6 Ways I Prepared to Move Overseas

It’s almost been 8 years since I left the United States for the first time when I moved to Russia volunteering as an English teacher for 6 months. It seemed only fitting that my flight to South Korea where I will teach (and get paid) has a layover in Moscow, the first foreign city I fell in love with.

I spent the flight behind a young family with a screaming baby and an energetic child who found reclining seats to be the greatest invention since stickers. Needless to say I will have a headache, bruised knees and smell like the tomato juice I spilled on myself when she decided to randomly check if the seat recliner was still working. Eye rolls and venting aside it’s a small price to pay for a child’s wondrous experience traveling the world and I would gladly endure a short flight for them again.

Back to Moscow.

I was excited to have a solid 5 hours here even if it is just in the airport. I love that I can (somewhat) communicate in the first foreign language I learned pretended to learn even after so much time has passed. So what am I doing with my precious 5 hours? I am sitting in an “Irish Pub” drinking Russian beer (for the first time ever since I didn’t drink a lick of booze when I was here at the ripe age of 18) after waking up this morning in Germany, boarding a plane for Beijing with a final destination of South Korea… how’s that for a multicultural travel day!?

29 hours of traveling leaves a girl with a lot of time to think and reflect on life and I’ve just got to say that I CAN NOT for the life of me sort out how I feel! One minute I could scream from excitement about living the life I’ve been dreaming about for years and the next I am drowning in curiosity about what life in Korea will be like, flip a coin and I am near in tears missing my family and wishing I could be on a flight home to spend just a day with them but before you can blink I am chuckling at how giddy I am to be exactly where I am. Bipolar disorder anyone?

6 Ways I Prepared to Move Overseas

The sooner you can accept the reality that you can never really be prepared the better off you’ll be.

The rest of my tips are really just what (I think) I’ve stacked in my favor this time versus my first wide-eyed naïve move abroad.

1)      I stopped buying things I knew wouldn’t be coming with me as soon as I knew I wanted to leave

2)      I moved from my comfy 2 bedroom condo into a bedroom at my friend’s house the weekend my place sold taking away the familiarity that I once thought was so important.

3)      I spent three months backpacking through Europe moving from city to city every few days. Nothing will make you crave any form of stability after you’ve been traveling solo for that long whether it’s in a country you can speak the language or not. I can hardly wait to have a place of my own somewhere I can stay for longer than a week.

4)      I have now traveled to 21 countries, quite a long way from the 1 (United States) I’d been to the first time. I have a better understanding of the world, myself and what to expect than I did before. BUT don’t make the mistake of thinking that will decrease the chaos and sheer hilarity at all since I have never been to an Asian country before, oh honey do I have a lot to learn!

5)      Traveling isn’t enough though, I have a very limited experience of living abroad all of which will help me adjust to living abroad again but this time I will be living alone which I intend to use to my advantage.

6)      I was worried to live alone where loneliness and depression are sure to find me but I’ve already looked up language classes in my city, made friends with nearby expats and if all else fails I will be living by the ocean which is sure to boost my spirits!


Saturday Snapshot: Life Upside Down

“Sometimes you have to let life turn you upside down so you can learn how to live right side up.”

~ Not easily Broken

Photo by: Cynthia Chucay

In less than four months my entire life has turned upside down. I sold my condo, graduated from college, got laid off my job and in less than a month (29 days to be exact) I will be on a plane beginning my life as an expat.

expat – a person who is voluntarily absent from home or country.

I leave Sunday July 15th, 2012 with NO RETURN DATE. That’s right I am leaving without ever knowing if I will ever return to live in the United States.  There once was a time in my life that every day was planned, I knew what I would be doing in 1 month or 5 years… it was suffocating.  Having NO plans is scary, I imagine through my blog it seems that I’m confident in my plans to travel.

I’m not.

I want to share this side of my life with you so you know that while I LOVE my life and I love my dream to travel (the reason for my existence) that I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING. I might travel through Europe solo and be disappointed, I might live in South Korea and wish I’d done something different BUT I am trying. I am living my dream!

Some call it brave, sometimes I think it’s the chickens way out from the 9-5 and “regular” lifestyle.  I don’t have to go to work, I don’t have to answer to anyone, it is like a vacation? It is also important to note that I work (very hard) to write for my blog, not just to keep my writing real & interesting but to market myself. To remind others that your dreams are merely waiting for your dedication. If you commit yourself to something, it WILL happen. This life is a dream and a very large leap of faith but if I don’t try and I don’t give it my all…. I’ve done nothing.

So as my departure date approaches I hope to live up to your expectations (and mine) I hope you will share my blog, my facebook page and my twitter with friends who are waiting to be inspired. As I begin my greatest adventure to date I hope I can live up to your expectations and can represent your inner dreams. While the vision and logistics may change from person to person, the dedication, sacrifice and commitment never change. 


I hope by now my dreams are apparent but what are your dreams??

Is moving to South Korea to teach english right for me?

