Posts Tagged ‘fbi background’

Don’t laugh. He might be my neighbor. Chinese dreamin’.


Things are moving. That’s really all I can say. I’ve done everything necessary. I am waiting on my Z-work Visa to come back. I used a visa/passport expeditor service with offices in Houston, the regional Chinese consulate for many southern states. I have already contacted them three times. I had questions on the application and lastly I asked if they had received my documents. The staff was helpful and I don’t anticipate any problems so far. All in all it cost around $260 for the service, shipping included. I hope to be on a plane in the next week or so to Mudanjiang. I’m still not allowing myself to get too high on the journey. I had a hiccup, when I discovered my drivers license had expired on Feb. 5. I took care of it the same day with no problems. I don’t want to jinx the ease of my process just yet. I want to quietly, get my visa/passport back, purchase a plane ticket and board unceremoniously. In the next week or so, I will revisit some grammar modules from my online TESOL course. I will continue to listen to chinesepod and struggle through beginner’s Mandarin. One of my imminent goals is to learn the language. Of course, teaching is the priority, considering it is my first time in an academic setting with children. I will adapt. I have been in contact with my school sporadically since my interview. My school manager emailed me once to confirm I’d received my work permit and letter of invitation. I replied after I sent all of my documents to the passport/visa expeditor. AND now I WAIT. Man, I’m almost there. I’m about to do something no one in my family has done. I remember thinking something similar when I traveled to Belgium and all over the Netherlands, then Paris and Germany. I’m ready to eat with chopsticks, have long conversations about Wu Shu, visit the Shaolin temple and drink the strongest drink they serve with some smiling model featured ladies in tight clothes. Not to sound superficial, but I’m looking forward to enjoying myself in the nightlife. I’m also looking forward to becoming a professional ESL teacher. With that said for balance, I work hard and play hard. I always have. Life is about the story you can tell when it’s over. I will try to write a little something once my visa comes and I get a ticket. …Man, I’m almost there.


Mudanjiang Railstation. Mudanjiang, soon to be my city.

I am only a few weeks out from living, working and arriving in China to teach English. The process has been long and is still not 100 percent certain. I started this journey several months ago. My first choice was to teach in Korea, but I was denied the opportunity. I chose Korea as a starting point for my new career as an ESL teacher mainly because I could teach and save money. South Korea has a low cost of living and pays new ESL teachers some of the highest base salaries in Asia. Once I was denied my opportunity and dealt with several teacher recruiters, agencies and shady individuals, I changed my focus to other countries. Chinese schools were very quick to respond to my resume on the numerous ESL job sites where I posted. Over the past two weeks or so, I’ve been dealing with a school in Heilongjiang Province, Mudanjiang and a second school located in Yinchuan, the capital of Ningxia Province.

MY CHOICE: The school in Mudanjiang seems to be the smaller company. I spoke directly (Skype) with two of three of the school managers and felt good about our interactions. There are three foreigners (one American manager from Arizona and two Canadian teachers) and I would join a staff in an area that is not as Westernized as other school locations. The selling points for me are the small staff, high salary (9,000RMB) per month, and getting my own apartment. I’m 36 and too old and too set in my ways to break in any potential roommate.

The staff in Mudanjiang seemed laid back and easy going. I know I will learn the profession without immediate pressure to perform. The pay is extremely high for anywhere in China and most forums and blogs warn against schools that offer more than 6,000 to 7,000 RMB. I am going with my gut feeling on this one. The city is not one of the popular destination cities like a Beijing, Shanghai or Dalian, so English schools are fewer in this much colder climate.

The city borders Vladistovok, Russia. However, it has a few colleges and several public schools. I will work 25 hours per week with two days off. I was updated by my school manager that my initial application had been submitted and that I would receive the requisite paperwork for my work visa in the next couple of weeks. Even though I signed the contract, this thing won’t feel real until I put together my package for a work visa. I will drink in celebration only at that time. Call me an alcoholic, but I must have a few victory beers before I leave this side of the planet.

