February 17, 2019, 01:29:26 AM


Author Topic: Life after teaching in Korea  (Read 2011 times)

Offline johnpwessel

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Life after teaching in Korea
« on: February 03, 2019, 12:45:54 PM »
In 2015, I hung up the English teacher gloves and left Korea after living there for about 3 years and some change.  Leaving a somewhat steady job (EPIK) without any work experience (non teaching) was a bit stressful. Thankfully I was able to find a new job/career within 2 months of getting back to the US. I attribute this to a better economy and the many hours I spent studying while in Korea.

My current experience~4 years later

Income: much better, could never go back to teaching
Health insurance: comparable cost (employer pays majority), way better coverage
Career growth opportunities: way better
Vacation time: about the same, but more flexible and can take sick days easily.
Desk warming: non-existent
Air quality: better
Food delivery options: worse
Walkability of my city: shite, easier to be sedentary

For those who have left, how have things gone after returning to your home country?
For those not planning to be lifers, what's your plan?
For those that became lifers, what keeps you in Korea?

So far my decision to move back has been a good one. I miss some aspects of living in Korea, and the experience changed my life for the better...I still like to check waygook.org to see what people have to gripe about.  ;D









Online Life Improvement

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Re: Life after teaching in Korea
« Reply #1 on: February 03, 2019, 01:58:11 PM »
Thankfully I was able to find a new job/career within 2 months of getting back to the US. I attribute this to a better economy and the many hours I spent studying while in Korea.

What did you study?

Online eggieguffer

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Re: Life after teaching in Korea
« Reply #2 on: February 03, 2019, 02:26:47 PM »
If you're doing a job comparison you should probably also compare job satisfaction/suckability as the other main factor besides salary package. Also it's not clear whether you consider the absence of desk warming a positive or not. For the majority of people being allowed to sit around at a computer doing what you want during work hours would be a major plus point. I assume it enabled you to do at least some of the studying you mentioned, for example.
« Last Edit: February 03, 2019, 02:33:55 PM by eggieguffer »

Offline johnpwessel

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Re: Life after teaching in Korea
« Reply #3 on: February 03, 2019, 02:42:31 PM »
@Life improvement -I studied finance, particularly for the CFA exam.

@eggie, agreed job satisfaction is important. I would argue that this is covered by 'career growth opportunities'. Assuming your school runs the AC or heater, I see desk warming as a good thing.

Online eggieguffer

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Re: Life after teaching in Korea
« Reply #4 on: February 03, 2019, 03:11:49 PM »


Only if career growth means getting jobs that suck less. In a lot of  companies career growth means getting jobs that suck more. E.g management. Which is why they pay better
« Last Edit: February 03, 2019, 03:15:13 PM by eggieguffer »

Online Mr C

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Re: Life after teaching in Korea
« Reply #5 on: February 04, 2019, 12:02:42 AM »
There are many variables involved in job satisfaction, and it sounds like you are more satisfied with your new position.  I'm happy for you!

I'm not sure what CFA is exactly, but is sounds like you crunch numbers.  If you like that, then great!  (Maybe you're not a "people person" which a teacher has to be.)

I am quite interested in the health insurance element of your comparison.  My experience in the US was that health insurance was terrrrrrible, and seeing a doctor (even a doctor who was a school/family friend) was an hours-long process.  In the US, I paid about $500 per month matched by employer with a $500 deductible, which in the private teaching field was considered pretty standard/leaning toward good.

I need not mention the difference here, and have to point out that I have had great confidence in my doctors in Korea, one of whom is president of an international body.

I agree that career growth in the ESL job in Korea doesn't really exist. For me, I have already run through a full career back home (ceaseless hours of grading papers interrupted by whining parents on the phone), and am completely happy putting in my hours (during which I work diligently) then going home!  In short, this is the best job I've ever had!


Offline wg95

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Re: Life after teaching in Korea
« Reply #6 on: February 04, 2019, 11:30:22 AM »
Glad you're happy at your new job !

Offline johnpwessel

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Re: Life after teaching in Korea
« Reply #7 on: February 05, 2019, 10:43:23 AM »
@Mr. C, my copay for most doctor's visits is about $20, free for an annual checkup, and $100 for a visit to the emergency room at a hospital. Most surgeries and necessary procedures are fully covered.

