The following is a detailed account of our outstanding experiences with the Korean Horizons recruiting agency in South Korea, run by Alistair Wery.
Background: I am a certified teacher in British Columbia, Canada with an additional TESL certificate, and my wife has a TESL certificate. We were prime candidates for recruiters based on our education experience, as well as experience with teaching children. As we knew our talents would be in demand, we knew we could be picky with which recruiter to choose, and we did extensive research on all of the different recruiters available on review sites like this one, as well as the forums Dave’s ESL Cafe and Waygook.org
We interviewed with several big name, high volume recruiters, like Korvia and Footrprints, both of whom treated us very impersonally with our inquiries, as we represented a very small fraction of their overall business. A recruiter at Footprints turned me off completely with his brusque, used-car salesman type personality, ignoring my requests and trying desperately to pitch to me just a single position in a location undesirable to me. Korvia was a bit better, however their English skills were lacking, and I felt that they didn’t understand my any of my answers to their interview questions!
We also interviewed with smaller companies based in Toronto and Korea, and felt the same way: that they were impersonal and more concerned with making their own commission than helping us find the right city and position.
After all our Skype interviews, email correspondences, and forum searching, we decided to choose Korean Horizons, run by Alistair Wery.
Upon our first visit to his agencies website, it is apparent that Alistair is a very honest recruiter. He did not try to paint a pretty picture of life in South Korea, stating that some people have amazing experiences, while others sometimes have bad experiences. This was a breath of fresh air compared to the other recruiters who claimed that their location / position was amazing, and after careful research finding out they were lying and the location was either inaccessible and rural, or lung-chokingly polluted and congested.
Alistair was amazingly fast at email communication. He would answer every question and concern we had in a very clear and concise manner. After we applied to his agency, he phone us on the telephone (not Skype) to have a brief chat, to make sure that we understood everything about the application process, as well as to get a feel for our personalities, to make sure we would be the right fit for teaching in Korea.
He made sure we had all of our documents submitted early, and gave an accurate timeline for the processing of everything to make sure everything was submitted in a timely fashion. We discovered later that many applicants to EPIK were turned down because their documents were not submitted early enough!
Every step of the application process was detailed in a step by step guide. It was very easy to follow this process, to make sure we had every document processed at the Korean Consulate correctly. When we sent him our original, apostille stamped documents to his office in Korea, he also would make digital scans of everything, just in case anything was lost. This turned out to be life-saving later in the application process, when we required a copy of a document that was sent in the mail.
After we were successful in obtaining our documents and applying to EPIK, he Skyped us with details of the interview with an EPIK recruitment officer. My wife had a case of nervousness, and he kindly took a couple of hours out to calm her down, and coach her through the questions in the impending interview. The interview went extremely well, and we impressed the recruitment officer with our knowledge due to Alistair’s preparation.
After our applications were successful and we were admitted to EPIK, Alistair walked us through all of the necessary steps to get to Korea, from obtaining our E2 Working Visa permits, to booking flights, as well as what to bring to the country. Alistair also offered to purchase anything we needed upon arrival from GMarket (a large Korean online store), and to pay him back when we could with no interest or fees included.
Alistair insists that his clients arrive at least one day prior to the official registration at the airport in Korea, to allow them to rest after long flights into the country. Alistair met us at the arrival gate, helped us with our luggage to his car, and then drove us from the airport to a nearby guest house (a condo type apartment for short term stays). He booked guest houses for all of his clients free of charge, and spent the entire day at the airport meeting his clients, and taking their bags to the guest house.
Once everyone in our group arrived (12 people), he took us all out for an evening meal, again his treat. He gave us very useful information about our upcoming year teaching, common sense tips, as well as offering to help us in any way, including advising about living conditions, teaching conditions, and offering again to purchase anything we need at cost, to pay him back when we can.
The next day, he took us all out for breakfast (again free of charge), booked a van to drive our group’s luggage to the airport. Once at the airport, we moved as a group to the EPIK registration booth, and he made sure everything with our registration was correct.
Alistair also had a nice parting gift for each of his clients: A Korean Horizons cloth bag filled with the following books:
Lonely Planet Guide to South Korea
Lonely Planet Korean Phrasebook & Dictionary
An ESL textbook / Methodology text (Julie and I got different versions, a comprehensive advanced text for me, and a more basic overview for Julie)
Korean / English dictionary
Korean Cuisine cookbook
Korean temple stay guide (a popular thing to do on holidays is to stay and relax at Buddhist temples across the country)
Korea Tourist Map
2x Daegu Tourist Maps / Tour Guides
Gyongsangbuk-do Tourism guide (the province immediately surrounding Daegu)
Guesthouse guide (kind of like rentable condos- the same thing we stayed at when we arrived)
To conclude: If you are seriously considering teaching in Korea, and not just via EPIK (as he also places teachers in other major cities and deals with other Provincial Offices of Education as well), Alistair is the man to talk to. All of his services are FREE OF CHARGE (at least in our case), and he is bar-none the hardest working, most honest and friendly recruiter you could ever hope for. If you are in need of someone to guide you through the seemingly complex path to getting a teaching contract in Korea, you are dealing with the most capable and trustworthy company around.
Alistair Wery of Korean Horizons is an honest, extremely hard working, dedicated, meticulously organized resource to help you in your every need, from application, flights, arrival and life in Korea. His character is extremely friendly, kind, patient and persistent: qualities that make him an amazing resource to have. He goes above and beyond the paperwork by booking guesthouses, complimentary meals, providing a wealth of complimentary textbooks and guidebooks, as well as important advice in person.