26-year-old American teaches English in South Korea: advice for expats

In November 2019, 26-year-old Michaela Cricchio booked a one-way flight to Seoul, South Korea, to teach English abroad.

Cricchio first heard about English language education programs in a foreign country during an international studies class at college. When she couldn’t afford to move right after college, she spent a year and a half working on a cruise ship, where she could live without rent, to save money.

After being certified to teach English and applying for a work visa, she left to live alone for the first time, and to a foreign country whose language she barely knew, no less.

“I remember sitting on the plane a year ago in my first year of teaching in South Korea and thinking, ‘What am I doing? “” Cricchio remembers. “Now being here and waking up every morning knowing that I’m in a different country and so far from home still hits me sometimes … I’m going to realize that this is my life.”

The Biggest Misconception About Living Abroad

Cricchio loves his expat lifestyle. As an English teacher abroad, her school pays her rent, which allows her to live comfortably in Seoul on $ 24,000 per year. During the weekends, she meets friends to visit cafes, restaurants, bars, art museums, parks, shopping districts and other city attractions.

But despite all the ups, she has a word of warning to other young people who want to travel the world and work overseas.

“The biggest misconception about living abroad is that it’s not all sun and rainbows,” Cricchio says. Instagram photos and vlogs of people living abroad rarely cover the challenges and mundane aspects of everyday life, she says.

Michaela Cricchio’s school pays rent for a studio in Seoul.

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For Cricchio, living in South Korea has been a major cultural adjustment, as even basic errands like going to the grocery store can be a challenge for his fluency in the language. She still has work to do, bills to pay, checkups to plan – she also still has to pay taxes to the US government. “It’s still real life, just in a different place,” she says.

And teaching English grammar to elementary school students when it’s not their first language is more difficult than you might think, she adds.

Cricchio says it’s important to have realistic expectations in mind when making such a big life change. In addition, it is completely normal and normal to feel lonely during the experience.

She has used apps to find English speaking friends who are all in similar situations – young, newly independent and far from home. “It’s really great that your friends are practically becoming your family,” she says. “But of course there are times when I really miss my family. Being alone in this apartment at night just gets lonely.”

FaceTime has become a lifeline for her to stay in touch with her friends and family back home, including her parents and three older siblings. Sometimes seeing them all together makes her even more nostalgic. But during these times, she remembers living this lifestyle to learn and grow on her own.

His advice n ° 1

Still, Cricchio wouldn’t change the experience for the world. She hopes to continue building a financial cushion and finding opportunities to become a digital nomad, where she can travel, teach English part-time, and write freelance about travel and education.

“Living in Korea has changed the way I see my future,” Cricchio says. “I used to be super scared of the world, super shy. I wasn’t really sure which direction I was going.”

Over the past year and a half, however, his confidence has skyrocketed. “It has helped me grow a lot. I rely on myself 100% here. I have help from my friends and from school, but overall I rely on myself a lot: financially, mentally, emotionally. I am all I have. “

Michaela Cricchio uses apps to meet friends and other expats in Seoul.

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Her biggest advice to those who also want to move abroad is to stop procrastinating and start the movement.

Although Cricchio couldn’t afford a teaching certification right after college, which can cost up to $ 1,000, she set a schedule for herself: She would work two contracts on a cruise ship and save money. money she needed to move.

She kept her promise once she saved $ 13,000: she enrolled in a certification course, contacted an overseas education program, and applied for her work visa.

Sometimes Cricchio wondered if she was “ready” to take the plunge. But, “this will never be the perfect time,” she said. “If I had waited until I was ready to go overseas and come to Korea, I would have waited a while.”


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