Floundering can be a good thing

Life in Hwaseong Dongtan as a Chungdahm April Teacher

Leaving for Korea

on February 19, 2013

Honestly, I never thought that I would actually be going to Korea to teach English. All I ever did was talk about it. I had considered teaching in Japan for the longest time since I have studied Japanese for 9 years now. And why don’t I go there to teach you ask? Why not go teach in Korea? Exactly!

After looking at programs like EPIK, I decided that most English teaching programs required teaching experience or some sort of certification (which is quite expensive mind you). I was almost going to give up the search when my good friend told me that she had been hired to teach in Korea! Say what?!!! Anywho, she told me that the recruiting agency that she went through was called Aclipse. What she really liked about this particular set up was that you didn’t need anything other than the most basic requirement to teach (a Bachelors degree). Aclipse works with Chungdahm Learning. Before her telling me, I had never ever heard of the company. I didn’t really think to go a research before applying since I didn’t think I’d get hired. But whaddaya know? I get an e-mail asking for a good time for a phone interview and also a bunch of forms to fill out. I started this process in October and I officially signed my contract to teach in January.

The whole process consisted of endless emails, photocopies, scans, and MONEY. Yes, applying to teach English costs money! You have to get notarized and apostilled copies of your diploma, two fbi background checks (which take up to a month), and a flu shot! Remember to get up to 8 passport photos as they will come in handy. For Chungdahm, you also buy your plane ticket to Korea and get reimbursed a month after you get there.

Since I am currently sitting in SFO airport, I can’t vouch for any of the process for training yet, but that will probably be in my next blog post. What I can say is that when you sign your contract, you get a link for training videos that will help you understand what you need to teach English. Now, I will put a warning out now: FOR THOSE WHO AREN’T WILLING TO WORK HARD DURING THE ONE WEEK OF TRAINING, THERE IS THE POSSIBILITY OF FAILING TRAINING. I HIGHLY SUGGEST THAT YOU SHOW UP WITH A POSITIVE ATTITUDE AND BE WILLING TO WORK YOUR ASS OFF TO PASS. Other than that, you’ll be just fine! This is coming from the experience of people who I’ve talked to who are already there.

A few things that people have told me to bring with me to Korea:

  • towels (they exist in Korea but are the mini versions of what we use)
  • toothpaste (There’s no fluoride in their toothpaste as far as I know)
  • Your diploma (yes they’ve asked you for copies, but you need the actual one)
  • Extra money for the first month (since you don’t get paid right away)
  • Girls: Underwear and bras (their sizes are a lot smaller than the American ones)
  • Shoes: If your feet are bigger than size 8 (girls) or 9 (guys), bring your own shoes just in case, the sizes do run small and are probably really expensive in Korea
  • Deodorant: Only if you have a very specific brand that you like, otherwise they have it in Korea
  • Meds: It’s a good idea to bring enough meds for yourself until you situate and find out where the pharmacy is and what you can take

Things I wish I could’ve brought but either just couldn’t or ran out of space for:

  • More clothes: If you’re like me, then you have way too much clothing and not enough space in your luggage
  • My hair dryer (I’ll just buy one in Korea)
  • My dog (I left him with my family because it’s not worth having him in quarantine and then I don’t have time for him)
  • Coffee (good quality fresh ground coffee)
  • More towels
  • ….My whole room…(haha…)

Things I did manage to bring:

  • A quilt
  • A plush throw
  • 2 laptops
  • My stuffed green bunny, Melvin
  • Kindle
  • 3 microusb chargers
  • 3 prong -> 2 prong converter plug
  • USA->Korea converter 2 prong converter plug
  • Tylenol, benedryl (cream and tablet), antacid, vapor rub
  • Lotion, shampoo, conditioner, lotion (all from hotels that I’ve stayed at, they make wonderful travel sized toiletries)
  • Brita water bottle (The tap water in Seoul is actually perfectly fine to drink from, but since the locals don’t drink from it, it’s probably better to err on the side of safety and bring a filter. I brought the water bottle because that’s all you really need. It’s the same idea as the larger brita pitcher except you refill more times.)

What I bought with The Arrival Store (TAS):

  • A cleaning kit
  • Comforter
  • Bedsheet set

Oh yeah,  burning question for you all who are wondering about plane tickets? I bought mine on Singapore Airline’s website and for flying on a weekday in mid February, it cost me about $435.

Anything else I’ve forgotten to mention that you have questions for? Please comment! See you next time!

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4 responses to “Leaving for Korea

  1. mary duong says:

    Hi! Your page is very helpful. I got offered a contract to go there and teach (in Dongtan as well), I was wondering if I am able to contact via email and ask you a few questions about your teaching experience?

    • melpudding says:

      Hi Mary,

      It’s been a few years, but I would be happy to try and answer any questions that you have.

      • mary duong says:

        How did you enjoy Dongtan? and your overall experience as a teacher for CDL? I recently graduated from UCSB and have no idea what I want to do so I decided to apply to work abroad. I have applied to some of the programs in Japan but it seems more difficult to obtain a teaching job with them. I applied through two different recruiters. For one, I got a job offer in Dongtan and the other one is in CDL Junggye Branch.

        How was your overall experience? and would you recommend it?

  2. melpudding says:

    Dongtan isn’t a huge city, but it is only a 45 minute bus ride to Seoul and even closer to Suwon. Junggye is about an hour subway ride outside of Seoul, just for comparison. I personally really liked the Dongtan for the convenience, the local shop owners, and the small size. If you want to get an idea of the area that the branch is in, the mall shown in the Korean Drama, The Master’s Sun, is the mall that’s about 15 minute walk away.

    My experience as a Chungdahm teacher was a bit of a mixed bag. I made great friends and absolutely loved interacting with the students every day. However, the hours can be long, breaks short (or sometimes nonexistent) and the staff demanding.

    I’ve heard that the Dongtan branch is doing better, but I would like to put a warning that Dongtan was not exactly the best branch to work at when I finished my contract. There was a lot of problems with the branch (which seems to have been “fixed” with the replacement of certain managerial positions) and they were not in good standing with the Main branch.

    That being said, teaching English in Korea is quite the experience if you allow yourself to really immerse into their culture. The country is beautiful, transportation cheap (trains are super worth it), and activities a plenty for you. I would recommend, if possible, asking for the email contact of the managers to both Dongtan and Junggye to just talk with them and get a feel for the branch.

    Hopefully, this helps. I had planned on posting more than just the few posts that I have on this blog, but I fell of that horse and never got back on. Let me know if you have more questions or need someone who’s still teaching in Korea to talk to.

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