While living in Korea I found the national health insurance great for preventative care and minor illnesses, visits to clinics are very affordable(plus they hand out antibiotics like 🍬)... However after tearing my ACL  in Korea I learned that the national health insurance coverage has it's limits. The national health insurance would cover somewhere between 50-80% of the cost of the procedure while I would need to cover the rest (if I remember correctly at least 3+ mil won).

I've heard that many Koreans buy supplemental health insurance to cover the (at times expensive) gaps not filled by the national health insurance. If you are in Korea for the long haul, this might something worth investigating.

I currently pay a fixed amount of about $200/month for health insurance. If I had my current income and still lived in Korea I would end up paying much more for less coverage given that Nation health insurance is a (4.5?)% of your total income. The main caveat here is that my employer pays a large portion of the my health insurance cost, maybe 1~2 x the premium I pay.

Tldr: US health insurance can be relatively affordable based on your job, Korean National Health insurance is affordable but can require a large copay.


Offline yfb

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Re: Life after teaching in Korea
« Reply #8 on: February 05, 2019, 10:50:58 PM »
I left Korea in 2017 after almost ten years of teaching there. I realized that no matter how good you are at your job, GEPIK puts a maximum cap on your salary and you're just wasting time career-wise staying for more than a couple of years. I got a job in the technology sector.

Income: 3x the GEPIK salary
Housing: Much bigger than the typical GEPIK shoebox and not that expensive.
Air: Clean
Spit: Non-existent
HVAC: Always on, no cheapo principals.
Public transportation: Something you only take if you're poor
Career growth: Much better. I've been promoted twice since joining this company.
Health insurance: Almost $300 a month for what essentially amounts to bankruptcy insurance

It truly is baffling to see jobs still being advertised at 2m and change. That was nice ten years ago, but that's below legal minimum wage in certain places today.

Online eggieguffer

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Re: Life after teaching in Korea
« Reply #9 on: February 06, 2019, 09:06:00 AM »
Quote
I realized that no matter how good you are at your job, GEPIK puts a maximum cap on your salary and you're just wasting time career-wise staying for more than a couple of years.

It took you ten years to realize this?

Online Mr C

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Re: Life after teaching in Korea
« Reply #10 on: February 06, 2019, 06:23:37 PM »
@Mr. C, my copay for most doctor's visits is about $20, free for an annual checkup, and $100 for a visit to the emergency room at a hospital. Most surgeries and necessary procedures are fully covered.

While living in Korea I found the national health insurance great for preventative care and minor illnesses, visits to clinics are very affordable(plus they hand out antibiotics like 🍬)... However after tearing my ACL  in Korea I learned that the national health insurance coverage has it's limits. The national health insurance would cover somewhere between 50-80% of the cost of the procedure while I would need to cover the rest (if I remember correctly at least 3+ mil won).

I've heard that many Koreans buy supplemental health insurance to cover the (at times expensive) gaps not filled by the national health insurance. If you are in Korea for the long haul, this might something worth investigating.

I currently pay a fixed amount of about $200/month for health insurance. If I had my current income and still lived in Korea I would end up paying much more for less coverage given that Nation health insurance is a (4.5?)% of your total income. The main caveat here is that my employer pays a large portion of the my health insurance cost, maybe 1~2 x the premium I pay.

Tldr: US health insurance can be relatively affordable based on your job, Korean National Health insurance is affordable but can require a large copay.
$200 a month with $20 copays is some amazing insurance.  This is clearly the best HMO I've heard of, what brand is that, if I may ask?

Dunno what your job here was, but for most in ESL in Korea, their natl insurance runs $100 to 150 per month OOP.  Thanks for the info.

Offline Brian

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Re: Life after teaching in Korea
« Reply #11 on: February 07, 2019, 12:24:27 AM »
I left almost 9 years ago after teaching in Korea from 2005 to 2010.  It's been a while, so my experience in Korea may be a little different; I've also had some more time to adjust. 

Currently I work as a mid-level staff member at a university in the US.  I am also enrolled in a Master's of Education program (work pays for most of it), and I pick up extra money working for a professor and tutoring ESL writing on the side.  I also help out at a local Chinese grocery store a couple days a week because it's kinda fun. 

I do miss Korea quite a bit, though I realize that a lot of that is missing life in my 20s, when I didn't have many responsibilities and didn't have as many expenses (no kids, no house).  Life in Korea was pleasant, though, and I would definitely like to visit again (my work will take me there next year); if circumstances were different I would even consider moving back. 

