David and I are moving to Indonesia!! Like I told him, sure am glad I named this AlexaAbroad and not, Alexa + kimchi reference or something like that. Sunshine, fruit, beaches, mountains, tea plantations, weekend jaunts to Bali, no more awful Korean winters, yeahhhh!
We had been applying for jobs outside of Korea after we were unable to find anything close to each other. There are not many opportunities to apply directly to public schools, which were the jobs we wanted, so we chose to go through a recruiter our friend mentioned to us and is well-known in Korea. It was miscommunication after miscommunication from the start–they thought we only wanted jobs in Ilsan (we had said we wanted to experience a new place), then that I only wanted elementary (I would go anywhere but wanted middle or high school), the jobs they were presenting us to were literally on opposite sides of Seoul (that could’ve meant living 2-3 hours apart by subway or bus), and so on and so forth.
The Korean market has become so over-saturated with both recruiters and English schools and the process was frustrating with long gaps where we wouldn’t hear anything from the schools we had been “presented” to. If you try to use more than one recruiter and you get presented to the same position by 2 different recruiters, it invalidates your application.
Even in other countries, the process seems to be getting bad as demand for English skills increases. Countries are trying to crack down on the unregulated, under-qualified teachers and piles on the steps in the visa-seeking process. Maybe a native speaker is looking for some adventure, maybe they just want a short term contract to make some money while they’re backpacking, or it’s something fun to do after college. None of those are bad reasons to move to a foreign country, but when you’re an English teacher, kids’ education is still involved. You still need to take that fact seriously and remember while this can be a fun time in your life, you’re also not on a year-long paid vacation.
So, I completely agree with the efforts to require a TESOL or a language related bachelor’s degree, but some of the Asian regulation changes seem misguided. For example, Thailand is still a bit of a Wild, Wild West of English schools and the pay is probably going to be pittance. Like several hundred dollars a month. Most of the jobs I saw hovered in the 600s (plenty were much lower), which is fine considering cost of living BUT they also wanted people to have a CELTA certificate. That’s like a $2,000, intensive EFL certification. I’ve been referring to these jobs postings I see as “seeking magical unicorn teacher.”
Related to the issue of certification, it also seems now that paper trumps experience. I have an English degree and we both have a 120-hour online TESOL. I have over 2 years teaching experience. David has a sport degree but loads of experience working with kids, did volunteer work with youth in South Africa for 3 months, and has a year of teaching in South Korea. Oh but your TESOL wasn’t in a physical classroom, sorry, we can’t hire you. We’re going to hire this guy over here whose never worked with kids or been out of his home country. So when I still surfing the jobs boards, those “no experience required!” ads were pissing me off.
Indonesia ended up being the place where we had the magical cocktail of experience and qualifications, so it’s where we’re happily going. Last summer we had loved visiting an elementary school in Bali and felt so welcomed. Though we’re working with adults and teens in Bogor (an hour south of Jakarta), I believe that we’ll feel the same. Already, the work hours are shorter, the environment seems healthier and more relaxed, there are foreigners in some of the directors and head teachers positions, and the school we’re working for seems to understand some of the stresses we might encounter and we start on a soft schedule after a few days rest. What a nice change from Korea.