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I'm at a crossroads. Advice please?
« on: December 15, 2013, 12:54:44 am »
First off, I want to say there are many generous and helpful people on this website.  It is a pleasure to be part of a foreign community willing to help when needed, especially at times of crisis.  I am at a crossroads right now and will be making some big decisions soon.  Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated!

Here's a little background.  I had one year of GEPIK public school experience prior which was a great experience.  I went home for a couple months in the summer but had trouble finding another public school job, due to GEPIK budget cuts, being home, and a bad reference from my main co-teacher.  I took a hagwon job in rural Gangwon-do out of desperation.

Since I started working at my VERY small hagwon, I have been pretty miserable.  The transition from public school to hagwon wasn't working out for me, the working conditions are pretty bad, no foreign co-workers to talk to, and living in the countryside just isn't for me.

Anyways, I will be quitting my job in early February, after five months of employment.  My boss has been cool enough to sign both my letter of release AND my letter of recommendation.  I also have another signed letter of recommendation by a different co-teacher from the public school.  I am eligible for a D-10 visa if needed.

Now my dilemma is this.  Since I'm leaving the hagwon in a month and half, it also gives me the opportunity to go back home.  My journey in Korea was only supposed to last two years, and because things didn't work out as planned, I'd be adding an additional six months into the journey.  Part of me is worried about pursuing my graphic design career when the time comes to go home.  My plan for Korea Year 2 was to build up my portfolio during down time as well as to pursue dating and volunteering opportunities in or near Seoul (things I didn't have a chance to do my first year).  But then all this happened, and I just shifted focus to get myself out of this nightmare of a job situation.

With all the budet cuts, it seems unlikely I'll get a GEPIK school in the big city this time around.  As disillusioned as I am with hagwons, I'd only consider one closer to Seoul and with better working conditions and other native teachers.

So what should I do?  Take the opportunity to stay and pursue a proper second year in Korea, or go home and start my graphic design career?

Re: I'm at a crossroads. Advice please?
« Reply #1 on: December 15, 2013, 04:20:05 am »
Hey, AA-

I'm not quite sure that I should advice you since I'm looking for work in Seoul myself, but whatever- it's a big enough place and my biggest obstacle in the job hunt seems to be location (US) and my face (yellow). Ugh.

While no one can advise you on what to do w/r/t your question, I can say pretty confidently that finding work while you're in Korea will yield more opportunities than if you were out of country. From the job ads I've been seeing, a good chuck have been asking for in-person interviews or E-2 transfers. These positions also seem to pay more, on average. Additionally, there's the chance to actually meet these people and scope out the terrain before you sign in for another year.

The question is whether or not you want to start your career now or push it aside for another year. More time away from school will mean that employers will lose confidence in your abilities, unless you do something constructive during that time (ie building your portfolio while in Korea). One option is to do freelance work (probably for pennies [someone hyperbolic, but not by much]) remotely while you're in Korea. That, obviously, will mean that you'll be quite the busy wasp. Along this line of thought, you can find a lower paying, less stressful gig to make more time to build your portfolio.

Finding work in Seoul seems to be quite the chore for anyone since it's a hot spot for ...well, everyone. Implicit in your post is a desire to remain in Korea. But will it be worth it for you? This really depends on the source of your misery which was a bit vague in your post (and every public school gig I've done, as well as friends, meant that you will be the only foreigner in school).

If you have friends in Seoul in hakwons, ask them for leads or opinions.

Have you considered Busan or Daegu? I was in Busan for a few years and enjoyed it. Big city, a bit more opportunities. I will have to suggest that you steer clear of public school jobs due to certain bureaucratic red tape. I'm leaving this vague because...well, u know Korean laws.

As for hakwons, from all I've heard, it really is like roulette, unless you can find former employees for school refs. I've heard both horror stories and stories that make me wanna puke on the teller from sheer jealousy.

Whatever you decide, because you have little time left (and I'm guessing you'll have to decide whether or not to buy a ticket) you'll probably won't be really satisfied with any conclusion that you come to.

There is the D-10 (or some similar number) option, where you stay on for a bit of time as a job seeker, which means you'll have to find housing (which I'll go ahead and assume that you'll need once your gig with the school's done). There always is the option to stay in cheap, cheap yeogwons while in country? As for your current visa, I don't know how long it'll be good for (like, u usually have a month after the end of contract, but since you're cutting your sojourn short, I have NO clue.)

Good luck

  • GoCyclones
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Re: I'm at a crossroads. Advice please?
« Reply #2 on: December 15, 2013, 04:32:43 am »

Go home.  Don't put off your life there any more.

  • taeyang
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Re: I'm at a crossroads. Advice please?
« Reply #3 on: December 15, 2013, 08:45:15 am »
there will never be a good "time" to do something. follow your instincts. if 6 months feels like too much, then go back home before the two years.

don't sweat the small stuff.  8)
use google to search the site XXXX

replace 'XXXX' with your search term

  • 0mnslnd
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Re: I'm at a crossroads. Advice please?
« Reply #4 on: December 15, 2013, 04:14:30 pm »
why can't you just go back? Id say: go back home. find happiness.

when people hear the phrase: "budget cuts" they are all, like "O! O! OMG!
                                                      I'm like:" Yeah! Yeah! The Koreans found a way to protect me against myself!" lol
Out. Never been happier

Re: I'm at a crossroads. Advice please?
« Reply #5 on: December 17, 2013, 04:22:13 am »
I appreciate the feedback from everyone.  You guys are an awesome bunch!