MY DISMISSAL: The school in Yinchuan was different from the school in Mudanjiang in every aspect. Lower pay (6,000RMB), although fewer hours and a much larger city. I would have been one of 19 foreign staff with the potential of more newbies arriving just like me. The company is a reputable one, with schools everywhere in China with large student populations.

The recruiter was really good. He explained that he and most of the teachers he knew started out in Yinchuan and moved on to other schools. He sold me on the friendliness of the people, Western amenities and the ability to enjoy outdoor activities. These were all appealing to me. Mind you, there was another recruiter from the same company, pitching me my first choice Dalian, as well. So we agreed that the Yinchuan recruiter would pitch my application to schools contingent on my not being hired at a school in Dalian. The company’s schools in Dalian were tallying there overall need numbers and the recruiter was uncertain whether I could get a spot there. I made the executive decision to only deal with the one recruiter and forgo any offers from Dalian, so the Yinchuan recruiter could present my application to schools in a more favorable light. (I edited out previous comments. I realized I made a dick move and will surely face karmic repercussions. I don’t want others to follow my shrewd treatment of a particular recruiter. I removed an email detailing how I committed then reneged on signing a contract he emailed to me. I realize I was in the wrong and had to correct it with this long drawn out explanation days after my original post.)

The bottom line is: I have found a school that I like, people I like and a place I like. For a salary and hours, I like. I look forward to continuing this blog by highlighting my adventures once I reach China with video uploads and regular posts. Hopefully, I chose the right school. If not, I’ll make it mine.

Finally: I want to thank everyone who has “liked” my entries. I really do appreciate you taking time out of your life to read about mine.

I have decided to take my teaching skills to China. No, I don’t know how to speak Mandarin. No, I don’t know how to use chopsticks.









I have LeBron James-sed it for about a month. I have been courted by a few schools in China over the past few weeks. I whittled the choice to two schools, which I spoke about in my last blog post. I received a contract and told my recruiter that I could be in China by February 24. The school is well established and the recruiter was professional. The school has a Facebook page and teacher testimonial videos.

All these things make it the safest pick. However, my gut/instincts/Spidey Sense has been tingling. I am not sure if I’ve made the right decision with this school. I still favor the smaller kindergarten that is in the process of revising their contract to meet my specifications. The difference in pay is about 3,000 rmb (6000 rmb and 9,000 rmb) and I have been speaking directly with the manager/head teacher and co-managers. After agreeing to sign a contract with the more established school (I have not signed a contract.), I felt like a number and not an employee. The school has 19 foreign teachers and who knows how many will join me as new teachers in a much larger school.

The kindergarten would consist of myself two Canadians, two Chinese managers and the guy I’ve been dealing with Keith, who’s an American from Arizona. I know it’s a small operation because I was asked to change my arrival date because it was after opening day. He said it would be hectic and “logistics would be difficult”. I’m fully expecting one of the managers to pick me up from the airport. I have no fear of arriving in China and experiencing culture shock. However, I would like the singular attention of a close knit group willing to show me the way. Half of my reasoning for signing with the more established school, is their ability to outline specifics in the contract and their web presence. But I don’t think that necessarily makes them better. I went to a smaller high school and still have that underdog mentality. I played football and basketball locally. My best friend and I always had to prove ourselves to the bigger local schools on the field of play.

But that’s besides the point. I try to follow my instincts (sometimes to my detriment, especially when it comes to the opposite sex) and something didn’t feel/sit right with me after I received my welcome email from the recruiter. I’m going to think it over one more day and make a choice. I don’t take this life-changing move to China lightly. Ultimately, I’m beholden to no recruiter, school or manager. I have to make the best choice for myself. It’s been a long journey. I recognize my anxieties and warranted and unwarranted concerns. In my Army leadership training,  you’re taught to gather the necessary facts and opinions of experts in the field. You then outline three courses of action. One possible, another possible and an alternate course of action should be presented when planning any movement.

