what to expect when you’re expecting… to move to Korea… Part 2

Hey there, Reader. Let’s pick up where we left off last time and keep the tale going. (If you didn’t read Part 1 and are interested, you can read it here.)

So, we last stopped when I had been offered two “phantom” positions via the two recruiting agencies I applied through, Aclipse and Footprints. When I received these offers, it was late June of 2012, but I didn’t plan to leave the Americas until February 2013. Because everything you need to compile for leaving to teach in Korea is time-sensitive, it’s good to have a cushion to work with. Eight months is way more than enough time. I was so incredibly early that I did what I could, which wasn’t much, and then I sat on my hands for almost five months.

I don’t remember what kind of information I received from Footprints, but I’ll give you everything I’ve got from Aclipse. :)

Following my initial phone interview with my recruiter, she sent me an email saying that she was pleased to tell me she would be recommending me to the Chungdahm Learning headquarters team in Seoul for review. In addition, I would need to prepare and send some other materials in order to complete my application with them. I needed

  • a completed Chungdahm Learning application
  • an application essay, up to 500 words – a list of ten basic topics were provided for me to choose from
  • an additional copy of my resume (which I had already provided to Aclipse initially to start the process at the very beginning)
  • a professional-looking photo of myself, neatly dressed and with a solid background
  • a photocopy of the picture/signature pages of my passport
  • a photocopy of my college diploma
  • a video introduction – instructions were provided in her packet

I had exactly one week to get all this crap together and I didn’t waste any time. Most of it was really easy – making photocopies? Yeah. Easy-schmeasy. I filled out the application as requested. I double-checked my resume to make sure I hadn’t screwed anything up or needed to change anything. I took a picture of myself in my house against a beige wall. I sat down and finished the essay in an evening without breaking a sweat. The most challenging thing of the lot was the stupid video. It wasn’t hard, it was just super awkward. You talk about yourself on camera… It’s just weird. Also, I’m not a technical girl, so it took me a while to figure out how to save it correctly in the right format that would be acceptable according to the instructions. I had to FaceTime a friend to get it done… (I know, sad. I’ve come a long way!)

So, I finished it all up and sent it off. And then I waited. I didn’t expect to hear anything too soon, even though my recruiter told me I could have an answer within just a few days.

Exactly one day after my materials were due, I got a response: Chungdahm Learning was offering me an official position. My recruiter emailed me to congratulate me and to give me a new list of things to get started on, all of which would be required for me to legally live and work in South Korea. This is where things started to get crazy. First, I had to email my recruiter back a signed, scanned copy of a memorandum of understanding (basically an overview of what the details of the job would be, what I needed to expect, and confirmation that I understood what I needed to do in order to get to Korea). This was due back in one week. I was also sent the following list with specific due dates and instructions that did not have any kind of wiggle room:

  • six (6) passport photos
  • two copies of provided “health statements,” one dated for a month before my intended departure date, the other undated; all to be finished in black ink
  • the original signed copy of the memorandum of understanding
  • an additional copy of my passport photo/signature pages
  • an additional hard copy of my resume
  • an online verification of my college graduation through a company called “American Databank”
  • two photocopies of my college diploma with official apostille stamps (think “super notarized” – apostilles are only given out at government level)
  • Federal Criminal Background Check via the FBI which required me getting officially fingerprinted and mailing a physical card of my prints to the FBI, dated no earlier than 6 months prior to my expected departure date

Here’s a copy of the original Memorandum of Understanding, just in case you’re curious.

I started right away on everything because, with the exception of the criminal background check (CBC), everything was due in two weeks. None of it was hard, just a bit time consuming. And, being the neat freak, obsessive, perfectionist that I am, I was even more anal about everything being perfect than I normally would be. I paid $20 to get fingerprinted and then sent all my stuff off to the FBI and waited. I called a few days later to get an ETA on when the report would be completed because according to my recruiter, it would probably be about 12 weeks before we even saw that thing. After calling the Bureau, it turned out they were turning out checks in just six weeks. This meant that my CBC was going to be worthless by the time I actually needed it – I was way more than 6 months away from leaving the country and the South Korean government wouldn’t accept it as valid for my work visa. I had to cancel the check and go back several weeks later to get reprinted (and pay another $20), pay for the postage, and resubmit all my stuff for the CBC.

In order to get all my documents taken care of and properly apostilled, I paid Aclipse $90 to have them take care of it. If your recruiting company offers this kind of deal, TAKE IT. Don’t bother trying to get it done on your own for cheaper. Part of my stuff had to be verified and apostilled by the Secretary of State’s office in Washington, D.C. It would literally have required a physical trip up there or a ton of faith that my stuff wouldn’t get lost or misplaced. Everything was too important to leave up to chance, so I paid for it to get done. All my collected and completed documents were sent to Aclipse, which were then forwarded to Korea on my behalf.

And then, I waited. And waited. And waited some more. Finally, about two weeks or so before I was supposed to be leaving the country, a staffer at the school I’d been chosen by (my present employer), took all my crap to their local immigration office to request a “visa code” for me. This is when I started to get super stressed out. Two weeks isn’t a long time, and I still had to get that code, fill out yet another application and send it and my actual passport via USPS (not the most reliable mail service in the Americas) to my nearest Korean consulate office, in Chicago. Then I had to wait to get my passport sent back to me via USPS. Basically, Reader, in all honesty, I was ready to shit a brick during those last two weeks.

I just couldn’t make this stuff up. If the story has been boring up to this point, it’s about to get a hell of a lot better.


Check back next week to read Part 3 of my “Journey to Korea” story! If you’re looking for more information about how to get to Korea to teach, check out my page with helpful links.




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