After managing at a ChungDahm Academy for 4 years and working as an Aclipse Marketing Assistant for 3 years, I get a lot of questions about living and teaching in Korea. For many applicants, moving to Korea will be their first experience living away from their homeland, so it is completely natural to have many questions about what it is like to live here. This blog is aimed to help answer and alleviate some of those concerns about working for ChungDahm as well as living in Korea. If you have any questions about Korea, feel free to use Aclipse’s Connect with a Teacher Program.
What is ChungDahm’s training week like?
For many candidates, the biggest fear that I hear from them is what is training week like . For many other private academies, I have heard that those applicants do not get a formal training experience but instead they watch a teacher teach for a few days and then start the following Monday. Luckily for ChungDahm, it really isn’t like that. Once getting accepted, ChungDahm will give you access to the chungdahmtraining.com website where you can find a series of videos and other helpful information so that you can be prepared for training. Then when you arrive to Korea, you will be sent to our training location in Jamsil, Seoul where you will see our trainers mock teach a lesson and then they will give you the opportunity to teach as well. By the end of the week, I think most of everyone’s nerves are relieved and are just anxious to get into a classroom and meet the students. My biggest suggestion is to listen and take the trainer’s advice, be enthusiastic, and don't party during training week.
What are the kids like and is it hard to manage them?
Again, this is what training is for. The trainers will give you different situations where a student may become a problem. But it seems universal that you will have great students and you will have some difficult ones as well. The students’ ages run from pre-kindergarten (i-Garten & April Academy) all the way up to high school (ChungDahm). For my team, I make sure that my teachers are able to rely on the Korean staff. The Korean staff will give out the appropriate punishment for the student as well as let their parents know about their classroom behavior. It is important to be close to the Korean staff. Overall, I really enjoy my students. The younger ones seemed to be eager to learn and enjoy talking. The older students have a lot on their plate with high school entrance exams, normal school exams, and other academies. I feel if you talk to your students and understand where they are coming from, they will trust you and appreciate you. In the 5 years of me teaching, there are probably 5 kids out of 1000 I wish I would not be their teacher again. I really enjoy my students which makes me fall in love with teaching even more.
How much money should I bring and how much can you save?
The first thing I tell people is to bring enough money with you to survive for a full month. The suggestion that corporate says is to bring about roughly 2 million won with you. You will not get your first paycheck until your first full month of teaching and it takes some time to get your flight reimbursement back because you need to have a Korean bank account set up. To get your Korean bank account, you need your Alien Registration Card and that takes about 2-3 weeks. For me, 2 million was more than enough to survive especially because eating out in Korea is fairly cheap. You will also need money to pay for your utilities, setting up your cell phone, and any other things that you want to purchase to make your apartment feel like home.
Is it easy to communicate in Korea?
If you want to live comfortably and not encounter too many problems, learning Korean will be beneficial. Although we teach children and they know they are only allowed to speak English when they are in the academy, they will speak Korean and many times they will say bad words. It is good to learn these bad words for class management issues. If I had learned the language and not waited so long, my first year in Korea would have been way more fun than it had already been. Take some time and bring a Korean book to learn the alphabet. The alphabet is really easy to learn and you can learn it in the course of an afternoon or two. There are many websites that can help you learn Korean, language exchange programs to join, and language classes to attend to at churches and universities to help foreigners get adjusted to Korea. Not only is this a good way to learn Korean but it is a good way to meet other foreigners and Koreans too. Learning Korean has saved me for ordering off the menu, having food delivered to my house, and asking for directions for when I get lost.
So this was the first part of my series: Frequently Asked Questions about living and teaching in Korea. Hopefully this has given you some insight and confidence and check back in for the second installment of this series.
Marc Gonzales has been living in Seoul working at the ChungDahm's Gangdong Branch for 5 years now. During those 5 years, he worked his way up from being a teacher and is now a faculty manager for that location. He majored in Finance and Marketing at the University of Nevada Las Vegas while working as a manager for a national bank. In his spare time, he enjoys outdoor activities like hiking the numerous mountains around Seoul and biking along the massive Han River. To know more about him and his adventures living in Korea, follow Marc on Twitter @geonmakku and on Instagram @geonmakku.