The Whooooole Process

south korea

Although the process was long, it was 100% worth it.

Fortunately, I live about 15 minutes from downtown Boston, so these steps were pretty simple for me.

Boston, MA

To get the FBI background check, you need your fingerprints scanned. Now, I knew that I could go to my local police station to get them before I went to Identogo, but Identogo had faster results. For those who have never heard of Identogo, like me, it is a place where you can go to get identity checks. You can get a TSA Precheck, FBI background check, and so on. The first time I went to Identogo, I got the results the same day. Then, I sent it as a PDF to Monument Visa along with my degree and received both by mail within a week. Monument Visa is another cool website. You can get your documents authenticated or get an apostille.

Fun Fact: An Apostille is a type of authentication that is recognized by foreign countries that are members of the 1961 Hague Convention Treaty. To get a document authenticated, you need to go through a few steps that are different than the Apostille process. You have to get documents authenticated when they are not part of the 1961 Hague Convention Treaty.

I got both of my documents by late July and I was ready…. Or, so I thought. It wasn’t until I was told by a different agency that I needed my full middle name on my FBI background check. Your name HAS to match your passport. I went back to Identogo and asked them to put my full middle name. They said yes. A few hours later, I open the email and it was just the initial again. So, if you want to save some money, just go to your local police station (make sure you call first), fill out the forms online from the FBI website, and send it out to the FBI. I think that’s option 2 on the FBI website. The policeman that scanned my fingerprints was so very genial and did not charge me the $25 that was mentioned. It only cost $4.20 to send my fingerprints and the forms to the FBI from the post office. I then got an email from the FBI within a week and I also got a hard copy sent to me that FINALLY had my full name. It was a relief.

Then, I sent my degree that already had an apostille and the FBI PDF to the recruiting agency based in California. I also had to get my degree verified through National Student Clearinghouse for $15. I’m not sure if that is a Korea requirement or just the agency’s. That was a PDF though so I didn’t have to send the physical copy to CA. The agency in CA were amiable and were able to get my FBI check apostilled much faster than I would’ve been able to on my own. To send all of my documents to CA, it was around $5. I obviously had to pay another $55 to get the FBI apostilled. **sigh.

During this time, around mid-September, it was taking people 10-11 weeks to get their background checks. It took mine about a week thanks to the agency. Once I decided to go with the original recruiter, the agency was able to send my documents to their office in Korea and then from their office in Korea, they sent it to the recruiter’s office that I was going to sign with.

In order to get your visa, you have to send a bunch of documents to South Korea first (you will be told what they are) and then the recruiter or whoever you are working with will give you a visa number. You will also need a bunch of passport photos for the whole process.

My recruiter was super disorganized with everything so they wanted me to send my physical documents to Korea. My friend’s recruiter had her send the documents as PDFs to speed up the process.**Be careful and do research if you decide to go through a recruiter. Some don’t care about you and just want the money, which confuses me cause if you don’t get to Korea then they don’t get paid so I’m not sure how it works in their favor. My recruiter always tried to rush things which made me anxious. I didn’t want to move slowly but I also wanted to make sure everything was done correctly. Thankfully, I was in contact with my head teacher as well so they were the ones that actually helped me more throughout the process. And also be cautious with the recruiters that you give your resume to. My resume ended up at a school twice which is a bad look so the school didn’t want me. I was talking to multiple recruiters so that’s what caused the whole resume problem. The recruiters hand out your resume like it’s their job. Because it is, haha. So they will send it to anyone and anywhere they can.

If you want a specific location and have all of the time in the world, don’t settle for the first job that you are offered. I got such a great feeling when I interviewed with my school, I knew it was the one, even though the location was not my first pick.

I also had to get a Covid test by an MD. Make sure you check you consulate’s website to see what their requirements are. My town does Covid tests daily because the numbers are so high and it was free, so it was trouble-free getting a negative Covid test.

USA Passport

I drove to the Boston consulate (it was actually in Newton, MA) that’s about twenty minutes from my house, handed them my papers, my passport and $45 and was told I could print out my visa 15 days from then. 14 days later I got a phone call saying that I was missing a form. The “Agreement to Facility Quarantine” form was needed. When I called before driving there, I was told that since it says “short-term visa holders” that I did not need it. Luckily, it was an easy fix. I printed it out, signed it, and then emailed it to them as a PDF. PDFs are a life saver. My visa was ready the day after. Finally, I printed it out (which is still weird to me. But hey, it worked) and it was official! ****Make sure to type your name exactly how it is on your passport: last name, first name, middle name.

