South Korea Through Expats’ Eyes- Finances in Korea!

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It’s Finance Friday over here on the blog. WHOOO!!! Everyone loves to talk about finances, right?!?!

Well actually, normally I am quite the opposite. Korea changed that though. Korea brought Tom and I incredible financial freedom. I have probably already told you this…but we are on track to pay off almost $40,000 of university debt simply by choosing to live in Korea for 2 years. Although that isn’t the main reason we moved here- it was one of the reasons. We are not only paying off debt, but loving life, exploring Korea, and traveling Southeast Asia -all on just two teacher salaries! I often ask myself why aren’t more people doing this?! I mean, 100% debt free in 2 years WHILE traveling ?!?! Yep. It’s real life. One that anyone with a Bachelor’s degree can make a reality.

Lisa, Chloe, Caitlyn, and Alison tell you more about finances in Korea below:

 

Tell me about your housing? What’s it like and what does your school/job cover as far as living costs? Are bills expensive? What bills are you expected to pay each month?

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My school pays for my housing, and I am responsible for the water, electricity, gas, and internet/cable (if you chose to get it). My housing is sort of like a studio, but the kitchen/eating area and my bedroom are separated by sliding doors. I also have a laundry room to wash and hang my clothes and a decent size bathroom. For one person, my apartment is just fine, and I have no complaints about it! I’ve seen some of my other friends’ apartments that are smaller than mine, so I can’t complain. The bills are extremely cheap too, so that’s another awesome bonus! Some vary month to month, but in all my internet, gas, water, and electricity together are never more than $100 (usually way under).

 

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Are you able to save? Pay off debt? Travel?

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YES YES YES!!! One of the biggest benefits of living in Korea is the amount of money you are able to save each month. We fortunately don’t have any debt to pay off back home so instead we have just been saving as well as putting aside money for travelling. My husband is an accountant so budgeting is his forte but although we have a set budget; it hasn’t limited us at all in our daily living. We currently send my salary home (he works out when is the best time to send money home exchange rate wise), we put half of Hendrik’s salary into our travel savings account and the remainder we live off. This has worked out so well for us, and has given us a nice sum of money to spend on travelling. We have loved travelling around Korea and have been to as many places as possible this year, as well as having spent 10 days travelling through China and will be going to  the Philippines for 2 weeks in Jan. as well as a month long trip through Vietnam, Laos and Thailand in Feb/March.

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What did you find to be a good amount to have saved so that you could get established in Korea? (the wait time before our first pay day is usually about a month after moving to Korea!)

photo (10)When I asked I was told to bring around $1,000- $1,200 or more if I could so that I would be able to establish myself. I actually came with less than that. If I remember correctly I came with around $900. I was really stressed about it because you don’t actually get paid until you have worked for a month (this included the refund for your airfare). I was worried that I would run out of money before I would be paid, but it turns out that it was more than enough at least for me. I literally only bought necessities when I got to my apartment (one plate, one cup, one bowl, some food, a pair of chopstick and utensils – one fork, one knife, and a spoon). I had packed a lot of things from home so thankfully I didn’t need to buy much and my school was really great, with furnishing the apartment so I really didn’t need to spend my own money. Also just a quick tip, I would advise bringing a little bit more than told, I didn’t need it (I was lucky), but some people do need to take the bus to their schools or even a travel school and you pay for the bus out of your own pocket so, having some extra cash for the bus for the first month would be great!

Sidenote from Elicia--Yep, you read that right. They pay for our airfare to Korea AND home when your contract is finished. Another thing that still blows my mind!

 

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Do you struggle financially by living in Korea?

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We have only been here for a little over a month, but after putting together our budget (with the help of Elicia and Tom!), we realized that we could live very comfortably, travel, save some money and pay off my student loans in a year! Our housing is paid for, which is incredibly helpful, as it was a huge expense back in Seattle! No financial struggles so far!

