Tayler White is a Greenheart Travel Teach in South Korea alum from Ohio, USA who was placed in Daegu, South Korea. Read more about her experience with the notoriously labor intensive EPIK application process and her tips for how to make the process as smooth as possible. You can also learn more about her experience on her YouTube channel “Tayler with an E”.
In every state I’ve lived in growing up, some of my best friends were Korean, so naturally from a young age I became interested in learning more about Korean culture. Korean was the first language I started learning on my own, K-Pop was the first music genre I had ever become a diehard fan of, and South Korea was the first country I had ever visited overseas. I had always wanted to live abroad and never got the opportunity in college, so when my career was not going as planned I thought it was time to make a big change and teaching in Korea felt like the step out of my comfort zone I needed. I had heard nothing but great things about it from friends who taught there and from what I read online, it was frequently regarded as the best place to teach in Asia, so it seemed like a fantastic opportunity.
Honestly, peace of mind. The EPIK (English Program in Korea) application process is long, intimidating, and it can be overwhelming. When first looking into applying, I had no idea where to start or what I was doing.
I’m also a perfectionist and teaching in Korea was something I really wanted to do, so I knew I wanted to submit the best application I could and do it right the first time around.
Applying through Greenheart Travel was the best decision for me because they were there to answer any and all questions I had, guide me through every part of the application process, keep me on track with due dates and submissions, and just really make sure I was prepared for every step, even up until I landed in Korea. By applying through Greenheart, I got an invaluable support system of staff and even other alumni that just made the whole EPIK application process so much easier.
So if you end up teaching in Korea, you will most likely have teacher dinners or hweshik (회식) that you attend with your fellow faculty. I remember the first hweshik I ever attended with my school, we went to a very traditional Korean restaurant. So before the main meal, they served these sort of appetizers/side dishes called “banchan,” and there was this one side dish in particular my co-teachers wanted me to try called “beondegi” (번데기). Looking at it I already knew it was a type of insect. I wanted to make a good first impression, so I took a deep breath and popped one in my mouth (when in Rome I guess). I can’t really remember the taste all that well, I just remember once biting through the crunchy shell on the outside, the gooey inside oozed out into your mouth (agh), and that was the first and last time I ever ate beondegi AKA silkworm larvae again (lol).
I think one of the things I admire most about Korean culture is the philosophy of putting the welfare of the whole before the individual, which is very different from the individualistic culture of the U.S. I grew up in. I think a prime example of this is a story about South Korea’s history we were told in orientation: In 1997, the country of South Korea was close to bankruptcy. Instead of solely relying on the government to get the country out of debt, millions of Koreans donated their own gold and treasures to save their economy. The country recovered from the brink of bankruptcy to become the 11th largest economy in the world today. I just thought it was amazing to hear about how people put their personal needs aside to come together for the sake of their nation.
For sure, for sure, for sure, get your application in as early as possible. This benefits you in all aspects of the application process, especially getting your preferred placement. Also, I would say to try to be as prepared as you can every step of the way, and going through a recruiter like Greenheart definitely helps with that.
Finally, the best pieces of advice I have for anyone coming to Korea that is new to teaching is don’t over-prepare, come with no expectations and an open mind, and just go with the flow.
Each teacher’s experience is different, especially when it comes to the type of school you’re in, your co-teachers, and your students, and the best way to succeed is to adapt to whatever situation you’re thrown in. Believe me you will save yourself a lot of stress and anxiety that way. I hope that helps!