Check the requirements for YOUR consulate. My friends went through the New York consulate and we had different forms.

If you’re from the US or Canada, AAA comes in handy at time like this. I was able to get 8 passport photos for $25, whereas at CVS I’ve paid $12 for 2 before. At AAA it’s $10 for the first set and then $5 per set after that. Pretty good deal if you ask me. AAA also offers an IDP (International Drivers Permit) for the low price of $20 (Obviously you need a valid drivers license in order to get your IDP. I got my IDP before canceling my AAA membership and I’m hoping I get to use it. It expires one year after the date that’s printed (you can postdate it up to 3 months, if I remember correctly).

Here’s the price breakdown:

  • $100 ($50 each) for fingerprints- Identogo (locations in the US)
  • $165 ($55 each) for apostille degree & FBI
  • $14.95 for degree verification- National Student Clearinghouse
  • $25 for 8 passport photos from AAA
  • $4.75 to send documents from MA to CA
  • $4.20 to send fingerprints to the FBI
  • $20 for IDP at AAA
  • $45 for visa fee

I haven’t added it all up yet because I really don’t want to know how much I spent LOL. I am just fortunate enough and ecstatic to be here! So everything took about 3 months total but it would’ve taken probably 1-1.5 months in total if I had gone to the police station from the start.

This all happened during Covid too so I am sure once Covid slows down, it will be an easier process??? Not sure though. I do feel like even for getting all of this done during Covid, it was pretty fast. Buttttt, that’s also because I went with an agency at first and I am assuming they pay to have priority over people that just send their documents into Monument Visa.

A Fresh Beginning

south korea
Khao Yai National Park, Central Thailand

Who would’ve thought that I’d be going to another country during a pandemic?

I did.

After spending ten months in Thailand, I knew that living in America just wasn’t for me anymore. I didn’t even want to leave Thailand in the first place, but I had to. When I returned home, everything was different; I was different. I felt trapped- physically, mentally, and emotionally. I realized that there was nothing there for me anymore. There was no adventure, no challenge. The pandemic changed my plans, as it did with many others.

I came home from Thailand in the beginning of March. Eight months later and here I am in quarantine waiting for the day (December 8) when I can be freeee.

The hardest part about coming home from Thailand was that I wanted to leave right away. Buttttt, the pandemic. I went from having the time of my life to being locked inside my house indefinitely, just like the rest of the world.

In June was when I had enough. I started looking into countries that would take me as an ESL teacher in the middle of coronavirus. While researching, I would talk to my friends that I met abroad and they had plans to go to South Korea.

Teaching in South Korea had crossed my mind once or twice before but I initially had plans to go to Ireland when I got back from Thailand.

The two countries that were accepting teachers in early July were South Korea and Thailand.

Pha Trom Jai Cliff
Khao Yai National Park, Thailand

I applied for numerous positions in both countries, awaiting anxiously. I can’t even remember how many recruiters I talked to. My friend found a great recruiter (orrrrr, so we thought) that helped us start the initial process.

Little did we know it would take much more time, stress, and back pain.

I would wake up early in the morning and post my resume on sites such as Dave’s ESL cafe, Gone 2 Korea, Go Overseas, ESL Rok, and several others. I joined a bunch of Facebook groups and would scroll on Google for hours.

I heard back from a good amount, but the process was difficult because I was out of the country. It ended up taking a lot of time and effort to even get schools and recruiters to answer me. My friend and I joked that searching for jobs WAS a full time job.

After months of staring at my computer, I received a job… from the recruiter who I first talked to back in July.

At first, I wanted to be placed near Seoul, just like 85% of others looking to teach in South Korea. Busan and Seoul are the top locations that everyone wants. I’m only about an hour-ish away so I settled. But, if you want a specific location then you will eventually find a job, it just may take some more time, especially during a pandemic.

For me personally, I thought it would be a good idea to be placed in an area that I was unfamiliar with. I wanted to challenge myself. And so far I haven’t regretted it.