Saturday, October 27, 2012

My EPIK Adventure Part 2

Stage 2 Update
I posted my Stage 2 documents last Saturday (20th). They sat in the Australia Post post office all weekend and for most of Monday (21st) too. According to the tracking service they were picked up late in the afternoon and were processed in Brisbane at 2:45AM Tuesday (23rd) morning and on their way to Korea. They were delivered to the Seoul Gone2Korea office on Wednesday (24th) at 3:30PM where someone did a final check to make sure everything was correct before forwarding them onto EPIK. According to James at Gone2Korea I am among the first of the applicants he is managing to get my documents to EPIK ^^. Fingers crossed it means I will get to work in Daejeon (my preferred city).

Australian Residency Certificate and Tax questions
The next thing I need to organise is my Australian Residency Certificate. This will mean I don’t have to pay tax on my income in Korea ^^. Unfortunately it looks like I will have to pay tax in Australia on any money I earn in Korea. Talk about greedy. I am not even in Australia using any government resources but I still have to pay tax? Pathetic. Anyway. Rules are rules. Some things I need to investigate
  1. In Korea I will be provided with housing. Do I need to pay some sort of fringe benefit tax on that? Will my accommodation appear on my pay slip as a cost?
  2. Will I still be classified as an Australian resident after June 2013 (the start of the new tax year in Australia)? Reading the residency rules here I am not sure. Technically I will be living in Korea so I won’t “always” have lived in Australia. 
  3. How the Korean currency I earn is converted into Australian dollars for tax purposes.
I guess on the plus side as an education professional there will be some things I can claim as a tax deduction (see here). Also, from July 2013 the tax free threshold in Australia will go up to $18200 (see here) so fingers crossed most of what I earn will slide under that.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

My EPIK Adventure Part 1

So long story short I am going to teach English in Korea next year (2013). My plan is to document the adventure via this blog to share it with others :)

I guess the first thing to talk is about applying for an English teaching job in Korea. EPIK (English Program In Korea) is a Korean government program which sources people from select western countries to work as English teachers in Korea. As an applicant all communication with EPIK is facilitated and managed by a recruiting agency. I have been told there are only 5 or 6 recruiting companies EPIK uses but there are a lot of 3rd parties who find applicants and then funnel them through the official recruiting companies. The official recruiting companies change from year to year so be careful of that. I contacted two of the official recruiting companies. 

Recruiting Agencies
The first company I contacted was teachaway. In short they took months to get back to me only to say that apparently there were no jobs available (which I knew was a load of bullshit). If you don’t want my business fine, just say so. Don’t feed me lies. I DO NOT RECOMMEND TEACHAWAY.
The second company I contacted was Gone2Korea. These guys are based in Canada and are fantastic. I have absolutely nothing negative to say about them. Every step of the way they were prompt with replies, professional and helpful. A couple of days after sending them my resume and cover letter I had a friendly chat over Skype with them to help kick off my EPIK application. 

The Application Process
I won’t focus too much on the technical details as they can be found on the Gone2Korea and EPIK websites and are likely to change from year to year.

Teaching English in Korea has become VERY popular. As a result, for the first time there are more applicants than there are teaching positions available. I think this is due to two things. 
  1. The tsunami in Japan and the following nuclear accident I think has scared many people away and as a result they are applying for the next most modern westernised Asian country (Korea). 
  2. The global economic down turn means there are a lot of people looking for work and are very worried about the long term future of the USA. 
When you apply for an English teaching position you can request a city or region, but you must be flexible to working ANYWHERE in Korea. EPIK will do their best to accommodate your request, but they can’t create teaching positions out of thin air. They operate on a first come first served basis. The sooner you get your documents to them, the better your chances of working in the city you want. Something to note (that I didn't find on any websites) is that there are multiple stages of documents that need to be submitted. Stages 1, 2, 3 and 4. 

Stage 1 is your initial EPIK application which has things like your personal essay, a lesson plan, medical history and what city you would like to teach in. You also have to include two letters of recommendation which must be from a supervisor at a company you have worked for. EPIK doesn't care about reference letters from friends and family. Stage 1 is an electronic submission (you don’t have to post anything). Take your time to get this stage right. It is what will determine if you get an interview with someone at EPIK.

Stage 2 is (I think) the most important stage because it is the most time critical. When they say that the first people to get their documents submitted are the first to get jobs and the most likely to get work in their preferred city, they are talking about getting stage 2 documents submitted. Depending on your qualifications they will vary, but for me stage 2 included an:
  1. A notarised and apostilled copy of my engineering degree
  2. Apostilled copy of my criminal record check
  3. A signed hard copy of my application I electronically submitted in stage 1
  4. Hard copies of my letters of recommendation
  5. Colour photocopy of my passport profile page
  6. Photocopy of my TESOL certificate
I am Australian, and getting these documents together was expensive and all up cost me about $370 by the time I posted them to EPIK. A rough break down of the major expenses
  1. A notarised copy of my engineering degree cost $110. I then had to get it apostilled which because when it is notarised it becomes a double sided document, costs $80. So that is $190 for one piece of paper right there! Talk about a licence to print money :@
  2. Your police check will cost you $42 and take between 15 and 25 working days to be issued. Since it is also a double sided document, getting it apostilled will cost $80. Note that if it is dated too early (more than 6 months before you start) EPIK will reject it. Talk to your recruiting agent for more information.
  3. I used the “Express International Courier” service Australia post offers. They didn’t have any 500gram satchels so I had to foot the bill for a 1kG satchel which cost me $51.60
Something to note is that you won’t ever see your stage 2 documents again. EPIK keeps them and will not return them to you (even if you are unsuccessful in getting a job).

I won’t discuss Stage 3 and Stage 4 as I have not been through them yet. Stay tuned for an update in the next few months.

The Interview
I was freaking out pretty bad about my interview. It was the make or break thing. I couldn’t be a pedantic perfectionist about it like my stage 1 documents. If the interviewer got the impression I wasn't serious or just didn't like me.... no job for Phil. James at Gone2Korea helped me out by sending me some great information to help me prepare for it. I was interviewed by Korean woman over Skype one morning just before lunch. She spoke excellent English and was very nice. I greeted her with a friendly “Annyeonghaseyo” and the biggest simile I could muster (you know what they say about first impressions). By the end of the interview I caught her smile (just for a second before returning to her stern face) a couple of times. She finished with a “It was very nice to speak with you, I had fun” and I was done. Two days later I was notified by my recruiter that I had passed my interview and I could send my documents whenever they were ready. 

I will leave it there for now. Stay tuned for more updates.