The EPIK journey to South Korea

The EPIK journey to South Korea

I have had LOADS of people ask me what it was like to go through the EPIK program, and if I had to describe it in a nutshell I’d say it was long, tiring, and one of the most rewarding experiences ever. No matter how many times you wonder why you’re still going through the insane process, know that it’s worth it, no matter how crazy you feel when you’re filling out all your paperwork.

I got to EPIK through a recruiter called Greenheart Travel who also helps others who want to travel to other countries to teach. They were incredibly helpful in walking me through the entire process which takes about 6 months to complete. My first step was filling out the EPIK application, getting 2 letters of recommendation from my professors at school (they can be academic or professional) and getting a passport style photo. All of this can be filled out and e-mailed/scanned to your recruiter or to EPIK themselves if you are going straight through them. Once they reviewed my file I was granted my first interview which was really just information gathering for both sides involved. My recruiter taught in South Korea before so it was a great time for me to ask her what her experience was like and what I could expect on the other side.

After that first interview you wait to be scheduled for your second interview which is with EPIK themselves. That interview is done through Skype (naturally) and is more intense than your first casual interview. Here they are getting a feel for what you already know about the program, what your reasons for applying are, what kind of person and teacher you and what you can offer in the way of experience as an EPIK teacher. Once you are given the go-ahead and have passed your EPIK interview, the real work begins. Even if you pass both your interviews, nothing is final. If you don’t get all of your documents in on time and correctly in order you can certainly be wait-listed or have to wait for the next session.

Even as recently as September 2013 when I decided to come to Korea, the word was that you should apply for your Federal Background Check before anything because it takes about 2-3 months to complete. You can still apply through the FBI directly, but apparently EPIK is now allowing Americans to use an FBI channeler to obtain background checks. Channelers can allegedly run background checks sometimes as quickly as 24 hours, which is absolutely mind boggling for those of us who had to apply through the FBI and know how long and grueling a process it can be. You can find out more about these channelers here. If you’re applying the traditional way in the States, you can go here for more information on sending your background check in. Once you get your background check back, you still need to send it off to get apostilled, which you can find out how to do here.

In addition to your background check, you’ll need to get a copy of your college diploma notarized and apostilled (I did mine in Austin and it took just a couple of hours), get copies of your university or college transcripts, plus the official EPIK application where you will write down everything from whether you have tattoos and where, to writing an example lesson plan.

In addition to your paperwork, if you didn’t major in English in school you will need to get TEFL certified. This is actually a big deal because, depending on your level of experience and certification you can appear alot more competitive in the program. The minimum required TEFL certification is 100 hours, but if you’re wanting to get into one of the bigger cities like Seoul or Busan without previous teaching experience, I suggest shooting for 150 hours or more with an added in-class component. Now, I did mine online and did the minimum 100 hours with no in-class training because I needed it completed so quickly and I absolutely love my location, my center and my kids. It really is just luck of the draw, so unless you are absolutely DETERMINED to get into Seoul or refuse to go anywhere but Busan, I wouldn’t stress too much about location.

So, you’ve finally gotten ALL of your paperwork together, certification prepared, application signed and ready to go. Now you just mail it in. I mailed all of my paperwork to Greenheart and then they sent it over to EPIK. BE WARNED: If there is even a single mistake on ANYTHING they WILL kick it back for you to correct and send back. This was probably the most frustrating part for me. I had to send in documents 2 and 3 times which cost quite a bit going back and forth and alot of time that could have been spent placing me so definitely try to get it right the first time around.

Once all your documents are in to EPIK, you begin the waiting game. Up until this point I was almost completely in the dark about anything important. My friends and parents were starting to get suspicious. I couldn’t tell them what grade I’d be teaching, where I’d be, if anything was even assured, and it was starting to grate on me as well. But then, the big day arrived: I got placed! I found out I was placed in Chunbuk province, and I immediately went to do boat loads of research on the area and, if you’ve ever tried to look it up, even Google couldn’t tell me much. Still, I was excited!

After you get your placement you’ll have to get your flight arranged for orientation. I highly suggest flying in a couple of days before orientation if at all possible so you can manage to get some sleep, but I have more on orientation starting with this post. Unfortunately you won’t find out anything else until orientation, including your school, or even your city. You’ll spend most of orientation freaking about this and your co-teacher so no sense in worrying about it too soon.

So, the process is incredibly long, fairly terrifying, and, at times, riddled with anxiety. If you’re currently going through it, you know what I’m talking about, but you can do it! Just remember that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and so much fun to be had while getting a truly rewarding experience. Don’t give up young Jedi!

4 thoughts on "The EPIK journey to South Korea"

  1. Jason Erasmus says:

    I am interested in teaching in Korean. I have all the requirements and experience but my education degree is from a nationally accredited institution/University in the USA.
    I know with TaLK you don’t need a degree but with with EPIK you need a degree.

    Will they accept a national and not regional degree in education?

    1. Shannon Pedersen says:

      Hi Jason,
      Thanks for asking! If it’s nationally accredited, you should be fine. If you still have questions, you can schedule a call to speak to a Greenheart staff member using the link found in the “Schedule a Call” tab on our webpage:

  2. Felicia Shelton says:

    I have many years of teaching ESL in Europe and Asia. Would I still have to get TEFL certified? I would like to apply to begin in the Spring.

    1. Haldis Toppen says:

      Hello! Sorry for the delay. For more information on our programs, please reach out to our email Cheers, Greenheart Travel

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