K-Beauty and the Dark Side Foreigners Face in Korea

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I honestly don’t think I’ve come across a post like this before.

It was nearing the end of my 2nd year of teaching English in South Korea and both my close friend and I felt that we were “in too deep”.

To give you an idea of what our life was like, we were working at an English village, camp-style, high energy, lots of fun and at the time, a great work environment. After work we’d stuff our faces at the village cafeteria and hop on the subway to get to dance class. I love dance. We both did! We’d take classes for 3 hours, grab a meal after (and a ice cold beer on the tough days), then hop back on the subway to commute home.

Our days were packed and we were always moving! There were even times when we’d have night practices from 12am to 5am for a dance video shoot, sleep 0-45minutes and then start the next day.

Everyday I was learning Korean since I was immersed in a hobby that forced me to take directions in Korean.

At the time we were also instructing a KPOP Dance English class on the weekends (I taught Saturdays and she taught Sundays).

It was a chaotic time in my life but it was the DREAM.

Yet I was burning myself out physically AND psychologically.

Practically living in a KPOP dance studio meant I was living in KPOP.

It’s a fun, colorful world but it comes with crazy expectations.

As a dancer, you obviously need to focus on your body but in Korea it’s on a whole different level. Our fellow Korean dance-mates would come to classes lethargically and push their bodies beyond limits, gloating about having eaten just one piece of bread that day (and nothing else).

The “good” dancers came to class wearing the latest fashion trends paired with a fresh haircut and color that always looked pristine.

Dance students fan-girled/fan-boyed over the dance insturctors. A typical class involved doe-eyed looks, gasps, screams, and even little presents for the instructors.

The messages we got in the dance studio were also present outside of the studio, just in a less congested space. Emphasis on superficial looks, being skinny and pretty, alcohol consumption and having deathly work ethic are everywhere.

And with the studio being in Gangnam, on our walk to class it was very common to see the bandaged up faces fresh out of plastic surgery.

Yup, there’s a dark side to Korea.

I feel weird writing this, but I know that moving there was one of the best decisions I ever made.

If you’re reading this feeling scared shitless now of moving to Korea, think for a second about your home country. What dirty, ugly and maybe not so secret aspects of life show up there?


I want to share the dark side with you so that you can go in knowing things to keep track of in order to maintain your mental and physical health.

The best part of this post is yet to come. Best, but also kind of f’ed up.

As a foreigner, you DO NOT have to succumb to these standards and expectations.

You don’t have to be skinny. I’m at least 30 lbs bigger than the ideal Korean female desired weight and oddly enough Koreans would call me “thin”.

I used to be so confused.

The person saying it would almost always be a lot thinner than me. A Korean friend of my once told me that Koreans don’t hold foreigners to their own standards, but rather “foreign” standards. Meaning a mix of media and the few foreigners they’ve met in Korea.

You don’t have to meet K-beauty standards.

This means ideal face, nose, body shapes, plastic surgery, skin tone, etc. Yes, if you do have “big eyes” and a “small face”, Koreans will compliment you on those coveted features, but at the end of the day they don’t “rate” you on the same scale.

And the biggest point I want to make here is that you have the luxury of whipping out that FOREIGNER CARD.

What’s the foreigner card?

Your escape from going too far off “the deep end”.

My dance friend and I had each other to help snap ourselves out of the “dark side” trap!

We’d remind each other that we don’t have to meet the beauty standards all alround us, we are allowed to rest as needed, and don’t need to change a thing about ourselves.

I don’t think moving to Korea at a very young, impressionable age is a good idea. It really is easy to get caught up in the collective mindset and start thinking “Oh, I should do this..” or “I should have more of that”.

Ultimately being in this kind of society tested and challenged me and made me into a better person because I had the mindset and maturity level that enabled me to do so.

So the takeaway— if YOU are planning to move to Korea, don’t forget to keep yourself grounded, rooted, and schedule periodic “check-ins” with yourself. Make sure you are not obsessing over your looks, check that you aren’t just buying new items because everyone else has them, take care of your health and don’t drown in the crazy drinking culture. Having a like-minded foreigner friend will help keep you both sane, “in-check”, and whipping out that foreigner card when you wish to not participate or engage in something that is compromising to your mental or physical health.

This could look like…

  • Refusing to drink more than your limit at a hueshik (company dinner). You simply say, “I can’t drink anymore. It’s not how I live back home.”

  • Wearing clothes/hairstyles that aren’t on trend and if questioned about it , responding “It’s foreigner style”.

  • Reminding yourself that you are beautiful and healthy and you don’t need to lose a zillion pounds just because you can’t fit into the one-size-fits-all clothing that is common in K-fashion.

These may sound like insanely petty examples, but trust me when you are knee-deep in K-culture, trying your best to adjust, assimilate and “fit-in”, you’ll need the reminder to DO YOU, boo!

Are you like…Hey Tonya, first I just need to get to Korea!”

I hear you. Let’s sanely get you through the tedious application process to become an English teacher. Download my Roadmap to Korea Checklist now and stay organized on your journey!

5 Mistakes I Made on my Teach in Korea Journey


We all make mistakes and we will continue to do so for throughout life.