 

 

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Next week, they’ll bring their expertise to the table on: Expat life (outside of work), Loneliness, and some awesome advice if you plan to move abroad (or to Korea!)

If you missed the first two posts click the links below to catch up!

1. Post 1- Why did you come to Korea? Read about why these 4 ladies choose to move abroad to Korea.

2. Post 2- Teaching in Korea. These lovely women tell all on what it’s like to be an English teacher in Korea!

South Korea Through Expats’ Eyes Series- A look into the life of an English Teacher

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Happy Wednesday (or Tuesday if you’re reading this from the good ol’ US of A!!)

If you missed the first part of the series on Monday be sure to click here to read why these awesome ladies decided to come to Korea… A question that we all (at some point) faced before our move to this side of the pond.

Today, we’ll get a closer look at their lives in Korea as English teachers. I have  loved reading their responses to the questions and I know you will too! So grab a cup of coffee or wine (depending on what time zone you’re in) and read about what these fine individuals have to say on teaching in Korea!! It’s pretty much the coolest job ever if I must say so myself :0

I’ll start us off with an easy one.

Tell us what grade you teach and the program you came to Korea through?

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I teach 3rd-6th graders (ages 8-12) in three different elementary schools. I also have one class per week in which I teach 1st and 2nd graders. We came to Korea through Canadian Connection and they made the application and moving process so seamless. I HIGHLY recommend them.

 

 

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I came to Korea through Canadian Connection as well. I was in direct communication with Shane and towards the end (near the signing of the contract) I was also in communication with Laura. Canadian Connection is in my opinion a really good choice. They were on the ball from the moment I contacted them. They make the whole process of application/visa really easy and smooth!

I teach in an elementary school. I was originally told I would be teaching grade 3 to grade 6, but as it worked out, I actually teach grade 5 and 6 on more of a regular basis and grades 3 and 4 randomly (and the classes aren’t actually structured English classes).

 

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I came to Korea through EPIK (English Program in Korea), they are the biggest public school provider in the country, and I have loved working through them. The system is so structured and thus provides you with great job security as well as the opportunity to meet hundreds of foreign teachers within your first 2 weeks after arrival.

I teach Elementary School kids, Grades 4 – 6 to be specific. We weren’t given an option as to what age group we’d like to teach, so I really did land my bum in the butter by having been given the privilege of teaching my delightful little ones!!

 

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Lisa-I teach at a public Elementary School, so I teach 3rd-6th grades. I came to Korea through EPIK (English Program in Korea).For more information on EPIK click here. You can apply directly through EPIK or you can apply through a recruiter, which is what I did. I applied through Reach to Teach, a recruiting company that serves as a middle man through the entire process of coming to Korea. You apply through them and they help you with every step of the way. I would highly recommend them to anyone considering teaching in Korea or any other country they recruit for.

 

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What does a typical day at work in Korea look like?

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I teach at 2 schools, one on Mondays and Tuesdays and the other from Wednesday to Friday, so I’ll be sharing about my main school, the later of the two.

I am due to arrive at school at 8:30am, but being an early bird I tend to get there by 8:10 every morning. I share an office with my two co-teachers so on arrival we chat briefly before all settling in at our computers (the school provides these). I then usually spend a few minutes going over my lesson plan for the day and then check my email and write my to-do list for the day. At 8:40am I head up to our English classroom, where I turn on the computer, open the windows, etc and basically get ready for the kids to come streaming in.

Class starts at 8:50am (late, I know right?!), and each lesson lasts exactly 40 minutes. After the 40 minute lesson, the kids make their way back to their homeroom class and they have a quick 10 minute break.

The next class then arrive at our English room, I teach an entire grade(4-5 classes) every day.We have a 20 minute break-time after 2nd period, which I usually spend back in my office, working on my own things. After break time, I teach the next 2 periods and then lock up the English classroom for the day. We then head down to lunch at about 12:30 (the school provides this but I have to pay for my lunches at the end of each month). I can’t say that lunch is always appetizing, but for the most part they are perfect.

