Normally, I don’t write and post reviews, but I felt like I needed to warn others about CIEE. CIEE is an organization that is just full of lies. I’m actually kind of sad to write negatively about them because I really did have a very positive experience doing a study abroad program through them back in college. Therefore, I assumed I would have an equally positive experience doing a teach abroad program through them. Unfortunately, I assumed wrong. When I received my first contract offer from Luke Beland, the CIEE person in charge of communicating about job offers, I had many questions. I wanted to make sure that this was a good offer. He said that I probably wouldn’t get another offer and I should just accept the one I was given. He also assured me that 2.2 million won was much higher than the average salary because most teachers only get paid 2.1 million won. In fact, he was quite wrong. For a kindergarten hagwon, a 9am-6pm job, the pay should be at least 2.4/2.5 million won for all the work you must do. I asked him if he had any concerns about the contract and he told me no. Yet, this job couldn’t have been with a worse hagwon. The director of the hagwon had me work at 3 different branches within my 4 months of being in Korea. I never felt like I ever got into a routine because I was constantly being moved from school to school. For 2 of those months, I had to commute back and forth between 2 different schools, which were on opposite sides of the city, and which was also time-consuming and exhausting. I purposely chose the hagwon route so I would only be at one school, so obviously I was upset. There were also so many changes, extra work not specified in the contract, and a lack of help or understanding from CIEE. I paid CIEE all this money for support, yet Brad, who is supposed to be your go-to in-country support, continued to gaslight me and make me seem like everything I was going through was “normal.” In fact, none of it was normal, as I found out after talking to other foreign teachers who had been teaching at hagwons in Korea for several years. In fact, he assured me that everyone who used CIEE has had positive experiences at this particular hagwon. Actually, 5 different foreign teachers who also used CIEE have quit from this hagwon in the 5 months that I have been living and working in Korea. So that was another lie they told me. Our orientation was also a joke and was really just an excuse to eat one dinner together and then have the rest be free time. We weren’t actually given any advice on how to be good teachers or anything related to teaching. I felt burnt-out after only 3 months. In fact, I had to move to an apartment all the way across the city, a 12km distance, in a completely different neighborhood in order to be closer to my new school. This particular hagwon has many different issues. First of all, there was no support whatsoever for the foreign teachers. I was thrown into my new school with my new kindergarten class with no help or guidance, yet I was expected to do everything perfectly. Some of the students were also really badly behaved, but because their parents were paying money to the school, they wouldn’t be kicked out. They would always listen and respect the Korean teacher, but never the foreign teacher, which made classroom management nearly impossible. The foreign teachers were also required to pretty much do everything, except talk to the student’s parents. This means taking the kids to the bathroom, serving them lunch, writing weekly logs, writing weekly comments, and writing monthly report cards for all the students. We also taught up to 9 classes a day, including classes such as Math and Science. In fact, I know some teachers who taught 45 classes a week for only 2.2 million won. We were also in charge of all the special events, which occurred frequently each month. In addition, there was a complete lack of communication between Korean teachers and foreign teachers, and usually the Korean teachers would expect the foreign teachers to guess what they were thinking and get mad when we didn’t do things exactly how they wanted. There were also many last minute projects, last minute requirements, and constant changes to projects/expectations. Even though we had “break” times which were only 30 minutes here and there, we couldn’t really take the break because we had to do all of these other preparation things for classes, events, etc. I couldn’t even relax during lunch since I was constantly serving the kids more food, so by the time I ate, my food was cold. This particular hagwon is also quite cheap, as seen in the very crappy apartments we were given. I know that if I had just used a different recruiter, I would probably have ended up at a much better hagwon and I wouldn’t be leaving my contract early. Unfortunately, my mental health has deteriorated and seeing as this country does not have adequate resources to support me, I had no choice but to leave. While I did enjoy living in Korea itself, the job couldn’t have been worse, and CIEE is a large part to blame for this, seeing as they set me up with this school. Hopefully my review will help others avoid the same HUGE mistake I made choosing CIEE to guide me in this work abroad journey.
Response from CIEE Teach Abroad & TEFL
Thank you for your sharing your story, Cimone! It's amazing how teaching in South Korea had such a profound impact on your life.