Like a lot of EFLers, I majored in English and moved to Korea after graduation.  I didn't, and don't, have any specialized skills, so teaching was a smart move financially.  Even today, at my primary job, I don't earn that much more than I did as a teacher when you take into account Korean health care and the free apartment provided by my schools.   The cost of health care is quite high in the US, as is the cost of daycare (nearly US$2,000 per month for two kids, which is around my take-home pay . . . thankfully my kids are now in free public schools). 

Returning and getting settled was a challenge.  I came back during the Great Recession when there was hardly any work, and it took me almost 1.5 years to meaningful full-time work.  As I said, I was an English major who had been away for five years, so I didn't have any skills or connections to help out.  People with more marketable skills and with connections to the industry back home shouldn't have as much trouble.  Things are okay now, but I do---like a lot of people my age, actually---have to rely on that part-time work to make ends meet and put some money in the bank. 

If things were a little different, I might have stayed.  I certainly liked Korea at the time and thought I'd be there even longer term.  My wife is Japanese, though, and at the time there was no "green card" option to allow us to stay.  The life of yearly contracts was stressful, and having residence tied completely to a work visa made long-term planning almost impossible. 

Wages for EFL teachers were (and I think still are) stagnant.  I earned 2.1 million won per month as a complete beginner in 2005, and I see jobs now advertising the same amount.  Unless you are able to move up in the industry and add some tutoring or some management work (if visas even allow that), it's got to be scary trying to grow up and raise a family on 2.1 million a month.  ESL is a tough business back in the US, too.  Most people I know in the field are part-time / adjunct instructors who have to cobble together work from different schools in order to make ends meet.  Employment isn't guaranteed from term to term, either.  I also saw a job ad recently in Pittsburgh (where I am) for a full-time ESL program director offering $15 per hour.

There was a good deal of reverse culture shock, and as you can imagine there is a lot politically and culturally I don't like about the US at the moment.  That will be about the same everywhere, though; the difference is I feel more connected to it here in the US because I'm a voter and an American.
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Offline johnpwessel

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Re: Life after teaching in Korea
« Reply #12 on: February 08, 2019, 12:46:01 PM »
Thanks for sharing your experience Brian...Sounds like teaching ESL is tougher back in the US. It's also crazy how base salaries have stayed at 2.1 million won for the last 14+ years in Korea. But I guess there's no shortage of fresh grads looking for an experience, and it's not like most employers are looking for people to stay with them for the long haul.

I came to Korea at the tail end of the great recession (2011), was startling how much the job market had improved for finance related jobs when I moved back in 2015. Since my wife is Korean I had/still have the option of getting a Korean spousal visa. I guess it's always good to have options, though I can't foresee either of us wanting to make the move back in the mid to long-term.



Offline SanderB

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Re: Life after teaching in Korea
« Reply #13 on: February 09, 2019, 07:45:33 AM »
EU

Job prospects: huge shortage of teachers- especially Maths- English (300 Ft predicted)
max salary scale: 5600 euros (higher 6k if ur in management)- 3x EPIK
tap water: pure/clean better than bottled water.
hair line: growing back  ;D
Air: Clean af. Don't need to lug a Samdasoo bottle with you on a jog or bike ride.
Trees+grass: Everywhere
Wildlife: birds, rabbits, pheasants and deer roaming about in suburbs.

health care: 86 euros/month Full coverage.

added bonus: Real cheese -cheap fruit

culture shock: yes, but it's ok people are nice and don't yell or spit like @yfb correctly indicated.
Downside: TESOL is useless, need to retrain (partly paid for by your school) as a Bed/Med within 4 years. Eng. majors can do it in 1 year.
« Last Edit: February 09, 2019, 08:29:24 AM by SanderB »
-Magister non olet- 
 but some students... :wink:

Offline PatrickBateman

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Re: Life after teaching in Korea
« Reply #14 on: February 09, 2019, 12:08:41 PM »
EU

Job prospects: huge shortage of teachers- especially Maths- English (300 Ft predicted)
max salary scale: 5600 euros (higher 6k if ur in management)- 3x EPIK
tap water: pure/clean better than bottled water.
hair line: growing back  ;D
Air: Clean af. Don't need to lug a Samdasoo bottle with you on a jog or bike ride.
Trees+grass: Everywhere
Wildlife: birds, rabbits, pheasants and deer roaming about in suburbs.

health care: 86 euros/month Full coverage.

added bonus: Real cheese -cheap fruit

culture shock: yes, but it's ok people are nice and don't yell or spit like @yfb correctly indicated.
Downside: TESOL is useless, need to retrain (partly paid for by your school) as a Bed/Med within 4 years. Eng. majors can do it in 1 year.

