Job 2: English Channel
Posted by Heliocentrism on May 1, 2015
April 2007 – April 2008
Why not Korea?
The next overseas Job I got was at English Channel in South Korea. This is another company that has since gone out of business.
I enjoyed teaching English in Japan and wanted to try it in a new country. After a year in the ESL teaching industry, I knew what I liked and didn’t like. I liked teaching adults. I hated teaching little kids.
There is a huge difference in the behavior of children who have started school and those who have not. School aged kids have a higher maturity level and, since they’ve been to school, they have already learned how to control themselves in a classroom setting.
Some people love teaching babies and toddlers because they are so cute. But, if I have to wear a suit to work, I would prefer not to be thrown up or peed on. Besides, I hate singing and dancing. (I’ll do it if I have to, but I will never like it.)
So when I found the website for English Channel that said they only teach adults, I knew that I would like working for them. I just made sure that the pay, health insurance, and other benefits of the job met my criteria.
Jobs in Korea have different benefits than jobs in Japan. They both provide you with national health care and basic training. They both find you an apartment. But in Japan, you have to pay the rent. In Korea your boss pays the rent.
In both Japan and Korea you have to pay into the national pension. In Korea you get all of your pension back when you leave the country, if you are from the right country. In Japan, you only get the first 3 year’s work worth of pension that you put in.
So after taking a few months off to travel and visit friends and family back home, I emailed English Channel and scheduled an interview over the phone. I asked for the interviewer to call me after 18:00 my time on a Wednesday.
I woke up at 5:00 on a Tuesday when my cell phone rang. It was Mr. Webster at English Channel. I sat up in bed trying to sound awake. He asked if he had called me at the correct time. “No,” I said. Then I pretended that being called at 5 in the morning was no problem. “I was already up… um, organizing stuff.”
He started the interview. He asked questions and I answered them, quite well I must add. I was fast asleep 15 minutes before and sitting in bed in my pajamas, but I was killing this interview. At the end of the phone call I was told that I would be hired.
I just had to do some paperwork, which I did. Then I sent my passport to the Korean consulate in Georgia to get a visa. Within 2 weeks I was in Seoul.
They did training and orientation for 3 days near one of their branches in Gangnam. There were 6 of us and we would all be sent to different schools around Seoul. I kept in regular contact with 3 of them until they left Korea. (I traveled with one of them to Thailand.)
There were many things about English Channel that I loved. The first being the coat. Most people hated wearing the lab coat but I loved it.
English Channel never called itself a school; it was a “language clinic”. It was very gimmicky, but I guess we were supposed to be doctors, nurses, or scientists… I don’t know.
But wearing the coat meant I never had to iron my shirt. Hell, I could wear the same shirt all week and no one would know. In the winter I wore long woolen shirts under my lab coat and in the summer I wore a tank top. That’s right; I wore a spaghetti strap tank top to work on hot days. No one would know; you only saw a small triangle of my shirt anyway.
I just made sure that my pants were ironed or that my skirt was long enough. Then, I wore the same un-ironed shirts every week.
Life was great at English Channel. I liked my co-workers and would hang out or take trips with them often. The managers we had were all at least tolerable; even the one who didn’t seem to like foreigners much. And, the job was easy.
There were no lessons to plan. The books they used came in lesson-form already. There was no paperwork for me to do. I would even get a bonus during the months I taught more than some set amount of classes.
There were also no meetings to attend. The only mandatory gatherings we had were branch sponsored dinners we had to go to every 3 months and the big Christmas company-wide dinner. We had to dress up for the Christmas dinner at a swanky restaurant in a posh hotel and sit through many boring speeches, but then we all got to eat as much free 5 star food we wanted. It was by far, the best free meal I ever had!
The only downside to the job was working on 2 Saturdays a month. But I could live with that.
Things were going so well, I started thinking about signing up for another year at English Channel. I had an around-the-world trip planned, but I was hoping to return to Korea and English Channel when that was done. But, during my last few months we got a new manager. He thought we could make more money by changing a few things.
The company stood out from the rest of the English schools in Korea because it was the only one that offered one-on-one classes. Students could have lessons go as quickly or slowly as they needed. They could also feel safe to make mistakes, because it was just them and the teacher in the class.
The new manager thought, that we could double our profits if we put 2 or 3 students in a class instead of just one. We tried it, and within a month many students left. I could see the results quickly. Chatty students clammed up when they were no longer the only student.
It was a disaster.
At the end of April 2008, my contract was up and I left for my trip. Within the first month of leaving English Channel, I was supposed to get my end of the contract bonus. But when I checked my bank account, there was no deposit from English Channel.
I sent an email to the new personnel guy at the head office. I told him that I had yet to receive the year-end bonus. I got an email back from him a few days later where he basically told me that life was tough and that I should not be such a whiner.
I had never really dealt with this new guy before, but I had heard my co-workers complain about what a jerk he was. Rather than get into it with him again, I emailed the personnel guy that Mr. Jerk had replaced. Mr. Webster was the man who interviewed me and he was the guy I turned to.
I sent him a copy of the email Mr. Jerk sent me and asked him what he thought I should do about it. He told me not to worry and that he would take care of it. Within a week I had my money.
Later I heard from the co-workers I left behind that Mr. Webster got frustrated with the horrible changes the company was making and he quit his job. After that English channel stopped paying its employees on time. Then they stopped paying the Korean staff all together.
One of the native English teachers found out that English Channel stopped paying into the employee’s pensions and health insurance. Everyone I knew at English Channel left. The last I heard they shut down many of their branches. I think there are none left.
How to get there:
- You can enter by plane, boat, or train, though entry by train is rare if not damn impossible for most non-presidents of North or South Korea.
- Most citizens from many countries do not need to get a visa before going to South Korea.
- People of most nationalities will get a 90-day visa at the airport or ferry port.
- To be completely sure, check with the Korean embassy in your country.
- Useful Phone Numbers when in South Korea
- Tourist Complaint Center 02-735-0101
- Police 112
- Ambulance and Fire 119
- Eat Your Kim Chi – Life in Korea as lived by 2 Canadians
- Korea is a generally safe country. You don’t really have to watch out for pickpockets,muggers, or scam artists.
- You should watch out when crossing the streets, beware of scooters on the sidewalk, and the little old ladies that will push you to get that last seat on the bus or subway.
- Use common sense and you will be okay.
- Things are generally inexpensive and there are many wonderful things to buy.
Enjoy Korea! I live there for 2 years and had a fantastic time.