My old hagwon is hiring some new teachers, so I let them have my e-mail address to give to their prospective people. I think what most people want is reassurance that they aren’t walking into a horror movie set.
I understand. Moving to a new country is really difficult, you are leaving behind all your old friends, your family, and your safety net. It really is hard to trust that you will land in a good place.
I told the very nice youngster that one of the biggest factors for enjoying your stay is how well you get along with the people you work for and with. A lot has nothing to do with them or you, just chemistry. It’s a bit like going on a blind date, only much, much longer. If it works, it is awesome. If it doesn’t, it is endurable for the duration. Although sometimes you are very unlucky and it feels like a small chunk of hell spit itself out and landed next to you.
I still think that most schools, even the hagwons are basically decent and most people are basically decent. But then I’m disgustingly optimistic. But. I have worked in schools where everyone else seemed to be having a good time, without me, and I didn’t feel I could do anything right. It sucks. That said, I think if you talk to the people who used to work in the school, talk to the manager, and talk to people who work at the school now, you can find a good match.
Even if your work is a small chunk of hell, Korea is an awesome place to live. The food is really good, and even when you crave western food, you can find it. Seoul is a very international city with a ton to do, and even if you live way out in the country, going from Pusan the farthest south-most city to Seoul, the farthest north-most city, will only take you 4 1/2 hours on the KTX, so a weekend is very doable. Most of the cities have a lot to do, from sports to mountain climbing (the national pastime here) and knitting groups, photography groups, art groups, and just about any hobby you want to explore. There are several places to get English books, Koreans are generally friendly and most will go out of their way to help you. The cost of living is reasonable, and because they have single payer insurance, medical costs are reasonable. The public transportation is awesome, and with a bus or train ticket you can get to: Cherry blossom festivals, mud festivals, kimchi festivals, fireworks festivals, and water festivals ( those are only the ones I know off the top of my head, I’m sure there are many more)
So I would say to those contemplating a move to Korea – dive right in, the water is fine.