Mistakes are a essential for growth and boy, have I made plenty of them.

I guess that means I've grown a lot ;).

Here are 5 mistakes I've make on my journey to teaching English in Korea. Read til the end to figure out how you can turn my MISTAKES into your WINS!


1. Ignorant to my options in Korea


The first program that introduced me to the world of teaching in Korea was the ONLY program I applied to and knew about.

When I saw the flyer advertising the TaLK Program, I was fascinated by the idea of moving to another country and starting a new life there.

I read the TaLK program website through and through and started obsessively searching for blogs about life and teaching in Korea.

But I'm embarrassed to say that I never looked into other programs, I wasn't aware that I had options! I had no idea that I qualified for much higher paying jobs and various locations.

I was limited in my knowledge and blissfully ignorant.

Now, it all worked out, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the TaLK program, however I do sometimes wonder what my experience could've been like if I had known ALL the options available to me.

Would I have chosen differently? Where would I have lived? How much more money could I have made? How much more could I have saved? Who would I have met?


2. Allowing a recruiter to pressure me


Shortly after renewing my contract at a job in Seoul, things took a nasty turn. In short, the job became a nightmare and I wanted OUT a soon as possible.

I was in a bit of a bind and I explained this to a recruiter I was working with, however I did stress with them that I had certain standards for jobs I wanted.

Regarding visas, I was in the clear since I was planning to transfer to a visa that gives you 6 months to look for work in Korea.

The recruiter on the other hand, was pressed to fill a position and kept urging me to take a job that wasn't what I wanted.

I caved in and took it.

Six months later I had to quit the job. It just wasn't working, I knew from the moment I opted in, yet I let fear of not finding something better push me to make a hasty decision.

I now live by a rule- never make decisions out of FEAR.


3. Being too nice


This is something you may have heard other English teachers in Korea write about in their blogs.

It is natural, you arrive to a new country, enter a school, and are surrounded by wide-eyed kids.

Some instantly love you, some are frightened by the sight of you, some simply won't talk to you and others are inquisitive about every detail about you.

You want them to all like you!

You realize you'll be at school every day for a year or more and your biggest wish is to become a loved member of the school family.

These were my thoughts and so I ignored much of my orientation training and conducted classes full of fun, smiles, games and freedom!

The kids warmed up fast, too fast.

It wasn't long before I realized I had created a class of chaos and had very little respect as a teacher.

Fixing this took twice as long as it did to create such environment.


4. Worrying about this not being the "right" move


From the moment I first saw that TaLK flyer I KNEW instantly that I wanted to apply and move to Korea.

I labeled it as a Plan B if job prospects didn't work out after graduation, but deep down I wanted it to be my Plan A.

I didn't give myself permission to wholeheartedly want this because it didn't seem like the "right" move. I had just graduated college with a Bachelor's degree in Spanish and Arabic, why in the world would I move to Korea?

Eventually this strange desire was too much to bare and so I applied to the program and got serious about taking advantage of this opportunity.

But during the journey I worried that I was making a mistake, wasting time and not making an "adult" decision.

Gosh, I was so wrong!

Moving to Korea brought so much positive change into my life, some of that being- a newfound love for educating, reintroduction to my dance passion, life-long friendships, a different outlook on life/habits/norms, and I found the love of my life!


5. Trying to "blend in"


I know you are reading this and probably saying to yourself, "Really girl?!...blend in?"

Yes, yes I know! How could a black girl with an Afro puff think Korea was a country where she could blend in??

Obviously I knew I stood out, but in the beginning I thought dimming my light would deflect the attention.

For instance, I was mesmerized by Korean fashion and adored the ways girls dressed, but I wouldn't dare wear something too bold or eye-catching.

Even during a night out, I tried not to look too "fierce" and was frustrated that my most flattering makeup and hair looks made me look so sassy.

Weird. I know.

Nowadays and after a year or so in Korea, I embrace the hell out of a huge fro-hawk, bold lip and statement earrings!

It wasn't until about halfway through my second year in Korea that I decided to TRULY embrace my differences and let my light shine.

It was when I decided to really SHOW UP for dance classes.

And let me tell you, after that, opportunities started throwing themselves at me!


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THERE YOU HAVE IT- my five mistakes.

BUT, those mistakes (along with plenty more) taught me so much and grew me personally and professionally.

I think it is super important to give yourself room to make mistakes, especially if you are about to move overseas and start a new life in a new culture!

Be gentle with yourself and know that there will be plenty of bumps on the road.

There's no AVOIDING bumps all together however why not take a good portion of them off the road and smooth out that pavement, eh?

But first things first, let’s actually get you to Korea! Download my Roadmap to Korea Checklist here & stay organized and sane as you navigate the application process!

Do I need a recruiter? Are you one?


Do I need a recruiter?

Are you one?

Do I need a recruiter to teach English in Korea?


Are you a recruiter?


Thanks for reading this post- goodbye!



Hehe, just kidding let's talk about recruiters. I get questions about recruiters A LOT. I have both positive and negative feelings about recruiters and I'll attempt to explain why in this blog post.

You've probably read a couple articles or visited a few recruiter sites and perhaps you want  some clarity on the whole situation. So I'll give you the facts along with my personal opinions.

