A part of the appeal of teaching English abroad is that one can get hired straight out of university and start paying off their student loans while embarking on a life changing experience. But is it really possible? While everyone’s student loan amounts and monthly payments vary, I want to tell you that for me it has been possible. In fact, I have been working as an English teacher in Seoul for six months and my student loans will be completely dissolved with my next paycheck. I’m about to share a full disclosure of just how I have made this possible along with some helpful advice.
I arrived in Korea owing 5,000 USD in student loans to the government. My monthly minimum payments were 55 USD. My loans were subsidized, and I was still on my grace period. Thus, the government was still paying my interest for me and I wasn’t obligated to start making my monthly payments yet. I had two months left before my grace period ended.
First Two Months
I arrived mid-November. There was a week of training, so I didn’t start working at my branch until the end of November. One is advised to have about 2,000 USD with them upon arrival to Korea, so one can easily manage and cover initial expenses until receiving the first paycheck. Personally, I only had about 1,300 USD when I arrived. I worked less than half a week of the month of November and received my pay for those days, plus my airfare reimbursement about two weeks after beginning to work. Still, I had a lot of initial expenses - e.g. furniture, cooking appliances, bedding, etc. Moreover, I had to figure out how I was going to make my payments. Thus, I didn’t make my first payment until February. My advice is to have funds to cover at least the first two payments of your loan while you get things sorted out.
A coworker of mine shared her wisdom about paying student loans. She informed me of my need of a remittance account. It is an account made for wire transferring money directly into my US account. To create my account all I needed was my Korean ID card, my passport, all my US bank account information, and my Korean friend for translation purposes. Now, I do simple account transfers each month from my Korean bank account to my American account. Once the money is in my American account, I make my student loan payments through online banking.
My Monthly Finances
I will give you a general breakdown of my main expenses each month. Each month with my paycheck, I have been sending between 500 USD to 900 USD towards my student loan. Each month varies for me depending on how much fun I have shopping, going to cafes, and traveling around. Also, I have been able to set aside money into a savings account with how much I make, too. I’m someone who likes to live comfortably and enjoy myself, so a more disciplined individual could send more money monthly and save more money in their savings account, too.
Utilities >70,000 won
(Gas, Water, Electricity)
Maintenance Fee 100,000 won
(For the building one lives in)
WiFi 13,000 won
Estimated Monthly Total >183,000won
*My contract included housing*
Working abroad as an English teacher is definitely an option for paying off one’s student loans while embarking on an adventure and embracing a new culture. I’m glad I chose this option for myself. Maybe it is the right option for you, too?
Giselle Moreno is from California, USA where she attended the University of California, Riverside. While a student, she always worked with international students and she decided to teach English abroad upon graduating during her third year of university. It was through the experiences of being an English tutor for international students that she felt really fulfilled. She found it particularly easy to get along with Korean students which is why she decided to pursue a teaching opportunity in Korea. She even attended Yonsei University in Seoul for a semester as a study abroad student and fell in love with the city. She is currently working at ChungDahm Learning’s April Daechi branch located in Gangnam, Seoul.