I have done exactly that. As of this writing, I have weighed the characteristics of each school, walked through possible scenarios involving payment of salary, industries in the area and exit strategies. My brain is wired like this unfortunately. I could give presentations on both cities to include population, weather and culture, forum comments on the school and comparable teacher salaries in the area. I’m anal like that. But back to my gut, I get about 85 percent from “gut feelings” and I usually make choices based on that feeling. I’ll use today to weigh the two schools one final time and make a solid decision. I’m almost there, literally less than six to seven weeks away. Let’s do it.

ALMOST THERE. Nice ring.








THEN (A week ago)….I promised to return sooner rather than later. I have updates on the latest in my search for a school home in Asia, China specifically. So, I have bombarded recruiters with the expected documents(rehashed resume, pickled pictures, and covered and smothered cover letter). The reception has been great, a lot of bites. I have begun a process of interviews that began on Saturday and will conclude on Friday. Two of the next few are final interviews. Hopefully, I can speak with and build some kind of rapport with school staff and get a contract in the process. I have talked to recruiters, mostly. Tonight, I spoke to two Chinese school managers, who seemed eager to have me join their staff.

NOW…..I have whittled down the search for a job in China to two schools. One of the jobs is a well established chain in a city with a large expat population. The other is a smaller city in a cold climate with higher pay for less hours per week. I interview with the former tonight and at this point undecided on a location. Both locations/jobs have yet to send me a contract for review, although one of the jobs has a pretty standard pay rate within their family of schools. I plan on making a decision by the end of the week as to which school I’d like to be a part of as a new teacher. I don’t know how to feel about it just yet. It is still an idea/dream with no paperwork at this point to me.

The first school, even though I know I’m just a number for the recruiter, seems like the safe bet. Standard housing, decent salary and about 19 foreigners on staff in a city that is small, but has a Starbucks, KFC and Pizza Hutt. The other is very small with less than fifty foreigners in the entire city. I know no matter where I end up I’ll be immersed in Chinese culture. I plan on learning the language. Yes, I plan on learning one of the most difficult languages to learn in the world. I think the more I’m forced to communicate in broken Chinese the better off I will be. Learning Chinese was never on my bucket list. I know basic Spanish, but so does the average Taco Bell employee.

I’ve detailed this journey up to this point and plan to continue writing upon my arrival in the Chinese mainland so to speak. Like many journeys, the impetus was a breakup. A year and a half ago, I wasn’t very hopeful of a future without my girlfriend and her daughter. It’s been a long time since I’ve had something to look forward to. I want it all now. I want to visit the Buddhist temples, hiking trails and caves. I want to go skiing. (Yeah, I said it. I’m still a black man.) I want to study mixed martial arts. I want to drink and be merry with my co-teachers and other expats. I want to eat the food and listen to the music. (Well, at least to say I did listen to Chinese music.) The process has been a long one, but not really in the sheer audacity of  the task. I’m trying to pick up and move to a foreign land to do a new job without knowing the Native tongue. It’s party time. The journey continues….

Don’t cry. Dry your eye. I’ll be right back.

I know. I know. It’s been a long time since we’ve “seen” each other.

