Questions about teaching, earning money & bringing a family to Korea

I recently received this email and got permission to answer it publicly in case other people have the same questions about teaching in Korea:

I’m writing you in order to beg for information and advice because I would like to go to Korea at the end of next year and try to teach at a university like you’re doing. I have absolutely no experience teaching English, though I might acquire some in an internship next summer, and I will have a Master’s degree. (I’ve also subbed a little at high schools.) I’m comfortable with being booted out after two or three years because I really don’t care to stay any longer. And here’s the kicker: I’ve got a wife and two kids.

Do you think that Korean university wages would be sufficient to fly my family over AND pay off my loans AND live? Is there even such a thing as family housing for these jobs? How hard was it to get your job at CUK? Is is a decent place? How did you find your job? Dave’s ESL Cafe, or some secret backdoor for the cognoscenti that I have yet to discover? How’s life? Is Korea cool? From what I’ve read it seems like I’d like it a lot.

Regarding the question about supporting a family and paying off loans on university wages, you probably would not have enough. However it would be fairly easy to supplement your income with overtime from the university (some pay very little for overtime), private lessons (illegal if you don’t do the paperwork and in my experience no one – not even government agencies – want to do the paperwork), or side business (like my websites or network marketing).

Some universities offer housing large enough for a family; the further away from big cities you teach, the better your chances of finding a big apartment from the university.

I did find the CUK job on ESL Cafe and also my current position at Sookmyung Women’s University. The TESL-L job mailing list and the TESOL.org website are other possibilities. The university positions are competitive but if you have a Masters you should have no trouble getting interviewed for most of them. I tend to interview well so it is fairly easy for me to find positions in Korea. I know people who have better qualifications on paper who have a more difficult time finding good positions. You’ll have to persuade your interviewers that you’re an excellent teacher.

Regarding life in Korea, it is cool. My wife and I have no kids, 1 dog, and two incomes. We live quite well since tax is low and many things (like Korean food) are inexpensive. Today my wife and I had lunch delivered to my office and spent about $8 total. We could easily go out for dinner and spend the same amount.

One warning is that newcomers to Korea often have trouble coping with the germs – they are tough over here. I was sick my first few years in Korea and many foreigners experience the same thing. I could recommend some supplements (the same ones that saved me) but to supply your entire family would be rather expensive. My wife and I are a bit obsessed, but we spend a few hundred dollars a month on vitamins and things. I’m sure it’s worth it since I no longer spend money on doctors and medicine (both very cheap in Korea) and have more time (I don’t lose time to sickness) to earn money.

Filed Under: Life in Korea

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  1. Vans says:

    I became sick when I drink water in Korea. I suggest to use mineral water.