This post is not to scare anyone away from coming to teach English in South Korea. It's more like a reminder/advice about things to take care of before making the trip across the world. I wish I knew about this before I came out so things could have worked out smoothly.
1. Bank accounts:
The good thing about banks nowadays is that most banks work internationally and you can even check your balance on their website. It's even easy to wire money back home as long as you know your account, routing number, and the address of your bank.
The part that is stressful is that it's difficult to keep up with changes of the bank, especially if yours is a local one. Sometimes they add random fees you didn't know about and other times they make mistakes with your money. Throughout the last year and some months I've been out in Korea, my bank (Wells Fargo) has undergone a ton of changes. Not only did I come out here when the bank was actually Wachovia, but my "free" student checking account changed to not being so free anymore. I knew what was going on throughout the whole process, but it was hard to keep up with everything while I was in Korea. I didn't even know I was regularly being charged $7 every month. On top of that, there was no one to mail me my new card while I was out here.
If you have family members that can help you out with this, great. For those whose case is not that simple, always check the changes your bank is going through so they don't catch you by surprise.
If you're like me and heavily in debt from school, most likely you'll be paying the same bill for who knows how long. Unfortunately, it's a huge hassle if you miss a payment or you're trying to defer it while teaching in Korea. Because loan companies work differently than banks, there's no 24 hour service phone number you can call. You have to wait until an inconvenient time in Korea to try to talk to someone in America.
If you have any bills that you'll be paying like me, make sure you figure out an automated bill paying plan. For school loans, try to even defer it for a couple of months, since it will take you some time to get paid and start saving out here. Try to figure everything out before coming out because it adds unwanted stress.
3. Future plans:
So now that your time is over teaching in Korea, what are you going to do? Do you have a job you can go back to? Do you have to move back into your parents' house? Do you even have money to go out with all the friends you haven't seen while you were out here?
These are few of the things that constantly cross my mind as the end of my contract is nearing. Going back to school isn't the easiest thing. You may have to take tests (GRE, GMAT, etc) and then you have to apply for schools. It's definitely possible to do it out here, but I have seen many friends stressing out over this, and even delaying their plans. You can take the GRE in Korea, but from my understanding, it only comes around once a year. If you know you're going back to school, try to take your test before coming out here. A lot of people have the mindset that they can study for the year they're out in Korea, but it's really easy to get lost out here. You start forgetting about your test with this new experience you're about to face.
While you're in Korea teaching English, make sure you have some kind of savings plan. It's super easy to blow all your money off. Do some calculations and set a realistic goal of how much you actually plan to save. Also, make sure you go to the bank on payday to make sure you send that money home before you blow it all. A little budgeting will go a long way.
I wish I could say I am the most responsible person. Unfortunately, I'm not. But I do know for a fact that I'm a common case. It's super easy to lose sight of your goals when you meet new friends and experience a whole different culture. You start feeling rich with all the money you're making, while barely working at all. But if you take the time to arrange and plan your finances and keep an eye on your plan, you'll have a much more worthwhile experience.