While I will not share what I wrote for my mine, I hope these tips will help you in formatting and writing your personal essays!^^
1. Make a list of your main points
Start by making a list of the things you want to emphasize in your essays. One way to approach this is by narrowing what the questions are asking and tailoring these main points to what YOU have to offer with your PERSONAL ideas and experiences. This is your chance to SELL YOURSELF!
My list looked something like this in the beginning-
- Why Korea? Why EFL?
- Have you been to Korea?
- What do you know about Korea?
- Do you know any Korean language?
- What about Korean culture interests you, why?
- If your degree isn’t in TEFL, try and make a connection
- Teaching/Professional Goals/Children
- Have you ever taught before?
- Have you ever worked around children?
- How will you deal with large classes?
- What do you know about the Korean education system?
- What are your long term goals?
- Culture/Dealing with culture shock
- How do you define culture?
- Have you ever lived abroad?
- Have you ever encountered a culture different from your own?
- Have you ever worked with colleagues from various cultural backgrounds?
- What are the differences between your home culture and the culture of Korea?
- What challenges do you anticipate
- At work? In your community? In your personal life?
- How will you address these challenges?
- How are you preparing for these challenges NOW?
- At work? In your community? In your personal life?
You should be able to come up with an adequate explanation/response for each of these points.
2. Expand beyond and build upon what you have already provided
Try not to OVER emphasize certain parts of your application or what your letters of recommendation say, in the essays. You will be wasting valuable word count if you do this.
3. Be detailed but at the same time keep it short
Each of the essay section has a limit of “200-300 words”. Try and keep each essay at about the same length. I personally went all out and pushed each of mine to the upper 200-300 mark. Your essays will (likely) come up during your interview so make sure what you are writing is authentic and something you will remember. Your interviewer may even ask you to go in more depth with your essays during the interview.
4. Answer their questions
Heck, they even warn you on this point in the application itself. Actually answer the questions they are asking you in the prompts. Avoid “fluff”. I like to say that your essay should not have the nutritional value of a twinkie!
5. Know your audience
You are writing these for your potential employer as well as EPIK HQ. While you may have become interested in Korea/Korean culture through K-pop/K-drama, now is probably not the best time to talk about your favorite fanfics or idols (even if the person looking at your essay loves Kyungsoo, too).
6. Give yourself time
Good writing takes time. I know most of us like to think that we do our best writing at the very last minute when we are under pressure, but I assure you, you do not want to put off your essays until the last minute. Have a friend or someone you trust proofread your essays to see if it makes sense to them. Maybe check out a website like grammarly.com for further proofreading.
Good luck with your writing!
Ad astra per aspera,
Check out these other EPIK application related posts! –
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I often get people coming here looking for an example EPIK essay, due to Google’s misunderstanding of what another blog post is about, and I suspect due to there apparently being not very many such essays on the internet. (As seems to often be the case these days, Scroozle’s Sanctuary delivers the goods.) Being short of inspiration since my experience with the Shinchonji cult, I thought I’d post mine, as yet another supplement to the ever-expanding Waegukin Guide to teaching English in Korea.
If you’re not currently in the process of applying to EPIK, this is probably not very interesting. Sorry.
The question for me was the same as for Zackary at Scroozle: “We are interested in your ability to succeed as an ESL teacher in a public school in Korea. In the space below, please share with us your reasons for wanting to teach ESL in Korea, your educational philosophy and your thoughts on encountering cultural differences.” Like him, I also had the advantage of having taught English in Korea before, so that gave me something to write about.* If you don’t have teaching experience, I’d suggest talking up anything else you can think of that seems related – babysitting, nephews and nieces you enjoy playing with, tutorial groups you led, boy scouts, anything like that.
Regarding cultural differences, obviously you are keen for the challenge and open to new things. It might be worthwhile mentioning some specific Korean cultural things you find interesting. As for your educational philosophy, it should be inclusive, friendly and dedicated, I would think. Try to make it literate and free from spelling and grammatical errors.
This is certainly not wonderful writing – the intent was to convey a tone of positivity and enthusiasm, while squeezing in things like having familiarity with Korean language and culture. It worked for me. Obviously, you shouldn’t copy this, but if it gives you some ideas for things to cover in your own essay, that’s fine.
In August 2009 I left Australia for Korea to spend a year teaching as part of the TaLK program. Looking back, I would say that I was very ignorant about Korea, and what to expect from my time there – I remember writing on my blog at the time that I wasn’t sure whether I would be living in “a boxy high-rise apartment, or a rice field somewhere” – but although I was ignorant, I did have a good attitude towards it. I was keen for the experience, and open to it, and wanted to learn.
I was lucky; with me on the plane were some Korean-Australians who were doing the same program. They quickly adpoted me and in my first couple of weeks in Korea gave me a crash course in Korean culture: they taught me about Korean food, gave me some survival language skills (greetings, numbers, how to ask where the bathroom was), taught me about K-Pop, noraebang, and the importance of age in Korean relationships, and many other things, too.
When I went to my school I wasn’t sure of what to expect from teaching; it wasn’t something I had done before. I had heard that the Korean education system placed a higher emphasis on rote learning, and while this was true to a certain extent, my head teacher was very supportive of me using other methods, and patient in assisting me in learning how to be a good teacher. I never thought that Western methods were necessarily superior, and I quickly realized the value of a trained memory when I saw my kids’ abilities to absorb new vocabulary; I used other methods mostly as a balance. While their vocabulary was strong, they were not practiced at using it with a native speaker; they couldn’t quickly turn their thoughts into English words and sentences. I found that I increasingly structured my lessons around not only teaching them vocabulary and grammar, but encouraging them to use it; when I could provoke them into using their English because they had thoughts they really wanted to communicate with me, I felt I had succeeded. I spent a lot of time re-inventing the wheel, but I’ve never been more happy or surprised as when I realized, after a few months, that my kids were speaking with much more ease and fluency; that they had actually learned.
I enjoyed being a teacher, and enjoyed all of my time in Korea. I made great friends with whom I’m still in touch. I found I enjoyed the regular pattern of my days and weeks: walking to my bus stop, buying food for dinner, talking to the owner of my local convenience store in our very limited shared vocabulary of broken English and Korean. Encountering cultural differences was occasionally frustrating, but far more often rewarding, or even revelatory: so many things are better in Korea! I wish Australia had service buttons on every restaurant table, noraebangs, pool halls and cheap motels in every city and town, efficient and clean busses and trains departing regularly to all corners of the country.
At the end of my contract in Korea, my school asked me to extend again, and I was very tempted to do so; I’d loved my time there so much. But many of my friends were leaving, and there were things about home I missed, although I knew there were many things about Korea I would miss, too. Since returning home I have completed my CELTA certificate to improve my skills as a teacher, and I still miss Korea very much, so I feel that now is the time to return to Korea, hopefully with EPIK.
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