Whew, I got more questions! Haha. 🙂
1. Do most people get their first choice of school age group? I’m not sure if there are more placements at a middle or elementary school in Seoul, but I’m just curious. Is it true that you don’t get any information about school or housing address before you get to Korea? Seems a little stressful not knowing anything before you get on the plane, haha.
2.Housing: If you want to look for your own place and get the housing allowance instead, when would you tell them that? If they find you an apartment, but you want to find a different place, is it easy to change or are you stuck with it? I just read some bad reviews on SMOE co-op housing so I just wanted to know what people’s options are.
3. I think I read somewhere in your blog that you speak Korean? Do the co-teachers/principal speak to you in Korean or can you just use English?
I’m of Korean background so I was wondering what it’d be like teaching in Korea if people are expecting a stereotypical foreigner.
Hello, again! Yes, most people get their first choice between elementary, middle, and high school. I only knew of a small handful of people who got completely opposite of what they picked and I think it was probably just bad luck. It is also true that you get NO INFORMATION about where you will be sent, what school, which grades you will teach, and where you live. In SMOE, you just know that you will be in Seoul. Beware that I do know people who teaching IN Seoul but they live OUTSIDE of Seoul. It’s really just luck of the draw. If you are in EPIK — it’s pretty much the same, except they start grouping you with the same people in your province. Yeah, it’s kind of frustrating not knowing, but honestly it’s just because the officials don’t want to hear all this whining and complaining from people and so they literally tell you the day before you are sent off to your new home! Haha
If you want to look for your own place, you need to do it now. It is not true that the school will work with you and blah blah. Although you find out where you are going to be placed at the end of orientation, the school already knows and prepares for your arrival. Which means that they have already secured a place for you to live and if you know anything about housing in Korea, getting out of a contract and messing with deposits are insane. So, tell them now or you just got to live with it. Oh, on the subject of Co-ops, I’ve seen one in Dongdaemun and it’s really not too bad. You get a lot of extra stuff with it — like maid service. The only downfall is that it is really small and it’s like living in a dorm room, but you are surrounded by other waygooks.
Finally, the topic of being Korean. Hmmm, there are a lot of ways you can go about this. It really just boils down to whether or not you are comfortable owning your Korean identity. I know a lot of Korean speakers that choose not to reveal their Korean abilities because they don’t want to be looked like a Korean, but more of a foreigner. It’s mostly because if you are a foreigner you can get away with a little more than if the school identifies you as one of “them”. It’s hard to explain — pretty much the standards go up the more Korean you are. I personally just came in honestly. My Korean isn’t even that spectacular and I tell my teachers that I understand more than I can speak (when in reality I can do both easily). What I do recommend you doing = Never speak Korean to your students if you are placed in Seoul. I say Seoul because I know teachers down South and well, the level of English is so completely low that you kind of have to incorporate Korean. In Seoul, however, the more Korean you use the more the kids are unwilling to speak and learn in English, especially if you teach upper level education.
I teach Middle school and I don’t hide from my kids that I can understand what they are saying when it comes to bad words in Korean. They are never really sure how much I know and I like to keep it that way. I always pretend I have no idea what they are talking about unless it’s in English to force them to use what they know to communicate with me. On the other hand, I let my teachers speak to me in Korean when children are NOT around, but I never really speak Korean to them unless we are at Hweshik (teacher’s dinner) or something.
Hope this helps!