5th Feb 2010
ILS Institute, Cheonan, South Korea
I will be teaching kindergarten through 6th grade at ILS Institute in Cheonan, from 9:30 - 6:30 each day. The hagwon’s (this is what they call a for-profit academy or institute in Korea) address is Chungcheongnam-do Cheonan-si Seobuk-gu Buldang-dong 730 in case you ever want to stop by for lunch :) I will be living in a tiny apartment a 10 minute walk away from school. I love the fact that I can save on transportation costs by walking! From what I hear from a current teacher, Cheonan has a huge population, but feels pretty desolate. He rarely sees other foreigners other than his coworkers. It isn't as busy as Seoul, which can make things boring, but he is able to save money and learn more Korean. One of the main reasons I am going is to pay off some bills, so I am happy with that. Seoul is less than a 2 hour train ride away, which is great for any weekend I have a craving for some city life.
I will be making 2.2 Million Won per month, which comes to about $1900. I am eager to find out how much I will get after taxes, health insurance and utilities. I really, really, REALLY want (more like NEED) to be able to pay a huge chunk of that towards my massive credit card bills that I accumulated while dicking around in Australia for a year. The school pays for my flight there upfront and my flight home as long as I complete my year contract. That was another thing I was looking for when I signed a contract – I wanted a school to pay for the flight upfront, rather than reimburse me for it. I could just see myself arriving in Korea, have them back out on the contract (apparently contracts aren’t as serious as they are here – a lot of schools have a reputation for breaking them) and not reimburse me. Sadly enough, I wouldn’t even have enough credit left on my credit cards to pay for a flight there. (Mom – are you shitting your pants worrying about my awesome finances as you read this? Because I am). The school also pays for my apartment. I apparently get a single sized bed, TV, air conditioner, washing machine and gas stove. I have also been warned it will be probably the size of a closet. Awesome. I don’t mind though – I am just happy to live alone and have a washing machine.
Upon completing my year contract, I get a severance payment of one month’s salary. This, my friend, is awesome. Unfortunately, I have heard stories about schools firing you just before your year is up so they don’t have to pay this. I am crossing my fingers that this school does not do that. Even though I have corresponded with a current teacher there, I still worry that something will go terribly wrong. I have read one too many blogs online about people having issues. I am supposed to get 10 vacation days (Hello, Japan!), 2 sick days and national holidays off – all paid. I also get paid 20,000 ($17) per hour over 30 teaching hours per week, but the other teacher said he has never been asked to work overtime.
I realize that the money isn’t a crazy amount, but I will be able to save on housing, not taking public transportation to and from work everyday, and there is no way my expenses can be anywhere near what they were in NYC. If I can stop my habit of eating out and learn how to cook, I will be able to save even more. From the research I have done, it looks like a lot of people save money while working in South Korea. That, and the fact that you don’t to have any sort of teaching certificate (another thing that costs money) to teach there, are the main reasons why I chose to go
Don, the current teacher that I have emailed, told me there are currently 5 English speaking teachers from America. Due to the school expanding, there are supposed to be a total of 7 in March. This will be good, because I won’t be the lone American and it will be nice to make some non-Korean friends as well as Korean friends. It is obviously good to try and make friends with the locals, but I have found from traveling to other countries, that no matter how nice a person might be, it is often hard to ‘click’ with them due to the cultural differences. Apparently, the dress code is fairly nonexistent, which is awesome. It would suck to have to dress up to run after little kids all day.
Cheonan, the city that I will be living and working in has a population of about 550,000 people. It is located about 52 miles south of Seoul, in the northeast corner of the province of South Chungcheong. The city is surrounded by the Charyeong Mountains to the east and the rolling hills to the west. The temperature seems to be that of what we have here – it can get really cold in the winter and really hot in the summer. The city is home to about a dozen colleges and universities and has a few attractions, such as the Independence Hall of Korea. It sounds as if the foreign population has been growing, and is now around 10,000 people. I found a blog for expats in Cheonan, but it hasn’t been updated since 2008. However, I did read on it that they have a Gap (awesome – apparently it is one of the few stores where you can buy clothes big enough for our non-Asian bodies), Starbucks, Krispy Kreme (how random?), Dunkin’ Donuts, Burger King, Outback Steakhouse (great for the moments that I am missing not only home, but also Australia) and Pizza Hut. There also seems to be a cinema that usually has an English movie playing and a library that has some books in English. There is also a bar called ‘Coyote Ugly’ which will be great for the nights that I feel like dancing on a bar. I am hoping for the perfect mix of having some friends so I don’t get lonely and have people to go out for dinner or a drink, but not be tempted to do these things all of the time so I can save money to pay off my credit cards and have a security deposit for an apartment for when I return to NYC. We’ll see what happens.