What country?  Need EU passport, correct?  Sounds too good to be true.  5600 Euro.. then 50% taxes..  so 2300 EURO?

Offline Thomas Mc

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Re: Life after teaching in Korea
« Reply #15 on: February 10, 2019, 11:56:35 AM »
I taught in Korea 2007 until 2011 and have only been back for an overnight connecting flight from incheon in 2016.

I have not left TEFL however and have spent the last 7 years teaching in China. First Beijing and now presently in Taiwan.

Iím really thankful TEFL has allowed me to travel the world and if I wasnít such a lazy so and so I would be fluent in Chinese by now.

I am glad some have made a success of their lives post Korea even if some such as Brian need to add a part time job on to a full time job to make ends meet. That must be difficult and tiring.

It is really common that threads such as this pop up on waygook.

http://www.waygook.org/index.php?topic=114431.msg772276#msg772276

They simply cannot make it in their home country and throw the towel in and return to Korea.

Offline johnpwessel

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Re: Life after teaching in Korea
« Reply #16 on: February 10, 2019, 01:39:44 PM »
Well to be fair no one talked about returning after not being able to cut it back home... The one thing no one has mentioned is what they're doing to prepare for securing a job back home or what they did to prepare for it (those who have gone home).

Thomas, do you find yourself passionate about teaching English or is more a means to travel and live abroad? Would you consider yourself an TEFL lifer?

For me it was the latter when I was teaching in Korea. I feel like the competition puts some pressure on long run earnings...I guess it's what's more important is that you enjoy what you do.

Offline Thomas Mc

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Re: Life after teaching in Korea
« Reply #17 on: February 10, 2019, 02:04:50 PM »
Not passionate at all about teaching English. Iím teaching science now which is a little more rewarding but like most teachers I battle moody and disruptive teenagers. It gets very disheartening very quickly.

I am 41 and donít want to retrain or risk opening a business. Maybe that will change in the future but for now that is where I am at.

Online KoreaBoo

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Re: Life after teaching in
« Reply #18 on: February 10, 2019, 10:21:24 PM »
Back home and will be enrolled as an Air Force officer in two days.   

So yes, there can be a real career after Korea, just make sure others can see real value in your career history. 


Offline Davey

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Re: Life after teaching in Korea
« Reply #19 on: February 11, 2019, 05:01:06 AM »
@Life improvement -I studied finance, particularly for the CFA exam.

@eggie, agreed job satisfaction is important. I would argue that this is covered by 'career growth opportunities'. Assuming your school runs the AC or heater, I see desk warming as a good thing.

Similar path, but graduated when the GFC started, so decided to go to Korea, have some fun, and pay off my school loans.

First year I played around, then the following two years did CFA levels II and III (did level I in my last year of uni).  Needed something to show for my time in Korea, particularly since I had no direct job experience. After that, I decided to come back to Toronto, Canada (2012) and fortunately landed a finance gig with a few months.

Coming back was a big tough as I wasn't employed for a few months; missed the gf; it was winter; etc.

Obviously the air quality is better here in Toronto (we haven't had smog day alerts in over a decade), but I do miss Korea, of course, as some things that are just flat out better (shorter and less severe winters, convenience, nightlife, customer service [overall], transit, etc.). Fortunately, Toronto has a pretty big Korean population with a decent K-town so that helps whenever I miss Korean stuff.

Obviously you don't NEED to go back, but of course it would be prudent to have a contingency plan. If you're happy teaching in Korea, by all means stay there, but try to get an F5 visa and acquire higher credentials to increase your pay (by getting a better job and/or tutoring privates) and making it easier to land a new job if you were ever to get let go. Clearly, the EFL industry in Korea is no longer the goose laying golden eggs.

Saving diligently is obviously also a good idea just in case stuff happens (disability; decide to open your own business; etc.).

« Last Edit: February 11, 2019, 12:34:13 PM by Davey »
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