I know for sure the source of my misery has nothing to do with Korea in general.  Aside from the few months of culture shock, I really enjoyed my time in Korea last year, enough to want to return for a second year.  Then again, I was working at a public school and living an hour from Seoul by subway, so the experience was totally different.

The main problem lies with my hagwon.  Some of the problems I encounter are teaching 5 to 7 classes a day (5 is okay, but 7 is a burn out), working until 11:00 p.m., little to no teaching materials, and some of the classes are a nightmare to teach.  Also, I have only a 10 minute meal period, which I'm pretty sure is illegal, but Korean labor laws are pretty loose.  Everyone I've met at a hagwon eats lunch or dinner for an hour, which is standard for a first world country.  It's just class after class after class.  Since there's only two other Korean employees at the hagwon, I'm stuck with no one to talk to and no local friends to see during the week, because of my late hours.

The secondary problem involves being in the countryside.  I find it boring and difficult to get around.  I totally understand if certain people enjoy it, but it's really not for me.  Dating and volunteer opportunities are much more accessible in or around Seoul, and those are big passions for me at the moment.

I haven't looked into part time work, but it would certainly help with more time on the portfolio.  How does one sustain financially with part time hours?
« Last Edit: December 17, 2013, 04:32:07 am by AbsolutAlex »

  • fishead
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Re: I'm at a crossroads. Advice please?
« Reply #6 on: December 17, 2013, 07:23:16 am »
 Contact an agency like Korvia or Korean Horizons be very specific about what you want. I think you should aim for either a good Hogwan with a good reputation in or near Seaul or an afterschool program. If you are still interested in public school the odds of you getting a big city location are not good most of the jobs in Seoul and GEPIK are being cut.

  • philby1985
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Re: I'm at a crossroads. Advice please?
« Reply #7 on: December 17, 2013, 09:37:24 am »
I haven't looked into part time work, but it would certainly help with more time on the portfolio.  How does one sustain financially with part time hours?

Re: I'm at a crossroads. Advice please?
« Reply #8 on: December 18, 2013, 07:07:09 am »
I haven't looked into part time work, but it would certainly help with more time on the portfolio.  How does one sustain financially with part time hours?

You're a big boy now. I'm sure that you can figure out how to balance your finances. How have you budgeted your time and money so far? At present are your expenses so high that you're just breaking even each month? If so, then of course you won't be able to live off of a part time salary. Don't be silly. If you AREN'T burning through your salary and actually have extra money at the end of the month then you can do the math.

I actually manage my finances very well.  What I meant to say was, whether or not the housing situation would be a problem.  I only know one native teacher who works part-time, but she's staying at her boyfriend's apartment, so paying rent is not an issue for her.  From my knowledge, part-time after school jobs don't seem to provide housing or a housing allowance.  Then again, I may be wrong about that.  I just wanted to know the experiences of other teachers doing the part-time routine.

  • Allison-teacher
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Re: I'm at a crossroads. Advice please?
« Reply #9 on: December 18, 2013, 08:37:48 am »
I hate to say it, but your luck with finding a public school job in Seoul is very slim. That doesn't mean that it is the only option for you, though.

First, if you want to live in a big city, I would suggest trying to find work in Busan, Daegu or Kwangju. Even Daejeon would be a good place to work. They are big cities with lots of foreigners and lots of opportunities to do things.

Second, you could try to apply to EPIK, if you like, but only a few people are selected for Seoul. You need great experience and great recommendations to live in Seoul through EPIK, but, if you want to live near Seoul, you can put a preference. Like....Incheon or something. It may just be luck, though. I have no idea. I chose my province based on the level I wanted to teach. I wanted to teach middle and high school and I was placed in the southern part of Chungbuk province, which is about a 2 1/2 hour train ride from Seoul. I live in the countryside, but I also have the availability to do a lot of fun things. I've gotten into martial arts and dance. There are about 16 foreigners in my town. If I need more foreigner interaction, I take a short train to Daejeon. This works well for me, but part of your problem may be your hours.

Third, you may have to settle for a hagwon job. Would this be a problem? You said you want to volunteer and date, but that would basically make your weekends, which is fine and normal, but I know that I, personally, need to spend time with my friends during the week a little bit, or I go crazy and I think hagwon hours would make that difficult, but, to each his/her own.

As for whether or not you should stay here, that is entirely up to you. The thing I would do is this: you have until February. Try to find a job in a location you like in that time. Apply, interview, scope, do some research, but work on it. You have a short time frame and work with the time you have. If you are able to find something, great! Figure out if it has what you're looking for: is it close enough to Seoul? Do you like or can you live with the pay? Do they help you with housing cost/expenses? There is nothing wrong with trying and applying. If, by the time February comes around and you've had no luck, I would say go home. Try to start your career there. Putting it off isn't going to make starting it any easier or less stressful, but we all have to make it through life somehow. The last scenario, if February comes around and you've had some interviews and offers, but they aren't exactly what you want, I would say choose the one that you think is best and stay, if that's what you really want to do. Maybe you would have some free time to work on building your portfolio and dating and volunteering. You may have to budget, but it's all doable.

Decide what you want from your life here and if you think it's worth pursuing. That will give you your answer.

I wish you luck!