My afternoons are my free-time and I love this about teaching in Korea. I plan my lesson (based on the textbook) for the next day, sometimes with my co-teacher’s help, other times on my own, and then work on my own things, usually my Life Coaching work. I am fortunately at two very active schools so every Monday I play badminton with 3 other teachers from 3 – 4:40pm and then every few weeks we play volleyball on Friday afternoons too, which is right up my alley.

School ends at 4:30pm, a bit later on badminton days, and we usually all leave the office together and head in our different directions.

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How does teaching in Korea compare to teaching back home?

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Wow, there are so many ways that it’s different, but I find more similarities everyday.

Let’s start with the differences:

– I work so many less hours in Korea. In the U.S., it was not unusual for me to work 11-12 hours per weekday and about 3-4 hours per weekend, which comes out to over 60 hours per week. In Korea, I work 40 hours and never have to take my work home with me. My stress levels are much lower in Korea!

– In the United States, there is a huge emphasis of walking in straight lines, raising your hand to speak, only talking when a teacher calls on you, etc. I have noticed that there is not as much of an emphasis here on those particular aspects of the classroom.

– In Korea, it seems as if rote memorization is a best practice. From my experience in the United States, teachers are moving away from that practice and focusing more on answering questions in a variety of ways.

– Most schools are heated in the United States, but in Korea the heat is not always on and the windows are open. BRRRRRR!

– In the U.S., students are encouraged to pursue a variety of after school activities and sports. In Korea, many students focus on one activity after school, which is often more academic classes in the evening.

 Now for some similarities:

– Most students are eager to learn and love when the lesson is engaging. I have a feeling this is the case for students all over the world!

– My students in the U.S. and my students in Korea can be easily motivated with positive rewards. If they can earn the chance to watch a video at the end of class, you bet they will work very hard towards it!

– For the most part, my students in the United States and in Korea are so sweet towards me. They want to chat after class and are so excited to give me drawings they made. They really love making connections with their teachers!

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What is something you didn’t expect about teaching in Korea that you learned once you were here? 
photo (13)I tried to come to Korea with zero expectations, which was probably the best thing I could have ever done. However, I did have this idea that Korean kids would be extremely well-behaved, which don’t get me wrong, most of my classes are wonderful, but their behavior is a lot different than I had pictured. Kids in Korea are kind of on their own a lot more than in America. In the schools that I have taught in before coming here, children always have to be supervised, but here, they go from class to class all on their own and can pretty much do whatever they want. It’s not uncommon to see children hitting, kicking, punching, or slapping each other in the halls or in between classes as well. It was hard to get used to at first because if I saw that back in the states, it would not be acceptable, but here it’s not really a big deal. If kids are ever fighting in my classroom though, I don’t allow it and have made my own classroom rules, which have helped a lot.

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What is the BEST part about your job?

 photo (10)The best part of my job is the interaction with not just the students but with my co-workers. The kids were really shy at first, but it’s been almost a semester now that I have been teaching here and I can see a difference in them. They are much more comfortable and approach me randomly to talk, not only in class or school but on the streets. Also I love seeing that the kids are much more interested in learning English than they were  at the beginning of September, just because they want to be able to speak to me.

As for the co-workers, My school is pretty active as far as social gatherings. We go for dinners together and on Wednesdays we play volleyball!

What’s are the challenges you face at work?

The biggest challenge (and the only one so far for me I think ) that I have faced at work is the language barrier. My school is actually really great! Everyone treats me so well and they all look after and worry about me (sometimes it’s almost too much). So really the only thing that does bother me is that sometimes things get lost in translation and there’s miscommunication. It’s never anything serious though!

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SO there ya have it folks! The life of a public school teacher in Korea in a nutshell!! Teaching here is pretty darn fantastic! Friday will be the post on our Finances in Korea. Probably the topic I received the most questions about as we took the leap to move abroad. Finance Friday!! Perfect ring to it dontcha think?

Happy Wednesday everyone 🙂