The EPIK Program is one of the most reliable sources of job placement for international teachers looking to work in South Korea. It is a well-known and well-respected organization, but is a doozy. One of the graduates of my TESOL Certificate course (the SIT TESOL), Brittany Burgess, completed the EPIK application process and will be headed to Korea in the winter of 2018. She was generous enough to share her experience with us below and has some good tips for anyone looking to start the EPIK application process. Here is what Brittany has to say:
If you are reading this, then you probably want something more. Whether it’s the chance for greater opportunity or the desire to broaden your experience; whatever you are doing in life doesn’t feel like it’s enough. That’s okay because life is meant to have many experiences and changes. So if the change you are looking for is to move to South Korea, let me tell you about the program I’ve joined: EPIK. I’m going to tell you the good and the bad about my experience with EPIK because I believe that honesty is the best policy.
EPIK, or the English Program in Korea, is one of the biggest programs in South Korea for recruiting and hiring foreign native English teachers. Sure there are other programs, but EPIK places teachers in almost all of South Korea with the exception of the suburbs of Seoul. Although EPIK covers such a large portion of South Korea, it is still incredibly hard to get into. You can apply on your own through their website, but I recommend getting a recruiter–someone who is reliable and will stick with you no matter how many times you email and ask the same question over and over again!
In order to get an interview with EPIK, here is what you will need:
- The completed application form
- A scan of your passport
- A scan of your Bachelor’s degree.
- If you don’t have a background in education, you will need to submit proof of completing a 100-hour (minimum) TESOL Certificate course (like the one we all took at Rennert New York TESOL Center)
- A scan of 2 reference letters
The application is a monster in and of itself and it has a few sections. First, it asks for general information: where you went to school, where you live, etc. Second, it asks for medical information: do you have tattoos, do you take medication, how often do you drink, (even how much do you weigh in kilograms), etc. Third, there are three short essays. I can’t stress enough how important this portion of the application is. Have other people check your essays for grammar, content, and cohesiveness. Lastly, you will need to submit a lesson plan. This has to fit in the allotted pages they request from you and nothing more. Your lesson has to focus on speaking, so VAKT it up! I strongly suggest not having any worksheets and just focusing on fun and engaging speaking activities
This is what you need to get a possible interview. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have an amazing recruiter. Autumn hooked me up with a recruiter from Korean Horizons and he made sure everything was perfect before sending over all scans to EPIK. If you are thinking of applying, reach out to Autumn. She will be able to connect you with someone.
Now, while you are waiting to hear from your recruiter about your interview, it’s wise to start getting your documents together. Getting everything you need is expensive, but it’s worth it in the end. You don’t want to get everything too early, but you also don’t want to wait until it’s too late. Perfect example: I wanted to make sure I was ahead of the game, so I got my FBI background check out of the way before finishing my TESOL Certificate and meeting Alistair. Because of that, I was two days early for the start date of background checks that would be eligible for review and I had to get another one done later on. So, listen to your recruiter and don’t jump the gun.
The next steps to complete once your first interview has been scheduled are:
- Obtain a notarized copy of your Bachelor’s with an apostille
- Get a scan of your TESOL Certificate or Proof of Enrollment letter(if you are applying to EPIK before you finish the program at Rennert)
- Get two copies of your university transcripts in sealed university envelopes
- Get two references letters (Printed and signed in ink)
- Complete your FBI criminal background check and have it notarized with an apostille
- Print out and sign your application in ink
I know what you are thinking–why am I doing this before my interview? It is imperative to get this information as quickly as possible. With EPIK it is first come, first served. This means that even if you get into the program, you are not placed, yet. Many think that once you get in, the only thing you have to worry about is where you will be placed. This is one of the bad things about EPIK that I mentioned in my introduction. EPIK does not inform the applicants or the recruiters that after interviewing, even if you get accepted into the program, you must have all your documents ready or your placement could be significantly delayed. So, if you are accepted and do not have all your documents on deck, your trip to Korea may be delayed 6 months or more.
That, my friend, is what I’m experiencing right now. I got all my documents ready but I didn’t conduct my FBI background check in time (just in case I didn’t get accepted). I was playing it safe, but for an opportunity like this, you can’t play it safe. You have to go all in! Because I played it safe, EPIK continued to interview other people and one of those applicants got a space before me and my hiring date was bumped back. Don’t let this happen to you!
Moving on to the interview. Once you receive your interview time, you need to prep. My recruiter was amazingly helpful with this. Before the interviewing process even began he set up a Facebook page where new and old applicants have the chance to meet and talk to share tips and ideas. EPIK will make a page for new applicants as well every semester. This is an online forum where the old recruits will talk about what it was like when they interviewed. Many people were very helpful, but keep in mind that your recruiter will give you the best advice–from where to set up your computer for the interview to what kind of outfit you should wear. Take notes because this is crucial.
The interview varies for everyone. Sometimes it is longer for some than for others, but just follow the notes you were given from your recruiter and be sure to make a list of questions you want to ask. Also, be confident and kick some butt!
EPIK is just like any other company with strengths and weaknesses. However, they are still the best in Korea, in my opinion. So, it is worth going through the process of applying for a position with them despite the challenges that can come up. Teachers are treated fairly and much better with EPIK than many hagwons (private language schools). I hope you choose Korea, and EPIK, and maybe I will see you there! Good luck!