Indiechallengebanner(click on ITC logo for more information on the 2012 Challenge)

The closest I've been to Asia is Israel and Russia and since I think it would be rare for me to want to settle in an Asian country for an extended amount of time, Asia took #1 spot on places I would like to teach english & travel to first.

When I started playing with the idea of moving out of the U.S. there were a lot of factors effecting where I would go, why and for how long. As certain aspects have resolved themselves its likely that I will be leaving with little money for traveling saved up, however I am thrilled to say that I have my savings account for bills & student loans while I am away in great shape! As my last few months pass I am aggressively paying hospital bills and dental bills, which will be paid off before I leave which leaves little money left to save for traveling.

So I need to plan a way to make & save money to travel. In 2005 I volunteered to teach English in Russia and found it extremely challenging and even more rewarding and would love to take another opportunity to teach, and this time I’ll be making money too!

Through a bit of research and talking to friends who have taught outside of the US recently it turns out that Asia is one of the best places to teach right now with building economies and the desire for a good hold on the English language, the real question is which country to teach in.

In September 2011 I posted about where I would like to travel next saying that South Korea was at the top of my list and the best fit for me to teach & save money. I've heard mixed reviews about using a recruiting company and have decided I would like to use one and so far have decided to go with http://morganrecruiters.com/ although that could change if I find someone who can convince me otherwise. (I’d love any insight you can provide!)

 South Korea Map

I don't want to live in a huge city like Seoul, I'd like a more rural experience. I've got my eye on a more southwest location, better climate there too!


So why is South Korea appealing to me?

1) It's a gorgeous country and has a coastline, I get butterflies just thinking of being able to visit the beach without having to travel over 700+ miles!

2) There is a large buddhist influence there and I'd love the opportunity to learn more about it while I am there and to visit several Buddhist temples.

3) It is a quick boat trip or flight to China and Japan and only a little further to several other Asian countries. How great it will be to take my vacations to other Asian countries!

4) North Korea and the de-militarized zone (DMZ). To most this would be a very negative aspect of moving to South Korea but I am seriously excited to research it more while I am there. It will make a great research topic for me.

5) Money. This is a large factor that originally drew me to South Korea with great salaries, low cost of living, incentives, bonuses, insurance and flight reimbursement just to name a few examples.                                                       

South Korea Flag

What do you think? Have you ever taught English in another country? Any tips or advice?

Here is some basic information from Morgan Recruiters website about teaching in South Korea:

Working Conditions

All standard contracts in Korea will contain provisions for the conditions detailed below. If you have any questions regarding any of these conditions, please ask one of our recruiters or the director of your school.

  1. Contract length: One year (12 months). Contracts are renewable if agreed upon by both the teacher and the school.
  2. Working hours: Standard contracts call for 25-30 hours per week, averaging 100-120 hours per month from Monday to Friday. A few schools have Saturday classes and some schools, particularly those with adult classes, have split shifts. In your online application you should specify if you are willing to take Saturday classes.
  3. Salary: Salaries normally fall between 2 million and 2.5 million won/month depending on experience and qualifications.
  4. Class size: Most class sizes are quite small, usually between 7-12 students.
  5. Student ages: Most schools have a variety of ages. Most have some kindergarten, elementary, middle and high school classes.
  6. Housing: Housing is provided free of charge either in a single studio apartment or in shared housing with other teachers. You should specify on your application which type of housing you desire. Shared housing is more common in the big cities (Seoul, Busan) where housing prices are higher. In the case of shared housing, each teacher will have their own bedroom and the living room/kitchen area will be shared. The apartment will be fully furnished for the teacher and furnishings provided include bed, TV, microwave, wardrobe, table and chairs, kitchenware, gas range and washing machine. While the apartment is provided free of charge, the teacher is responsible for utilities (gas, cable) and phone charges.
  7. Cost of living: In general about 500,000-700,000 won/month will cover a teacher’s entire living expenses for one month including utilities.
  8. Airfare: The school agrees to purchase a one-way ticket for teachers from the closest international airport in their home country to their location in Korea. After completing the one-year contract, the teacher will be provided a return ticket back to their point of origin or a ticket of similar value so that they can travel elsewhere. In the event that the teacher quits before completing their contract, the teacher agrees to reimburse the employer the cost of the paid airfare. Your airline ticket will be reserved by Morgan Recruiting once you submit your paperwork for your teaching visa to the Korean consulate in your home country. The airline ticket will be sent to you either as an electronic ticket to your email or as a paper ticket to your home address.
    Note: Many schools prepay the teacher’s airfare to Korea in advance but some schools will request that the teacher purchase their own airline ticket and then be reimbursed for the airfare upon arrival to Korea. In the event that schools ask teachers to purchase the ticket themselves and be reimbursed upon arrival, Morgan Recruiting Services will purchase the ticket for the teacher on their behalf and will be reimbursed by the school instead of the teacher.
  9. Paid vacations and holidays: Most schools offer 10 days paid vacation. This is usually one week vacation in the summer and one week in the winter. In addition, the teacher will receive off all Korean national holidays, usually between 9-14 days per year.
  10. Overtime: Overtime varies from school to school but usually falls between 18,000-25,000 won per hour ($18-25).
  11. Severance Pay: Upon completion of the contract teachers will receive a one month severance bonus (one month extra pay). This one-month bonus, paid in the last month, is standard with all contracts and is legally required from all schools under Korean law. The school is not required to pay this bonus if the teacher terminates their contract prematurely.
  12. Tax rates: Income tax rates are extremely low in Korea. For many teachers the rate is around 3%. To check out the amount of income tax you would pay, visit the National Tax Service website in English at: http://www.nts.go.kr/eng/
  13. Health insurance: Korean employers are obligated to provide their teachers with health care insurance and most schools choose to go with the National Health Insurance Plan. The cost of the medical insurance will be split 50-50 between the school and the teacher. The amount that the teacher would pay amounts to 2.59% of their monthly salary. This insurance is not effective until your residency in Korea has been provided (when you receive your Alien Registration Card), which is usually around 2-4 weeks after arrival to Korea. It is advised that all teachers buy travel insurance with medical coverage for 30-45 days following arrival in Korea. To get more information about the Health Plan, please visit the National Health Insurance website at: http://www.nhic.or.kr/eng
  14. Sick leave: Most contracts do have provisions for 3-4 sick days with a doctor’s note. However, it is important that teachers use these sparingly as other teachers will be the recipient of your classes in case you need to miss. Emergency leave of up to one week can normally be provided in the case of serious family emergency.
  15. Pension Plan: Teachers pay 4.5% of their monthly salary which is fully matched by the employer who also pays 4.5% (so a total of 9% is stored in the national pension). Paying into this pension is legally required in Korea. The teacher will receive their full pension refund (both their contribution and their employer’s contribution) when they leave Korea. This can add up to almost an extra month’s pay for the teacher at the end of the year. This full refund only applies to teachers from Canada, the U.S. or Australia. Currently, teachers from other countries are unable to get this refund as their government has no reciprocal agreement with the Korean government. For more information about the National Pension Plan, please visit their homepage in English at: http://www.nps.or.kr/jsppage/english/main.jsp