I should have called or something, I know. You were SO worried. I know. Well, I’m back and the news is not all that great. I’m still applying, still registering on ESL job sites, still trudging on. I’ve probably duplicated several queries to schools. I’ve tweaked my resume, cover letter and all things ESL to the point of utmost sexiness. Surprisingly, I’ve only had a few telephone interviews and a couple Skype interviews. I have to confess though. I haven’t been as steadfast in my pursuit of “Teaching in Asia” like I should have been over the past month or so. I got a little jaded. A little ah, let me send out a bunch of emails to the latest postings on, and I’ve played Skype chase with a few recruiters, ignored a few of the shadier variety, but continue to pursue employment with schools in Asia. Why? Because it’s Bruce Lee and egg rolls and kimchi and dark haired, kimono wearing golden Buddha chopsticks and rice adventure. Clearly, I’ve never been there. Clearly, my stream of consciousness rant may call into question my motives for teaching children. Well, let me be clear. I enjoy children. I want some of my own. I tried. My girlfriend lacked maturity at age 32 and we’ve both moved on. Whoa, tmi like a mutha… Seriously, the most important reason I want a job teaching English is to return to a profession that is respected and morally rewarding. I tried sales. There are only so many elderly women you can sell useless items to before you realize your underwear smell like gasoline. (Gasoline draws in Hell. Please catch up.) I will always be a writer. Some would say it’s a calling. I say it is just one thing I don’t have to put much effort into. I’m hoping teaching young people, even if they reside on the other side of the Earth, will allow me to find another thing I can contribute to this world. I turned 36 years old in November. A man begins to think of his legacy after age 30, at least mature men do. I want pay something forward. The Mayans were wrong, so I have a few more seasons of Breaking Bad, Mad Men and The Walking Dead to look forward to. I’m rambling, I know. Back to the point of the post…umm? So, the latest news on the ESL front is, I’ve shifted my focus to China. I kept stumbling out of the blocks with recruiters in Korea. I don’t know if it’s my dark skin or that I’m a man lacking blonde hair. Whatever it is, the recruiters in China have been more receptive. I have two prospects with openings beginning in March. That would be right up my alley. Even though I’ve all but tied up all my loose ends financially here, an extra month or so to save dough/cash/moolah will be helpful. I’m talking like I landed a job already. I will hopefully interview with one recruiter tonight and another tomorrow or this weekend. I’m not going to give up. I have scanned every possible document I own. I have become an ESL job search expert over the course of three to four months. I’m do a legitimate contract. I’m not one to do the “it’s a new year” spiel, but dammit, it’s my time. Tune in next time for an update on my progress. I promise I’ll be right back this time.

Lantau-China. Buddha.


This blog will be about positivity. That is the promise I’ve made to myself. I realize I ranted and spewed venom in my last post. I have had to take a step back in my judgement of recruiters. In the four to five months that I’ve been dealing with recruiters, I have experienced the entire spectrum as far as quality services. But before I get into my experiences since my last posting, let me give a quick update as far as my status. I am still waiting on my FBI background check. Hopefully, I will have an idea of where it stands after the Thanksgiving holiday. That’s it. Once I get it back and apostilled, I will be qualified to teach English as a Secondary language at most schools worldwide. Now that the housekeeping has been done, I must talk about one really good experience with a recruiter. I would say the best experience I’ve had with a recruiter so far. I liken it to meeting a future multi-year girlfriend. You know you’re going to get caught up, but you like it for however long it lasts. STC Consortium Limited, a U.K./British recruiting agency, has been the most thorough and accommodating recruiting agency, I’ve dealt with to this point. How so? First, like most recruiters, there is a website/job board where I uploaded my CV/resume. I was contacted within a few days by email, asking for the usual picture, passport, letters of reference, etc. After sending the requisite documents, I was immediately contacted to set up a Skype interview. Actually, I just finished the interview and this blog post may be prematurely lauding services yet to be rendered. However, I have a feeling about this one. I spent about an hour speaking with, not the recruiter, but the CEO of STC Consortium.

Maybe it was her warm British accent or her motherly affectations to my questions. I don’t know what it was exactly, but it felt right. I did my usual interview spiel, why I want to teach in China, the history, culture, the food, teaching any age, blah blah blah. But it wasn’t really blah blah blah afterwards. I was told STC Consortium was given the task of recruiting up to one hundred teachers, ten were already there in country and exactly what STC’s role would be in the process of my placement as a teacher with them. I was also assured that even if I didn’t decide on a placement in China, STC would be in contact with me, as they look to expand into other countries, specifically Malaysia. I think of myself as a good judge of character and I felt good when speaking with Susan of STC. She’s a former educator. And more importantly, taught ESL in a classroom. When we ended the interview, I felt good and thought she genuinely, in my words, “gave a shit”. Every recruiter I’ve dealt with up to this point has treated me like a number. You email them and they get back to you a week later. You interview with them and have to email them to prompt further actions. These are symptoms of a recruiter with more than one client that demand their time. Hey, it is what it is. However, I’ve worked in customer service related positions and I always treated each customer like they were the only person I had spoken with during the workday. It can be done. STC Consortium, so far, has done just that. It was almost familial. She told me a STC representative based in China would contact me next week about opportunities. I feel good about this one. After breaking out my voodoo doll and needles for the last Teaching in Asia entry, I am lighting the incense and rubbing the little fat dude’s stomach on this one. It’s almost karmic. A true Happy Thanksgiving.




