Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Twenty-Sixth Tale: Restless in St. Louis

Tonight, after a very lovely day celebrating my awesome mother, I had an interview with a school in South Korea via Skype.  I've done a few of these interviews before, obviously, the last time I went, and I also had one last week whom I have yet to hear back from.

I now find myself feeling frustrated and restless after the interview.  This is what happened: 

I was interviewing with one of the largest ESL academy franchises in South Korea.  The first part of the interview went fine, pretty standard, normal Q & A.  Nothing really new.  Then came the issue of salary.  In my experience, when Korean employers know you have experience teaching (and especially if they know you've taught in Korea before), they will ask you how much you expect/want to be paid.

Before I tell you what happened next, let me tell you a little bit about how the pay scale works for ESL teachers working at private language academies in South Korea (also known as hagwons or hakwons).  If you are a teacher with absolutely no experience teaching and no certifications, but you have a B.A. or B.S. degree (you need one in order to teach English in Korea), you can usually expect to make anywhere from 1.9 million Korean Won(1,900,000KRW--$1,652.29 at the current exchange rate) to 2.2 KRW ($1,913.18) per month. I am not saying you can't make any more at certain institutions, but that falls within the normal range.  With a TEFL certificate + 1-2 years of experience, you can expect to make at the very least 2.2 KRW but up to 2.5 KRW ($2,174.06) at certain institutions.  If you have a Master's Degree in general (TESOL, Education or Early Childhood Ed are preferred), you can make anywhere from 2.5 KRW - 2.9 ($2,521.91) KRW to start.  

When I started teaching English in Korea, I had taken a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification course in Greece and taught during the course, and then I taught for another month in Italy.  So, I had already had a little bit of experience + TEFL Certificate, and I started out making 2.2 KRW per month at the private language institution I worked for.

So, back to the interview.  They asked me how much I wanted to be paid, and I stated that I had had over two years' worth of experience teaching ESL, one year spent in South Korea, and I have a TEFL Certificate, so I would like to make at least 2.4 KRW but ideally would like to make 2.5 KRW per month.  This is not an unreasonable request, considering my qualifications and the duties of the job. 

The interviewer (who is the vice-principal of the school) said to me, "Oh, well, we don't usually pay that Korea, we don't really care much about the experience you had outside of Korea...and the time you were in Korea wasn't very long, so...the most we could offer is 2.2."  I politely declined the offer and told her that it's really too low for me.  She said she would "check with the corporate office," but that she was "90% sure they wouldn't pay above 2.2".

It didn't bother me SO much that they were low-balling me.  I get it; they're a big corporation and they want to keep costs low by hiring teachers at the lowest cost possible.  What really pissed me off, goat my goat, boiled my potatoes, though, was that they basically tried to make it seem like I wasn't qualified enough to earn more than 2.2, when I know that's an outright LIE.  A) I'm not an idiot.  B) I've lived in the country before and I know how the system works...I'm REALLY not an idiot.  C) I already made 2.2 starting salary, and I know that almost all language institutions in Korea give at least .1 million won raise every year if not every six months to employees, and D) I know that these guys are a huge corporation that can afford to pay teachers good conclusion: I'm really, Really, REALLY not an idiot.  In a perfect world, they would have just said, "I'm sorry, but our salary for teachers new to the company is 2.2 KRW/month".  But they didn't.  Instead, they tried to make ME seem like an idiot, and I'm not sure you understand this yet, but I clearly am NOT.  Even recruitment website says, "Completing an ESL certification course is an easy way to prepare for teaching in Korea. Certifications and secondary diplomas are not mandatory requirements but certified candidates often have a slight edge over other candidates with zero credentials or certifications - 100hr programs may even increase your monthly salary!"

So don' be tryin' to play me like dat, foo. ;) 

Anyway, I was a tad miffed about that whole deal (other than the idiot suggestion thing) because I really just want to get set with a contract ASAP.  Then, shortly after that, I was looking at the website for another recruiter in Korea, thinking maybe I should send out more resumes so I can get some more interviews, when I came upon their list of requirements for gaining the E-2 Visa (the Visa required to teach English in Korea).  

They said that Korean immigration is now really strict about getting transcripts with seals or stamps on the back.  Earlier this month, I already sent out a transcript request form in order to get 4 transcripts, two in each envelope, sent to me.  This was evidently confusing for the secretary, who is probably used to getting single orders, and she emailed me for verification.  I felt like an ass asking for that many transcripts, but I explained what it was for and she sent them over.  Well, now I found this whole deal out with the seals/stamps, and I had to send another email asking for the same thing again, only this time I sent a picture to show her what I meant.  So, now I feel like an ass again, and they'll probably have some sick person sneeze on all four transcripts before they send them to me.  In any case, I'm at least glad to have found this out before I tried to send all my docs out.

One recruiter actually told me that he doesn't want to contact any of the schools who are interested in interviewing me until I have all of my documents ready...I'm considering this as an option.  Maybe it's just smarter not to plan on anything until all of my documents are back...I dunno.  I am just feeling worried and stressed and in limbo.  It seems like the process wasn't this bad the last time, but when I really think back on it, it was pretty frustrating and nerve-wracking at times.  I remember having to drive to Jefferson City at the last minute to have my CRC apostilled, and having to fly to Chicago, also at the last minute, to get my Visa docs together and do an interview with the Korean consulate.  I knew it would work out, though...I just hope it does this time, too.  I'd hate to wait around for three months just to find out that I didn't do something right, and then have to wait another 2-3 months to get it right.  Oooh, don't even want to think about it. :(  Positivity, positivity!  Stop the spiral!

What's more is that I really need to make some $$ before I go, but I can't get a short term/temporary job really because I am not sure when I'll be leaving.  I can't even really make definite plans with people past mid-June.

OK, back on the positive side...I must keep reminding myself that this is my choice, and that things will get moving again soon.  Also, there are things I can do in the meantime to keep myself busy, like focusing on my health, resuming my volunteer work at the International Institute of St. Louis, experimenting with vegan baking, working on my project for when I get to Korea, and, well...blogging :).  As Daniel Cleaver would say in Bridget Jones' Diary, "My, what a gripping life you do lead..."

On the job front, I know that there is one there for me, and I don't want to work for people who are going to take advantage of me, so it's really best if I know that up front.  I want to work for a company that treats it's employees fairly, respectfully, and who provides adequate compensation for the hard work that their teachers do.  

Ahh, I feel a bit better now that I've vented.  Come on 2.5 KRW/month!!!!     

More coming soon...
<3, Anna


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