Before we jump into the juice, no I am not a recruiter. Because I offer guidance and support to prospective English teachers of Korea through phone calls and my online course, many people are confused about me.

I don't work for any recruiting companies, on the contrary I am an entrepreneur and online coach.

In the nutshell, I am a former English teacher in Korea who decided to package up all the ups & downs, lessons learned, along with research and information, in a mentorship program.

When I first decided to move to South Korea there weren't many bloggers and YouTubers talking about this career path.

I literally applied for the very first program I came across because I had no idea that other programs/jobs were available to me. It would've been nice to know about ALL the opportunities that existed!

In addition to not knowing what was out there, I felt lonely during the entire application process. Sure, I applied to a government program, but anyone who's applied knows how distant and spaced out responses from HQ and recruiters can be.

Long story short, I wanted to create a program that guided others during their journey. Then, taking it a step further, a program that actually prepares you for the reality of living and working in Korea. With most career paths and big life changes we find it extremely helpful having a mentor help us along the way.

Condensed information, tips, advice, and emotional support allow you to achieve your goals with less stress and with a higher success rate. A mentor provides a real-life personification of your goals, and a helping hand. That's what I do.

So, I am not a recruiter. And as I always say, I could care less what job type you choose, my goal is that you are prepared, supported and happy!




A recruiter/recruiting company is the middle-man between you and schools in Korea. They having a working relationship with schools that allows them to receive pay/commission for placing foreign teachers in open job positions. They will present you the job positions that are open, represent you before the school, provide information for obtaining documents and visa, help you understand your contract, and even coordinate travel arrangements upon arrival. I think the best thing about a recruiter is that they can save you a lot of stress and time when it comes to getting your legal documents and application materials in order.


Sounds great! Where's the problem?

Like any business, there are some bad apples in the bunch. While reputable recruiters are great to work with and truly care about helping teachers find jobs that match their desires, there are some shady companies out there that will do anything and everything to push you to fill a position. Lying about location, class sizes, schedules, etc in order to get you to say "yes". Why? Because, again, they receive commission on each teacher they provide.

I have personal experience with being pressured into a position by a recruiter. To summarize the situation, I decided to leave a job in Korea mid-contract due to some ugly changes in the work environment, and so presented the recruiter with my desired work conditions. Knowing that I was in a sticky situation, the recruiter continued to sell a position to me that didn't fit my criteria. Additionally, they presented the job in a deceptive light, basically wording it so that it seemed to be similar to the job I was leaving (which was great before those ugly changes).

I took the job and quickly realized I'd be unable to stay for long. While management and staff were great, it wasn't what I wanted and so I gracefully left the position 6 months into the contract.

Do I think all recruiters are bad? No. In fact, I think having as much support as possible, especially if it is your first time moving to Korea, is a great idea!


A few tips when using a recruiter:

1. Use more than one


Don't go overboard, only use a couple. There are only so many jobs and if your work condition requirements are super specific , it is likely your application will be submitted several times to the same schools. While on the outside this may seem like a "good look" because you really want the job, in reality it will deter schools from choosing you because you are using too many recruiters.

However, using a couple recruiters will help ensure you find a good fit. Again, they are businesses and every business is ran differently. Find a recruiter that you like by contacting a few.

*Note: If you are applying for a government program (public school) you only want to submit your application once! So for programs like EPIK, SMOE, TaLK, you'll only submit your application through ONE of your recruiters (or submit directly on the program website). Submitting it through several recruiters will count as a double-submission and you'll be denied.

2. Check YouTube and blogger reviews!


Nowadays everyone gives their review of EVERYTHING online. See what other English teachers have to say about the recruiter in question.

3.  Get the hook-up


If you are applying to private schools (hagwons) make sure that your recruiter can provide you the contact of the current/previous foreign English teacher. They will be KEY in giving you insight on the job, workplace environment, housing, location, etc.

4. Check the facts


Google is your friend. When your recruiter presents a job offer, Google it. See if you can find any information on Facebook groups and/or forums. Also note that jobs do change so take any really old reviews with a grain of salt. From the experience I mentioned earlier, I've seen first-hand a job going from absolutely PERFECT to horrendous because of a change in management. This of course can go vice-versa. One way to check that your recruiter is honest about a job is a quick location check. Is the location of the school matching up on Google? If not, pass on that recruiter, they are trying to sell you on a position.

So now that you know what a recruiter is, pros and cons of using one, and how to do your homework on any recruiter, you may still be wondering...


Should I use one?

Truth is, there's no proven method and this is more of a personal decision.

In my opinion, using a recruiter can be very helpful for newbies to the TEFL abroad world. I usually tell my clients to go ahead and work with a recruiter because while going through my program and having me as a mentor, I can help them weed out any bad recruiters, contracts, conditions, etc.


Which recruiting companies do you recommend?

Honestly, I can't. Like I mentioned, the one time I used a recruiter I scored a bad apple. Therefore I don't have personal experience with any good recruiters.

However, below I will list some popular recruiters used by other bloggers, YouTubers and friends.