Question: What makes a good recruiter? The answer will vary greatly from person to person more than likely. In the next few paragraphs, I will attempt to break down my experience with a recruiting agency that has really dropped the ball in serving my interests. First, my idea of a good recruiter is a person or organization that makes the client feel like they are a priority. A little special attention to someone, who may not expect it, goes a long way. I think another good quality for recruiters is the ability to adapt and structure the working relationship to establish the client’s strengths and improve or PR spin the hell out of any perceived weaknesses. That said, in my last blog post, I mentioned I had been in contact with several recruiters and realized there was no real advantage in using one for ME. I stand by that assessment due to recent developments. I have been diligent in the “gathering” process of recruitment to teach in Asia. I decided on Korea and have been in contact with recruiters of varying levels of professionalism. Greenheart Travel, in my opinion and experience, should be avoided like the plague. As I wrote in my last blog without naming them specifically, I conducted a Skype interview with a representative of Greenheart Travel, that had never been to Korea. She asked me scripted questions and did not give me any new information. She merely regurgitated EPIK guidelines that can be easily found on the EPIK website. Then I told her my status in acquiring the necessary documents to work in Korea. I didn’t hear from Greenheart Travel for a week. No follow up. No next steps. No contact. A week later, I get an email alerting me that I would speak with an EPIK representative the preceding week. The email included possible interview questions, a link to a time conversion website and a few other useful bits of information. I responded by emailing that I would be prepared and it was great that the process was finally happening. No response from Greenheart Travel, still. However, I had a great interview with an EPIK recruiter. She discussed minor changes I needed to make with my application. Namely, she wanted me to indent the paragraphs on my essay (EPIK requires applicants to write 500-800 word essays detailing why they want to teach in Korea.) and lengthen one of my letters of recommendation. The EPIK representative asked me why did I want to be an ESL teacher and why I chose Korea instead of other countries. I as anyone with common sense would told her that I was interested in learning Korean culture, language, food and history. I ran on and on and on. She smiled and had to cut me off. She also asked me how I would handle disciplinary problems in a class of thirty. That’s just a few of the questions I was asked, as the interview was about 45 minutes long. I was also given the opportunity to ask my own questions. We concluded the interview with an overview of what changes I needed to make on the application and she lauded me for having a great tone, accent neutral speech pattern and that she personally had no trouble understanding my English. We said our goodbyes, smiled (she was beautiful by the way.) and waited for the Skype burp and black screen. Two days later, Greenheart Travel sends me an email that said:

Thank you for taking the time to apply for the Spring 2013 Teach in Korea EPIK program. Although we found you to be a very qualified and enthusiastic applicant, I regret to inform you that the Korean Ministry of Education has not selected you to move past the interview stage of the process. We have received many qualified applicants for the program, and the Korean Ministry ultimately has the final say in the selection process. It seems like the process is especially competitive this round. It is EPIK’s policy not to disclose why an applicant does not move forward, so unfortunately I was not given any further details about why your application was not accepted. If you would like to continue to pursue your interest in teaching abroad, I encourage you to take a look at our Teach Abroad programs in other countries. We also have programs in China, The Republic of Georgia, and Thailand. Please let me know if you have any questions. I hope that you choose to pursue other means of cultural exchange, traveling and working abroad! I wish you the best of luck!