Why Teach in Korea

Why Korea? It’s a question that I’ve been asked again and again. Quite simply Korea offers some great teaching opportunities with terrific benefits. With benefits that include free housing, free airfare, good starting salaries, a one-month salary bonus at the end of your contract, medical insurance, low taxes and two-weeks paid vacation, the rewards to come and teach in Korea are very high. If you are a university graduate looking for an opportunity to experience a new culture while saving money, teaching English in Korea may be a good fit for you.

The benefits of coming to teach in Korea include:

Experiencing a new culture: Korea offers some great opportunities to immerse yourself in a new culture. With its beautiful beaches, breathtaking mountains, historical temples, bustling cities and delicious food, Korea has something to offer everyone.

Saving money: Many teachers who come to Korea are able to save two-thirds of their salary while still living well. This is mainly due to the fact that most of your major expenses are paid as the housing is provided free and taxes in Korea are very low (around 3%). Furthermore, the low cost of living in Korea with food and transportation being quite inexpensive makes for great savings potential. This gives you the opportunity to save money for the future, pay off student loans, invest or travel.

Great compensation packages: All teaching positions in Korea come with excellent compensation packages which include:

  • free return airfare from your country to your location in Korea
  • free housing in a single or shared apartment
  • one month’s bonus salary at the end of the contract
  • medical insurance, half paid by the school
  • renewable 12 month contracts with the school
  • two weeks paid vacation in addition to all Korean holidays

Gaining valuable experience: Teaching overseas not only provides opportunities to save for the future, but it also provides valuable overseas experience that looks good on your resume to prospective employers. Furthermore, some teachers discover that they love teaching and end up making a career out of it.

Traveling: Korea is perfectly located for inexpensive travel to many great places in Asia including China, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and Indonesia. Many teachers choose to travel during their paid vacation. Other teachers take extended vacations at the end of their contract when they receive their one-month bonus.

Basic Qualifications to Teach in Korea

In order to obtain an E-2 teaching visa for Korea, you must satisfy the following requirements:

  1. You must be a native English speaker. Teaching experience is not necessary, although it is an asset.
  2. You must be a citizen of one of these seven countries: Canada, the U.S., the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and South Africa. Under Korean law only citizens of these countries are eligible for the E-2 teaching visa.
  3. You must hold a valid passport from one of the above-mentioned countries with at least six months validity remaining on it from the time of your departure. We recommend having at least 12 months however, as it can be difficult to renew your passport in Korea.
  4. You must have a 3-4 year Bachelor’s degree in any major from an accredited university. 2 year associate degree holders are not eligible to obtain an E-2 teaching visa even if they hold a TESOL certificate.
  5. You must not have a criminal record.