Popular Recruiters

  1. Adventure Teaching www.adventureteaching.com

  2. Teach ESL www.teacheslkorea.com

  3. ESL Starter www.eslstarter.com

  4. Aclipse www.aclipse.net

  5. Korvia www.korvia.com

  6. Gone2Korea www.gone2korea.com

  7. Reach to Teach www.reachtoteachrecruiting.com

  8. Footprints Recruiting www.footprintsrecruiting.com

If you are considering using a recruiter, sift through some of the websites above, contact a few and go from there!

So what are you feeling? Will you use a recruiter?

Whether that’s a yes or no, one thing you MUST do is stay organized throughout the application process. You ultimately want to have control over your experience, this is YOU uprooting your life! Download my Roadmap to Korea Checklist to help you stay organized and sane through this tedious application process.





Embarrassing Foreigner Moments in Korea

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Communication is key. I'm sure you've heard that one.

When I moved to Korea I knew things would be very different and as a language and culture fanatic, I was excited by the communication gap challenges to come.

I enjoyed piecing together basic sentences in Korean while a Korean stranger did the same in broken English. Sign language, body language, weird facial expressions, sound effects -- when you are abroad and have a need to communicate, anything goes!

But with language barriers and cultural differences you are bound to run into some awkward and embarrassing moments. You have two ways to react to these moments.

Negatively, you can shy away, flee, turn red and burst into tears OR throw an angered, offended tantrum. The other option is to react positively, even if you are thrown off, you can choose to adapt the "Korean way"or simply use the moment as an opportunity to discuss your differences in a civilized fashion.


Here are 3 REAL, personal examples of embarrassing cultural shock experiences.

1. At my first job in Korea, I worked in a small public elementary school on Ganghwa Island. I became very close with the librarian. She was the sweetest woman ever! She took me under her wing, filled me in on any news, information and gossip of the school. We even shared lunch together, exchanging food items we'd pack in our vegetarian-friendly lunchboxes.

One day she took one look at  me and pointed out the big, fat pimple hanging out on my cheek. "Stress?" She said.

Naturally, I was mortified.

As if I hadn't noticed the monstrous lump on my face staring at me in the mirror. I'm sure my face instantly turned red. I was so embarrassed. The thing is, I knew that Koreans commented on appearance often, I just wasn't used to any negative comments. Koreans love to compliment you on your makeup, outfit, weight, face size, eye size, the list goes on.

Although embarrassed and a bit hurt that my friend would point out my ugly pimple, I knew it was a cultural difference. In Korea, it is common to point out if someone has a pimple, dark eye circles, or a rough appearance and ask if it is "stress". It is a way of showing concern for the other person's well-being. Pointing out those huge eye bags shows that they are attentive to you and notice your changes.

To be honest, I felt fine and I wasn't stressed but I lied and said I was feeling stressed. This was me playing the "Korean way" as I mentioned before. In Korea, people see pimples as a direction reaction to stress. Where I'm from, this correlation isn't automatic. Sure acne could be stress related but we also think it could just be from certain foods, allergies, hormones imbalance, etc.

You obviously don't have to lie, and I think at the moment, I did so out of embarrassment and a loss for words.


2. In the second moment I want to share, I didn't react in a positive way. It was a late night after dance class and I was hungry. The area I lived in was about a 20 minute walk from the main street in Gangnam, however I had just walked 20 minutes from the opposite direction from my dance class. Most of the restaurants near my villa closed early. There was one kogi chib (aka Korean BBQ restaurant) open and I decided to go in and see if I could order a kimchi stew or cold noodles. As soon as I step foot in the door the ajumma (older woman) asked,

"How many people?"

Of course, I said I was alone. The ajumma burst out laughing, while the rest of the customers stared blankly at me.

I scooted out of the place as fast as possible and hurried to the local convenience store to grab a snack instead. I was angry, embarrassed and upset. I ranted to myself about how rude she was and when I got home I told my roommate about the "evil ajumma".

A few cultural differences pop up in this situation. One, the staring and laughter and two, the custom of not eating alone.

The staring was something I was used to at that point, people always stared, but having all eyes on me in that tiny restaurant was unbearable.

The ajumma laughing at me and denying service felt personal, I took it personally. I knew I obviously looked different, and probably sounded different speaking their language. I felt attacked and isolated.

The fact is however, in Korea you don't eat alone. And if you do, it is definitely NOT at a kogi chib.

The laughter? My guess is that the ajumma found it amusing that I'd even ask if eating alone there was an option. Koreans are very blunt and this can be a lot for someone accustomed to the "sugar-coating" we do in parts of America.

Handled better, I shouldn't have taken the situation personally. The fact is, that when you go to a kogi chib you cannot order a single portion of meat. The grill format and setup is a shared experience. Even though my intention was to come in and order a a soup or noodles (technically considered side dishes to the meat), that is not the way things work in Korea.

In America we are the "have it your way" kind of people. We customize, take out, add, and completely change the menu items to our liking. In Korea, for the most part, you get what you get. There is not a culture of customizing the food and there is not a culture of eating alone at a restaurant.