So my obvious email response was: Are you serious? The ENTIRE country of Korea (the other side of the line of demarcation at least) has no available slots for a “very qualified and enthusiastic applicant”? I find that hard to believe. Especially considering I had such a great interview with the EPIK representative. I’ve interviewed for numerous jobs in my lifetime and I am pretty accurate when determining if I blew it or not. This I refuse to believe. Recent college graduates with no TESOL certification or English related degree are currently EPIK teachers. I won’t accept this. I said all of this in my response to my “rejection” email. Needless to say, I haven’t heard back from GREENHEART TRAVEL. The other way GREENHEART TRAVEL screwed me is by sending my application to EPIK as I was trying to gather better letters of recommendation. Before my Greenheart interview, I was told that one of my letters (the one the EPIK recruiter dinged me for.) needed to be longer. I was told by my recruiter (I will keep it anonymous because I’m a professional above all else, anger aside.) that she could send it, but she knew they would want something a little longer. She also told me to make my lesson plan longer. I promptly fluffed out my lesson plan which my Greenheart recruiter reviewed, assured me it was okay and told me via email to get my letter to her to ready for EPIK. Well, she decided to send it early and never contacted me. Some might say, I should have contacted her. You’re right. But who’s the recruiter? Why would you shoot a client in the foot by sending an application packet that doesn’t live up to your company’s standards? You have set me up to fail in this. This is unacceptable. I don’t know how this should play. The EPIK representative told me to make corrections and submit those corrections to my recruiter. Then I get the damning email above. So that’s it? The end of my journey? NO WAY! I’m not scratching off an entire nation after a 45 minute interview (that went well) and a recruiter who could care less about me as client. I’m not done yet. I’ve been in contact with other recruiters in the past few days. Hopefully, I can resubmit my application and get a placement in EPIK, GEPIK or a hagwon. This last experience has really opened my eyes to what can happen if you, by luck of the draw, choose the wrong recruiting agency. DO NOT USE GREENHEART TRAVEL! I can only hope no one experiences the lack of respect and professionalism shown by this agency. Hopefully, my experience is an isolated random luck of the draw incident. I hope so as I would like to do something life changing, like teaching English abroad. I hope this is not typical recruiter behavior. Prospective teachers please keep your eyes open and be careful in this process. I have been officially set back by my recruiter’s negligence and my naivety.

Recruiter Kate Upton has probably been to Korea. If she hasn’t, she would at least have the decency to lie to me. NO, this picture is the right size. My blog is just small.

