**Please note that contract details and application requirements have drastically changed since I applied (and are constantly being changed), but let me know if you have any questions and I will do my best to help.**
I was recently asked by Emma of Emma’s New Groove if I have any advice for someone applying for EPIK (English Program in Korea). I definitely do!
My first bit of advice is get your documents together…. NOW! Recommendation letters, background check, passport photos, etc. I applied through a recruiter (Korvia) because the process intimidated me and I wanted someone to hold my hand along the way. As I was in the process of applying, I wished I had gone through EPIK directly (http://www.epik.go.kr/).
Decide which level you want to teach. Every level has its ups and downs. The up side to elementary is that you will more than likely have an active co-teacher, meaning you will literally be CO-teaching. The down side is that some of the co-teachers are crotchedy and stuck in their ways, but it’s just the luck of the draw and every level has good and bad co-teachers. In middle and high school you will more than likely be teaching alone. If your co-teacher is in the class, he or she will probably only be there to play the role of disciplinarian. You may or may not be teaching out of the book. Some people like the freedom of not having to work out of a book, but you have to come up with all new ideas every week. The good news is that there’s a large community of English teachers in Korea that are more than happy to share ideas.
Decide where in Korea you want to work. Do you want to go urban or rural? Do some research. If you can swing it, try rural. You get paid more and a lot of times the rural cities aren’t as small as you’re afraid they will be. Korea’s a small place so it’s fairly easy to get around on the weekends. I chose urban and ended up in Busan. I love Busan. I think it’s great and would highly recommend it to anyone. It’s not as hot in the summer here, but it is very humid. I’ve been told it doesn’t really snow here in the winter, but it is quite windy so the cold is a bit bitter. I’ve heard that Busan is quite popular so if you’re interested in working here, APPLY EARLY. **On your application you’ll be asked to pick one preferred office of education to work for. The next question asks if you are willing to work in other provinces or if you’d like to withdraw your application if the office of education to selected is unavailable.**
Be patient. This application process is one of the most painful things you can go through. It will stress you out like no other. The best way to experience the least amount of stress is to apply early. It’s still going to take you forever to find out if you got a job, but your odds are better. If you apply early, pass your interview and send your documents in right away, you are probably going to get a position. You probably will not know if you have gotten a position until a month before it’s time to go to Korea. For the fall intake, I think some didn’t find out until a week or two before.
Get doubles of documents. Ask for 2 (or more) copies of the same recommendation letter, get at least two background checks, apostilled copies of your diploma and transcripts. If EPIK falls through and you’re still serious about going to Korea, you’ll need backup documents because EPIK won’t be returning what you’ve already submitted. You don’t want to scramble at the last minute. Also, if you’re in Korea and want to change jobs for the second year, you’ll already have extra documents and it will make the application process much easier.
Look online for a Facebook group so you can share your experiences with other people that are going through what you are. Other places like Daves ESL Cafe and Waygook.org can be helpful, but once you apply it’s nice to be able to cut out all of the crap and just talk about what you want. It can also be a good way to network and make friends before you go. Most of you will be going alone so it doesn’t hurt to make all of the friends you can.
EPIK has now started making “official” facebook groups for applicants that are monitored by them. It’s nice that they see the need for it, but I think it’s much nicer to be able to form a community with your peers rather than being in a group formed by EPIK. If you agree, don’t be afraid to make your own group for your intake. EPIK does have an official facebook page with a lot of great information so be sure to check it out.
I hope this is helpful to any people thinking about applying to EPIK. Korea is amazing and I think it’s well worth the journey. It will be a year of your life that you’ll never forget. If you have any more questions, please post a comment below and I will get back to you as soon as I can.
This was so helpful! Thanks so much!! I’m hoping to start applying this October and I’ll be rereading your blog for tips. I’m caught up in CELTA work at the moment but if you don’t mind I’ll probably have some questions at some point!
Quick question: Can your letters of recommendation be from the same institution? Epiks website doesnt mention anything on this, but some other websites say can’t be.
What type of institution is it? In my case, my reference letters came from an old professor and my boss. Both were from the university that I went to, but they were different types of letters.
Both from the University I graduated from. One my Capstone professor and the other my academic advisor of four years. Im banking on those two working out for me, so hoping wont be a problem.
Hiya, thanks for the info! My big question is: why did you wish you had applied to EPIK directly? I’ve been endlessly preparing for applying for a few months now scouring the web for any and all scraps of information, and this is the first time anyone has mentioned NOT wanting to use a recruiter? Any feedback would be most helpful!
I think the EPIK staff were really great and just as helpful as the recruiters. Plus, you’re getting all of your information first hand. A lot of people had trouble with their recruiters, but some people were perfectly happy. I just think it would be better to do without the middle man. It’s up to personal preference, really.
I was going to apply through Korvia as well because the application process appears a bit daunting. Why would you reccomend going through Epik directly?
All of my friends that went directly through EPIK were very happy that they did it that way. I had a few communication issues. During my intake, EPIK was very helpful to the direct applicants. Also, I think the direct applicants are usually the first to get updates. The only reason to recommend Korvia is they do give you a phone upon arrival that has enough minutes to use if you need it.
Thank you for your response! I’ve heard that if you have problems with your apartment, then EPIK is unable to help you, but if you went through a recruiter like Korvia then you would have assistance. Have you heard of anything like this?
No, recruiters (including Korvia) don’t provide any assistance after the initial application period. The same applies for EPIK. EPIK works with the government to supply the offices of education with Guest English Teachers. After orientation, you become an official employee of the office of education and you are basically no longer associated with EPIK. So EPIK is like a middle man… and recruiters are basically there to help hold your hand through the EPIK application process. I went with a recruiter because their application was open earlier than EPIK’s, but it was misleading because the applications aren’t accepted any earlier. Actually, I had to fill out a new application once the application was released because I had filled out the application from the previous intake.
If you have a problem with your apartment, you have to take it up with your school.
Hello! I’ve just started thinking about teaching in Korea and want to teach around the Fall 2013 period after I’ve graduated. Would you recommend getting a criminal background check now? Apparently the CBC won’t be valid if it’s not 6 months before teaching…
Hi, Janie. I’m not sure how long the background checks take these days. If you want to go in Fall 2013, your start date will likely be August 25th. I’d apply about 7 months before that. You don’t want to apply too early because the background check is only good for 6 months and you need a valid background check when you get to Korea. It’s not too early to start getting all of your other documents together though. Good luck!