersed in a completely new culture with different food and an unfamiliar language is wildly exciting. That being said, I think the city’s mountainous features and environmentally inclined population will give me a taste of home, putting my Vancouver sensibilities at ease.

With our departure date coming up we are very busy bees! Between assembling our documents for the Visa process and spending time with friends and family, we’ve got a jam packed schedule. Luckily that schedule includes many trips around BC to get some local travel anecdotes in for you guys.

Next up: Whistler




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