Let me preface this entry by saying “These blogs are my opinion. Everyone has one these days. And like so many others I make mistakes by assuming when all of the facts are not present. And I jump to conclusions erroneously occasionally if a particular subject makes me angry, sad or joyous.” Such has been the case when I have personally (through Skype and international phone calls) spoken with recruiters. I like so many others before me, who have entered this journey to “Teach Abroad”, walked into the jungle without a guidebook. But once you get into the jungle, you begin to find your way. Not a ‘GPS get you right to the spot’ kinda navigation, but the simple navigation that allows you to avoid danger and know where to look for food. The reason I’m getting all Rudyard Kipling on you is this realization: If you are applying to EPIK, you don’t need a recruiter. If you want to teach in the Korean Public School System, you don’t need to go through a recruiter. After speaking to a few recruiters last week, I realized I had done all the legwork in my OWN journey. And like I prefaced, I may have come to this conclusion from assumptions about the recruiters that I spoke with last week. In my last post, I mentioned working with a particular agency and how helpful they had been with my application to the EPIK program. The recruiter had me expand on my lesson plan and recommended I lengthen one of my letters of recommendation. AND it was really helpful. I assumed recruiters, all recruiters, either had experience as a teacher OR had experience dealing with the school system that would prove to be valuable as the process moved along. I also erroneously thought the recruiter did a little bit of the legwork as far as getting a work visa and reviewing contracts. Let me put this into context by paraphrasing the conversation I had with a recruiter via Skype. Young 20-something, sexy in a librarian kinda way, doe eyed recruiter: Well, tell me why you want to teach in Korea? Me: I blah blah rewarding blah blah experiencing blah blah beautiful culture and history. Doe Eyed Recruiter looks down at her cheat sheet and fires off about four to five “typical job interview questions” and asks “Do you have any questions for me?” Me: Well, what can you tell me about the process? What are my next steps? Before she could answer, I explained to her the status of the required documents (passport, apostille bachelors degree, apostilled FBI background check, letters of rec and my EPIK application) and asked what her experience had been. Doe Eyed Recruiter: Oh, I’ve never been to Korea. Me: Um, I didn’t hear you. Can you say that again?Needless to say, I concluded my “interview” and began to rethink my need for a recruiter. Well, that’s not exactly when I ended it. I did manage to ask if their service would assist with my work visa and was told they would not be assisting. So I asked myself, what exactly are these companies doing for me? Here’s my assumption. The recruiter identifies a prospective teaching candidate (not really, they email them photos and resumes daily) and walks them through the paperwork process prior to an actual interview. The recruiter conducts their own interview, determines how flaky the candidate is and attaches their company name to that teacher’s application to the EPIK program. A recruiting agency gets “gold stars” for teachers who excel and some kinda monetary compensation per head from schools or the government. The recruiter may prove useful once a teacher reaches Korea. I have seen plenty of recruiter sponsored get togethers on their websites, proving the familial atmosphere that awaits a potential prospect. I mean, I get it. But I’m not a young person looking to find myself overseas. I’m almost 36 years old and kind of chewed up. I don’t have to meet new people to feel comfortable around foreign language speakers. I lived in Germany for two years and my college roommate was Japanese. My junior and senior year was spent hanging (mostly getting drunk) with international students from Brazil, Korea, China, Mexico, Guatemala and Canada. I’ve been to sake parties and Quienceneras. But I digress. Here’s what I learned over the past two weeks. I as a teaching candidate have specific needs. For instance,  I want to teach at a school that offers prepaid airfare. Hagwons or Korean private schools seem to be the only schools that offer this kind of accommodation. I was told by an EPIK school teacher, currently teaching in Korea that EPIK usually doesn’t prepay airfare, but reimburses within thirty days in their case. EPIK is gearing up for a school year and hiring process that begins in February. Bottomline, I can submit my documents to EPIK and foot the bill for a flight to the school. OR I can find a recruiter (In this case, use of a recruiter is essential because they are in contact with the private schools) and always be upfront about my financial need for a plane ticket. Also, this personal prerequisite, makes other countries that offer prepaid airfare a selling point an option in my search. These journal entries might become Teaching in the Middle East, if they pay for my flight. Here’s where I stand in the journey to teach in Asia: I received another letter of recommendation from a college source over the weekend. (Letter of Recommendation count stands at five, now.) I am waiting on my FBI records check. I have apostilled bachelors degrees, a passport, extra passport pictures for the visa, TESOL certificate that came with a letter of recommendation verifying it’s over 100 hours of coursework, and a completed EPIK application. I’m only missing a job offer, contract, plane ticket and a useless doe eyed 20-something librarian like recruiter to hold my hand and tell me that I’m going to make it after all.

I’m not killing it, but I’m definitely in the hunt.

This is my fifth installment of my quest to Asia. I am no longer frustrated with the process. I didn’t meditate, drop a tab or swim Lake Minnetonka to reach my calmer disposition. I’m simply taking a more pragmatic approach. I can only get documents when they come on the agency’s time line. If that document’s arrival exceeds the agency’s expected delivery date, only then can I raise Hell, legitimately. Surprisingly, I have not had to do much Hell raising lately. I’ve been actively in contact with Greenheart Travel, a recruiting agency for Korean schools. I submitted digitized documents and an application for the EPIK program Spring semester. I will interview with a recruiter on Tuesday of this coming week. Greenheart has been really helpful as far as sending document checklists and next steps for the teacher type of documents. One thing that impressed me and made me feel much more comfortable about the application process was the feedback my recruiter gave me. She recommended I submit another letter of recommendation because it was too short, lengthen the lesson plan required for the application and I saw that I mistakenly left an item incomplete. Sara is definitely the most professional recruiter that I’ve come across since I began submitting applications to recruiting agencies a few months ago. I am leaning toward Korea, now more than ever, even though I’ve received a solid inquiry from a recruiter in China. I received a sample contract of $6,000 yuan, shared housing and a few other amenities. I like the idea of working in China, as I know a few people who have made the trip, but one of my deciding factors is prepaid airfare. Most Korean schools have prepaid flights and/or flight reimbursement. EPIK provides prepaid flights to Korea. Chinese schools usually offer partial payment or a set price for reimbursement, but none I’ve come across have offered full prepaid flights to China. If I can keep $1,200+ bucks in my bank account, that’s more money that can be spent on food, clothes and gaining some lucky Asian woman’s attentions. On another note, my quest for apostilled documentation is nearing completion. I’m happy to report I received two copies of state apostilled bachelor’s degrees as requested a few weeks ago. (See my sarcastic big bass pose with apostille in hand above) I am currently waiting on my FBI background investigation for the second time. When I have that in hand, I will mail it off to the U.S. State Department for their apostille. AND WAIT, this time patiently. I’m hoping to have that big bass pose by mid-November at the latest. If that happens, I will have done all that needs to be done here, short of getting and signing a contract from a school and attaining a work visa and foreign identification card in Korea. Well, that’s how it’s supposed to happen. I will get there when I get there, all in all. Oh, another resource I can recommend for newbies is youtube. There are several teachers currently in Korea that have posted and continually update videos outlining anything from the application process to the price of toothpaste and milk in country. I have found this guy’s videos really helpful and he responds fairly quickly to comments and questions about content.