3. Last situation, it is time to shine light on some positive embarrassing moments here! Transportation in Korea is spectacular. You can fill a T-money card with cash at the convenience store, hop on a bus to work, take a taxi to run errands on your lunch break, and then subway to meet a friend for dinner, all using the SAME card. A lot of people fill the card with money at the beginning of the month and use it freely. Well, it must have been towards the end of the month, I hopped on a bus, scanned my T-Money card and the recording shouted something at me that meant "You're out of money biotch!"

Okay, no problem get off the bus, right?


In Korea you basically run and jump onto a moving bus or if the bus is fully stopped, the second you're in, the driver hits the gas. I sheepishly scanned my card a few more times and began to rummage through my purse for some cash. I had never actually used cash to pay for a bus ride so I asked the driver where the correct slot was. The driver mumbled something under his breathe and seemed quite annoyed with me.

I swear she must've been an angel... a young girl jumped up out of her seat with such a sense of duty and shouted,

"I'll take care of it!"

That has to be one of the most memorable moments for me in Korea. I gave her a full 90 degree bow and a million thank-you's.

She literally saved my day and made my day with her gesture.

Life in Korea will bring you tons of situations just like the ones mentioned above. Sometimes our reaction is uncontrollable and instinctive. Other times we have time to process and decide how we'll react. I strongly believe that one way to save yourself unnecessary stress is to learn as much as you can about Korean culture and the way the society functions. It is most likely extremely different from your home country.

Being aware of these differences can keep you from spending your evenings curled up in a ball of isolation or bubbling over with anger.


I created Hello Tonya Teacher as a way to reflect upon my experiences in Korea, dissect them and give back!

One way I can help you now is by helping you actually get to Korea!

Download my Roadmap to Korea Checklist and stay organized and sane as you go through the application process!

Korea for the Artsy-Fartsy Types

So, I'm an artsy-fartsy type.

I've been this way since as long as I can remember! I was the kid in school who left no white space un-doodled on my worksheets. I recently sorted through HUNDREDS of old sketches and drawings. I begged my mom to sign me up for dance classes and I can't tell you how many times I watched "You're Invited to Mary-Kate & Ashley's Ballet Party"...(shoutout to the 90's babies).

In middle school I played violin, in high school I dabbled in modeling and I always dreamed of living the starving artist life in Los Angeles!

Tick-tock, tick-tock, I'm reading this article to hear about KOREA!

Okay, so HOW does this apply to Korea and YOU?

I'm guessing that if you decided to read this, it is because you too are an artsy-fartsy type (last time I'll use that phrase- promise.)

Honestly when I first moved to Korea I didn't think it would be an opportunity to dive into the arts or dig up old passions. My first year I spent how anyone planning to move to Korea thinks their life will be. I went to school, lesson planned, hung out with new friends, studied Korean, and traveled the country.

My second year, after moving to Seoul, things changed - dramatically!

A co-worker and close friend told me about her dance school and when she found out I used to dance she encouraged me to join her for a class.

My relationship with dance was a complicated one at the time. I loved dance but I was convinced it didn't love me back. I stopped dance lessons in middle school and since then I sporadically took classes, auditioned and yet somehow was confused about how I wasn't amazing, but I digress.

I mustered up the courage to attend class with her at DEF Dance Skool in Gangnam. It is a K-Pop trainee school, full of students who dedicate their entire lives to dancing, singing, and music. The school was intense! The instructors were amazing. The style of teaching was very "K-Popy", for a lack of better words. Each month we focused on learning a cover to ONE dance. The music was slowed down until it was almost unrecognizable, and each move was taught to be performed with extreme precision. Not the place for the free-spirited improv queens out there!

A few months in, and I was asked to be the first foreigner to perform in the monthly "test" video (a.k.a a dance cover video that would be uploaded to Youtube and the school site). I was honored, shocked and scared out of my mind! That month I endured a grueling schedule of 12am-5am dance practices (no that is not a typo) and then teaching English at my day job from 9-6pm. It was incredibly tough and I loved EVERY second of it!

Sparing the details, that experience changed the way I took on life in Korea. I was now Tonya Teacher AND Tonya the artist. A few months later, DEF Dance offered me a position as a dance instructor. They wanted me to teach a weekly English KPOP Dance class. Of course I accepted!

I must note that receiving money for anything outside of your teaching contract is ILLEGAL.

I had to exchange work for free dance classes instead. Later I auditioned for another dance cover video and made the cut. My friend who encouraged me to start, was with me the entire way! We co-taught the English KPOP Dance class and both auditioned for the dance cover video. We formed our own team naming it, Pink & Black Dance. We took to the streets of Hongdae, busking and even performing on a live stream for Afreeca TV.

I started networking with other foreign artists in Korea. I attended auditions for dance, modeling and acting gigs. I met foreigners who were also living a "double-life", teaching English and following their dreams. Some even came to Korea, knowing that as a foreigner, there are lots opportunities being the minority in the industry.

Being the minority in a homogeneous society does come at a cost.

For instance, actors and actresses will find that most of the roles they can audition for are stereotypical. Being cast as the "sexy foreign girlfriend", the "scary foreign male", the "foreigner who does drugs", etc. isn't uncommon. Not all roles are like this. As an African-American female, I've been cast to play a high-strung mother and a hard-working businesswoman.

