A Gap Year In Korea

I didn’t consider my first year spent in South Korea as a gap year, but it is possible that it is a gap year. I’m not saying that it’s a gap year because my time spent teaching here will not appear on my resume. I will definitely add it to document my international experience. It may be difficult getting a reference from school officials in South Korea. I don’t think that most people think about this. In my case, my vice principal and principal do not speak English. I was told that letters of recommendation are not common in South Korea, but two letters were required to apply to teach through the English Program in South Korea (EPIK).

If you need a reference or a recommendation letter from the principal of vice principal for your school to go back to college, get future work back home, in another country, or at a university, understand that you can ask for it, but it’s not guaranteed that you get one. Don’t let a language barrier keep you from getting a letter of recommendation. Ask your employer to write it in Korean and have it translated to English.

Your employer may refuse to give you a recommendation, stating that they are not given in South Korea or his/her English is not not good, or for some other reason. Some employers will give you a recommendation, but only at the end of your contract. They are afraid that you will use the recommendation to go to another school.

Spring is a time of transition for teachers in the U.S. I remember that in the spring teachers are offered new contracts or learn that a new contract will not be extended. Teachers look for jobs in January, February and March for school years that begin in the fall. Some international schools are on a semester system. At my school, the new year begins in March, but teachers are hired for August and March.

People who hope to come to South Korea as a launching pad for other international jobs should be forewarned that it may be to your advantage to ask for recommendations early. You have a better shot at getting a recommendation letter or use your Korean employer as a reference if he/she speaks English. In my case, I can get a recommendation letter, but I have to wait until June.

One comment

  • Maria


    I’m a teacher from the U.S. teaching in the northern part of Korea (at least for now). I , too, am in my late 30s. Would love to hear more about your journey and exchange stories from our perspective.

    Feel free to send me an email. : )


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