If you are moving to Korea to teach English, here is a helpful list of things to pack. Do it!
NUMBER 1: MONEY and lots of it. I can’t stress this enough. You may have heard that you will probably only need $1,000 to $1,500 for you first few weeks, but bring more. The reason is because Chungdahm pays you only once a month, not every two weeks. So after a few weeks of training and getting settled into your new and empty apartment, you may start running dry on the funds.
However, once you get paid, it will be a lot of money. Chungdahm pays extremely well and on time compared to all Hagwons in Korea, so things will work out in the end. Also, the veteran staff understands what the newbies are going through, and so they will pitch in and take care of meals here and there.
(The Won looks cooler though)
An alternative to blowing through your savings is getting a credit card. I have a CHASE Credit Card that allows international transactions with no fees! So I simply just used that, and paid it off as soon as I got paid by Chungdahm. (I didn’t have very much $ when I came to Korea to teach, and it all worked out.)
NUMBER 2: TRAVELING STUFF. Important items like your PASSPORT, (with at least 2 years before expiration), your medical papers (that prove you got a flu shot), Plane Tickets, Chungdahm Training information, where your hotel is, etc.
*In regards to your passport, make sure that you have a sufficient number of blank pages in the back of your book. If you are like most English teachers, you will probably want to travel when you are done with your contract or during your year.
NUMBER 3: A CELL PHONE. Wait, what? Why would you bring a cell phone? In Korea, WIFI is everywhere, so if you have a smartphone, all you have to do is connect to the WIFI and you are set. There are many good apps on your phone like GOOGLE TRANSLATE, KAKAO TALK (most common communication app), and JIHACHUL (the subway app, which is essential to get around Korea, especially when you are new).
Also, if you have a Sim Card with your cell phone, the Korean cell phone companies can simply pop yours out and put in theirs, and boom you have a cell phone.
And, if you have an iPhone, you will still be able to FaceTime and iMessage, just by syncing up to WIFI. We really do live in a connected, intertwined, and globalized world.
NUMBER 4: SHOES. Most Koreans have smaller feet than Westerners, so bring dress shoes, running shoes, knock-around shoes, etc. I personally am not a shoe person, but I just tied a few sets around my carryon bag and, I made it through my first 4 months without fretting over shoes not fitting.
If this is a problem for you (Size 12 and up), there are places to go in Korea. Itaewon (the foreign district) can help you find what you are looking for.
NUMBER 5: DRESS CLOTHES. Don’t worry about bringing lots of ties or dresses. Just bring a few and you should be fine. That type of clothing can be difficult to pack, but you will have to dress up for a few occasions and for work sometimes, so don’t forget it.
NUMBER 6: DEODORANT. Do Koreans have body odor? I guess not… I’m actually not too sure about this. It’s funny, but you won’t see deodorant for sale anywhere really convenient, so bring a few sticks to get yourself smelling nice for your first couple of months in Korea. DO IT.
NUMBER 7: TOOTHPASTE, HAIR GEL, CONTACTS STUFF. Some people complain about the toothpaste or the hair gel and have it sent from home. I don’t use hair gel, and I don’t mind the toothpaste, but just something to keep in mind. I did bring extra contacts and solution because after all you are teaching in Korea for a while.
NUMBER 8: WARM COAT. It gets really cold in the winter, you may want to bring the one you have.
NUMBER 9: THINGS THAT REMIND YOU OF HOME. I brought some pictures, things for my walls, a few books, etc. Some people bring more than others.
(Needs these reminders of my days in Africa!)
NUMBER 10: YOUR COMPUTER. Obviously this is very important, but 99% if not 100% of all English teachers, bring their computer. You’ll need it to watch movies, TV, check emails, etc. Also, you may have pictures, things you are working on, music, and other important documents on it.
*In my next blog, I can show you how to access Netflix, Pandora, and other websites from Korea.
After graduating from Georgetown, Brian sought out the life of international travel and living abroad. Beginning with his volunteer work in South Africa, Brian decided to continue on to South Korea to experience East Asian culture and society. In February 2014, Brian accepted a position through Aclipse to teach for Chungdahm Learning at the Bundang branch just south of Seoul. When Brian is not in the classroom, he is busy with his running club, exploring the surrounding mountains, and learning the Korean language.