As more and more foreigners pour into the Korean entertainment industry, opportunities only grow bigger and bigger. Seeing artists like actress Carson Allen , or K-Pop star Alex Reid from girl-group Rania, should inspire and empower us all!

To be very honest, there are a lot of foreigners illegally working in the entertainment industry, receiving monetary payment for acting, modeling and dance gigs. As sketchy as it sounds it isn't that uncommon. Just like working under-the-table as an English tutor isn't uncommon either.


While it can be difficult to obtain, there is an artist visa available (E-6 Artistic Performer -예술흥행) for those who are interested in bypassing the English teacher route and coming to Korea solely as an artist. Visit this page for more information on E-series visas.

The way I went around not being paid for the dance instructor position was working in exchange for free lessons at the dance school. This was perfect for me because much of my "fun-money" went to dance classes anyway!

I wanted to write this post to encourage any prospective English teacher applicants who have an artistic side. You'll want to settle into life in Korea when you first arrive and adjust to teaching and adapting to the culture. I'll repeat- you'll want to focus on teaching and adjusting FIRST. Your day-to-day, 5-6 days a week, is dedicated to educating children and this should be top priority.

Please don't add to the teachers who give foreigners a bad reputation by half-heartedly preparing lessons and showing up late to work tired and a mess!

However, if you are already considering teaching in Korea, and maybe you are on the fence about it, and you just happen to be an artsy-fartsy type (okay, I lied, this is the real last time :p) I want to open your eyes to the world of possibilities in Korea!

Did this post resonate with you? Well then let’s get you through this tedious application process to become an English teacher! Download my Roadmap to Korea Checklist and stay organized & sane throughout the entire thing!


PS- If you are more of the sip on organic coffee and check out street art kinda artsy or an urban fashion enthusiast kinda artsy, or listen to live indie music in a quaint bar kinda artsy, Korea is WONDERFUL for you too ;).

OH! And below you'll find a semi-embarrassing highlight video I used to send out for dance gigs^^.



The Complete Guide to Getting a Teaching Job in South Korea (checklist inside!)

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First of all, CONGRATS! If you are here it is because you have made the bold choice to teach English in South Korea.

BOSS decision.

Now, how do you actually go about finding and obtaining the IDEAL teaching job?

This post is your complete guide to doing just that.

WARNING: This guide is for AMERICAN CITIZENS. As you may be aware, the documents and process for obtaining a teaching job in Korea vary country to country.

After you read this post you may feel overwhelmed. But don't worry- I GOT YOU. At the bottom you will find the link to download my FREE Teach in Korea Roadmap Checklist. The best way to use this document is to print it out, slap it on a cork board/refrigerator etc. and check-off as you go down the road to Korea!

Now let's DO THIS! 👊🏿👊🏾👊🏽👊🏼👊🏻

Roadmap to Teaching in Korea 🚗


Do you qualify?🤷‍♀️

Before you start strutting down the road to teaching in Korea, make sure you are eligible to teach English in Korea.

Requirements to teach in Korea:

  • Citizenship from one of these English-speaking countries: U.S., U.K., Ireland, Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand

  • Bachelor’s degree/diploma from an accredited college or university

  • Clean National level criminal record check

  • Clean health check and drug test

👨🏾‍🏫🍎The Job👩🏾‍🏫📚

Eligible? Yaass! Now let's learn about your options so that you can get clear on what type of teaching environment will best suit you.

Public or Private?

  • English Program in Korea (EPIK)- Korean government sponsored program for teaching in public schools. Average hours are M-F 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Since it is a government program you get government holidays off, secure pay and benefits.

  • Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education (SMOE)- This is the EPIK program for Seoul.

  • Gyeonggi English Program in Korea (GEPIK)- This is the EPIK for the Gyeonggi Province(area surrounding Seoul).

  • Teach and Learn Korea (TaLK)- This government program requires the least amount of working hours but also the lowest pay. From my experience, it is a great transition program because of its long orientation and frequent cultural trips throughout the contract. Again, because it is a government sponsored program you get government holidays off, secure pay and benefits.

  • Hagwons (Private School)– These are private academies or cram schools. Work hours vary, it is possible to teach Kindergartners in the morning and then the after-school crowd of elementary and up. Hours can go 8am to as late as 9pm. These are for-profit schools so they are very much ran like a business.

  • English Villages- These are camp style facilities where students come and go for a few days up to a month! As an English teacher at camp you will live in the teacher dorms on the campus (College 2.0). Work hours range, but have a typical 9-5/6PM schedule.

  • University – If you can score a university job in Korea all other expat teachers will drool over you with envy! Friends of mine who work as university professors have long vacations and comfortable pay.


Recruiter or Nah?

There are tons of recruiters out there. Some are good and others not so much. Everyone has a personal preference on whether or not they want to use a recruiter or do the job search and application solo. I personally have done both and prefer going solo. If it is your first time applying, a recruiter might help you keep everything organized and streamlined.

TOP RECRUITERS- See Roadmap to Korea

TOP JOB BOARD SITES- See Roadmap to Korea


City or Countryside?

