I'm not sure if my situation is typical at all, it may not be, but after speaking to many other people teaching in Asia I find though we have different motives we are generally all searching for a similar thing - somewhere to fit in.
Before coming to South Korea I was working in Law and became a qualified and admitted Solicitor in Australia. I found my life was full of stress but very little joy and I knew I had to make a change or change into someone I really did not want to be. For me I felt like I had to leave everything behind in order to give myself the opportunity to grow. South Korea offered me that opportunity.
I knew I wanted to teach. I had a life changing experience, I know how cliche, in Sri Lanka where I met some children at a train station and later went to a small village and saw how learning another language can change people's life. I'll be honest, that's the experience I was hoping for. Unless you are super lucky it's not going to be the experience you get in Korea, my bread and butter are rich kids. That's the reality of it.
Why teach English? First of all; I speak it, pretty darn well if I do say so myself - so how much harder would it be to teach it? Actually, it's not all that straight forward. How many times have you questioned the grammar rules of your own native tongue? I'll wager not all that often. As an English teacher you are meant to understand those rules and be able to explain them, though as you will come to understand, some rules are literally explained 'just because'. In truth a rule is a rule because someone said so, that's all there is to it.
Teaching English in South Korea requires a 3 year degree, or above, it can be in any discipline but there is an ever increasing lean towards Education degrees. At present you do not require a TEFL certificate though it is adventurous, I have one, and it can set you above others or help you qualify for a higher wage.
Second; you can teach adults or children. I teach students from 2 years old to adults (including adults of varying ages). There are many jobs available in South Korea teaching a range of different ages. There are jobs teaching only; kindergarten, elementary, middle, high school, and adults -teachers who teach adults will usually work split shifts working early in the morning and returning to teach in the evenings. This represents your students schedules as most of them will be full time workers hoping to improve their English.
Why South Korea? Gangnam Style. I didn't actually know much about South Korea before I came here. All I could say in Hangul (the Korean language) was hello and goodbye and even that was by terrible pronunciation. What little I knew about South Korea was either in contrast to it's dictatorial neighbour, North Korea, and the remainder of my knowledge was gleaned from Psy's insanely famous hit song.
Whilst I did not know much about the culture and country I knew it was one of the best places to teach English and get paid well for it. In addition to a competitive salary the benefits are pretty awesome; return flights paid for, free housing, health insurance, a handsome severance payment upon the successful completion of 12 months or more.
A newbie teacher can expect to earn around $2,000 (USD) per month, or there about, and can save half of that each month with only a little effort, whilst still eating out and experiencing the country. The housing may be compact but it's free, you just need to pay for utilities. In addition to the salary, most schools will pay you a bonus one month payment upon the completion of your contract.
South Korea is also in the centre of the world, a 10-14 hour flight to just about every continent. Unlike Australia which is 10 - 24 hours away from everywhere, and super expensive to fly to and from. Travel is cheap from Korea.
In short, it's a great way to save some money whilst still being able to see East Asia.
So if you have read all of this and thought sign me up, then head over to my top tips for landing, keeping, and loving your ESL job in South Korea. I hope you love your experience just as I have.