I’ve also joined Korean teacher and Expat forums, submitted my resume to several ESL job sites, recruiter sites and expanded my search to less favorable destinations to see what other locales have to offer. Early in this journey, I found myself latching on to only applying for positions with the Big Three (Korea, Japan and China) in the beginning of my search. Now, I have been in contact with recruiters for schools in Mexico, Thailand, Colombia (yeah, I know, thrill seeker here.) and Chile. I wish I could say I had a system and there was a method to the madness. But honestly, I’m sure I’ve sent my picture, resume and academic documents to over seventy different recruiters over the past few months. I’ve joined, by entering my resume electronically, over seven or eight recruiting agency websites. I have searched old blog posts for outdated job openings, copied the contact info and cold contacted the recruiters. I am taking a break playing tag now and focusing on EPIK as my main choice. The Korean government and their department of education have money to spend and seem to be a stable place for me to start my ESL teaching career. And I will get to Asia, God willing.

Hurrying Up to Wait

Well, I’m about three weeks into this journey. I am working hard to satisfy all of the prerequisites to become a teacher in Asia. I have completed numerous applications and posted my resume on several reputable ESL websites. I’ve received a mixed bag of responses, but most said the same thing: do you have TEFL/TESOL certification? Background check? Passport?  I, recently, purchased an online TESOL course for $190 from International TEFL and TESOL Corporation. The course is 100 hours and most forums give it a decent rating for securing a job. I began the course modules on Thursday and am already about halfway through the entire thing. It is not light work by any means. I’ve never created a lesson plan or taught in a classroom. My only saving grace is I can eyeball errors and can dissect a sentence fairly easily. Proofreading is almost a gift and a curse. I’m that dude who notices your and you’re. And the use of s’s when they should be the American z’s. I am moving through this coursework fairly quickly and hope to complete it by week’s end. Two weeks ago, I submitted for a FBI background investigation and passport renewal. The process for both is in the four to six week range, so hopefully, I will get them back withing the coming week or three. I’m in a holding pattern, but my goal is to continue to put everything together while the various agencies peruse my sh*t. I’ve updated my resume and CV to reflect the course and plan on making further updates as I acquire more qualifications. The latest being my application to Arizona State University online graduate program. I have educational benefits remaining on my GI Bill and plan to use it to get a Masters in ESL. I have already contacted the Veteran representative and am going to begin in October. I want to do this regardless of whether, I’m hired by then or not. First, a Master’s degree makes me more attractive as a potential hire and I can occupy my time while I “hurry up and wait” for my documents to arrive. I’m really surprised with how quickly this has come together. I have started a HUGE life change in less than a month and it feels really good. It is totally one thought to the next thought to fruition for this. Like I’ve repeated, I don’t believe in preordained movement, but this is getting eerie. I’ve narrowed my choices of places I want to go to Korea, China and Spain. Korea is my main choice. I’ve found a wealth of information on teaching jobs there. Korea is also one of the countries with a lower cost of living and above the economy means teacher pay. It seems a long way away right now, but soon…soon.