Getting clear on your preferred living standards will help with this decision. Are you a big city girl or a low-key countryside kind of gal? There are also suburban areas in Korea, my experience of them has been in the Gyeonggi area (area surrounding Seoul). Countryside/rural areas usually have lots of farmland but all the major necessities are there (markets, small boutiques, coffee shops, restaurants, banks, pharmacy, etc). Of course the BIG city life is in Seoul and Busan, but other popular smaller cities are Incheon, Daegu, Daejeon, Gwangju, Suwon, Ulsan, Gangneug, Mokpo...

Ultimately the best way to learn about an area is to do your research (Hello Google) and contact current/previous teachers located in the area.


TEFL Certification?

If you go the public school route, you'll need to take a 120-hour TEFL course. Having an in-class portion is ideal. If you are going the private school/English village route, getting a TEFL isn't necessary but it can't hurt! You can start this before you begin the whole application process so that you can list your TEFL certification on your application. If not, you can note on the application that you are in the process of obtaining the certification and list approximate completion date.



When you are ready to fill out the application you will need to prepare the following:

  • Basic personal information

  • Qualifications (certifications, degree, teaching experience)

  • Essay(s)

  • Sample lesson plan



And now the journey begins...

*time to put 👏🏽 in 👏🏽that👏🏽 WORK*


Getting your Documents🗃️📃

This is when the tedious part of the process begin because it involves you running around and gathering a bunch of documents and waiting, and waiting some more. For fees, waiting times and extra tips be sure to download my printable Roadmap to Korea Checklist!

1. Get your notarized copy of diploma with an apostille

  • To do this, Google "notary near me" and follow directions to have your diploma notarized

  • To obtain an apostille, you will need to Google "apostille service [state name]"

2. Get your Apostilled FBI background check

Getting the Background Check

  • Option 1: Electronic submission (NEW!)

    1. Go to https://www.edo.cjis.gov

    2. Follow directions under the “Obtaining Your Identity History Summary”

  • Option 2: Submit directly to FBI via Mail

    1. Follow directions on their website they even provide a checklist to use

  • Option 3: Use a FBI-Approved Channeler

    1. For an additional fee (most expensive and fastest), a channeler will submit your request and expedite the process. Here is the list of approved channelers.

Getting the Apostille for the Background Check

  • Option 1: Use a channeler. Simply Google "apostille channelers" and follow their directions (most expensive and fastest)

  • Option 2: Mail it to the State Department. Follow directions on what to submit.

  • Option 3: Go in person t o the offices in D.C by appointment or walk-in.

3. Additional documents you'll gather

  • 2 letters of recommendation

  • Sealed college transcripts

  • Résumé

  • Photocopy of Passport Information

  • E-2 Health Statement

  • 4 Official Passport Photos


👸🏽✨Shine Queen, Shine!✨👸🏽

1. Phone Interview

To get the job, you'll probably have a phone interview. Time to shine! Like any interview you want to represent yourself in the best light, be professional, friendly and show off your personality. They want to check to make sure you are someone who can adapt to new environments and foreign culture- not someone who will be overwhelmed by teaching or culture shock.

2. Introduction Video

This video is a perfect time to shine and give them a sneak peak of what you are like as a teacher. Be yourself, smile, have good lighting, keep the background simple, dress appropriately and introduce yourself. In other words..SLAY💁🏽.


🥂🍾🎉Say What?! You got the job??!!!🥂🍾🎉

Getting your Visa 💳😉


1. Google your Korean Consulate

Google " [your state] Korean Consulate".

2. Get Documents

Contact the Korean Consulate to get an official list of what to bring. Here are some general items you'll need:

  • Contract

  • Notice of appointment

  • E-2 visa application

  • Passport sized photo

  • Passport

  • Fee (check consulate website for approved payment types- ie cash, check, etc.)

3. Yay. Visa!

Inform your recruiter/point of contact that you've got your visa.


✈️ Pre-Departure Prep 🛄


1. Book Your Flight

I will always recommend Korean Air (literally THE best airline I've been on). Their flights can be on the pricey side, however, you are going to be in the air for a LONG time, might as well make your first trip to Korea as comfortable as possible.

2. Ask your recruiter/ point of contact about your arrival plan

Get as many details as possible. A lot of their answers will be "It depends", however, they should be able to tell you how you should get from the airport to you living quarters.

3. Prepare yourself for life in and out of the classroom.

Email hellotonyateacher@gmail.com for a deeper look into how to do this and how I can help.

4. Pack

In my program you can find a full list of things to bring. Your recruiter/point of contact should also inform you of the basics to bring. One key thing I'll mention is to bring a little bit of home. Korea has everything! All the essentials you'll find there (plus a lot of little luxuries you never knew you needed LOL). However, to ease your homesickness and aid towards a smooth transition, I recommend packing things like your favorite snacks and photographs. It is also a good idea to think about little things you can bring your classroom/school, such as stickers, decorations, and gifts for the Principal/VP.

5. Tie up any loose ends

You are leaving the country, you should-- let your bank know, turn off your cellphone plan (unless its free internationally), stop any subscriptions, put things in storage, sell things you don't need, and of course have your last brunches, dinner dates with family and friends!



That's a lot of steps, no? Luckily I've created a FREE Roadmap to Korea Checklist that you can print out and track your progress. Follow the link below and let's get this party started!🎈🎉

This download also has extra information not listed in this post like the costs of these steps, waiting times, and extra tips!


4 Things I Wish I Knew Before Moving to Korea

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Moving to South Korea in 2013 was the most random and daring decision I made to date. I knew only a little bit about Korea and didn’t know a lick of Korean. What I did know was that I was hungry for travel and desperate for a change, a big change.

I did a ton of research, watched as many vlogs as I could, and read blog posts on blog posts about life in Korea. But some things only experience can teach you.

Things I wish I knew before moving to Korea:


  1. You will NEVER fit in! — While this may sound negative it really isn’t, it is simply a fact for a non-Asian, African American female living in Korea. Fitting in does not mean connecting. I connected and built beautiful relationships with many Korean people. And as I learned more of the language the deeper these interactions became and the happier I became with my experience. However Korea’s homogeneous society has defined rules and guidelines. If I were to do it again, I would go Korea with all the desire to connect as I did, BUT I would rid myself of the desire to feel included or a part of the society as a whole. If you are a foreigner in Korea you are just that, a foreigner. That is your role and place. As soon as you accept this and do not seek an honorary Korean badge, the more easily you will breathe, get the most out of your time there, and grow.

  2. A Year is only 12 Months– Duh right? Maybe I am the only one but before moving to Korea, a year was a long ass time. But in Korea, months flew by life weeks. Had I known about this "time on steroids" stuff I wouldn’t have allowed the little trials and bumps to take over so much of my mental space. Cliche as it may sound BE IN THE MOMENT. The good and bad moments alike fly by oh so quickly.

  3. Get a hobby ASAP– During my second year in Korea, I got back into my old hobby of dance. It was in the dance studio that I gained some of my closest relationships, with both Koreans and foreigners. Passion knows no language. Before I knew much Korean I connected with my dance teachers and fellow students and felt a sense of belonging. It was after I started dancing that opportunities came flying at me- music videos, a dance teacher job, photo shoots and I learned Korean twice as fast!

  4. Forgive Yourself for Jumping- I beat myself up over and over about the fact that I was in Korea. It was just so random and didn’t seem “logical”! Although I found many foreigners in Korea were also in Korea for random reasons, I focused on what people back home probably thought of me (keyword “probably”). These were fake problems and really it was just my own mind scolding me for following my heart! The few people that did give me a bit of crap about moving to Korea, didn’t actually matter in my day to day. Once I accepted that I was there and allowed myself to truly BE there, things changed. Instead of creating an inner enemy, create an inner cheer team that lifts you up for your daringly courageous move.

Are you planning on moving to South Korea soon? About to start applying for English teaching jobs and programs? Download my Roadmap to Korea Checklist and stay sane and organized through the application process!


Are your EPIK dreams over?


No more English teaching jobs?

According to a recent article in the Korea Times,

"Tens of thousands of English teachers across the country are in danger of losing their jobs as the government is set to ban English education for children from preschool to second grade."

If you have been following the news on English education over the past few years then this is no surprise. Budget cuts, job cuts and thus higher competition has become the theme in South Korean English education job market.

So are your dreams of teaching English in Korea over?


What is over, is sending in an average application and having mediocre credentials. With less positions available the gloves need to come off, you need to truly SELL yourself in your application, essays, photograph, interview, etc.

Getting TEFL certified? Great. What else 'ya got?

Now more than ever it is imperative that you throw on your thinking cap and think of ALL the things that make you awesome, flexible, fit for adapting to new cultures, and fantastic teacher material. You must think about why YOU over anyone else deserve a spot in the program.

The two main areas to shine in your application are in the Essay and in the Lesson Plan.

Here are some actionable tips to use to help you get hired!

Essay pro tips:

  • Literally make this list of awesome stuff about you, your experiences abroad/ with other cultures, teaching/volunteering/tutoring, etc.

  • Write, revise, write, revise

  • Use the max word count

  • Send your application in as early as possible

  • Get someone to read over your essay and check for errors

  • Seek the help of someone who has been through the process

  • NO FLUFF! This is not a time to talk around a subject, be direct and answer the question

  • Read the directions. Follow directions (11pt font means 11pt font).

Lesson Plan Pro Tips

  • Read the directions and follow them.

  • Use your background. If you majored in Dance in university, create a fun lesson about movement. Don't send in a boring lesson plan on colors and expect to WOW the recruiters.

  • Have someone else read over your lesson plan. We make sense to ourselves in our head but you must make sure your lesson plan is ready for any average Joe to pick up and execute.

  • Keep it student-centered NOT teacher-centered. For example, word your plan like "Student A says"...." and Student B say's "...."

  • Details people! Give them as many juicy details as possible. What props will you use? Is there a seating chart? How will students be rewarded?

Put your best effort into these two pieces. Have the goal of inspiring the socks off the EPIK recruiter!

Most importantly maintain a good attitude and this will show up in your work. KNOW that if you are meant for this program, you WILL get into this program.

Be confident.

Even though this is just the application portion and not a live video interview, confidence and positivity can produce great work!

One favor you can do for yourself is get organized! Creating a quality application won’t happen if you can’t keep up with deadlines, for get to submit things , etc.

Stay organized and SANE with my Roadmap to Korea Checklist!