And it’s that inevitable time… the conclusion of my initial year living overseas. And just as there were many hoops to jump through before the year began, there are hoops to jump through before my contract is up. In this, the final article of my first year, I hope to cover a wide range of topics including what remains while in Korea as well as how I’m preparing for my next adventure.
I began my job search in March, considering my options for next year and my priorities. Extending my contract with this school was the first option. Another was to search within Korea, but relocate cities. Both would provide me with a similar experience to what I’ve already had, however being the believer that I am in the mantra: Life is Short… I’ve opted to leave Korea and try something new.
The prevalent question then became: Where?
With the second draft of my novel completed, I’ve been on the fence as far as how much of a priority saving money still is. For instance, the Asian nations pay approximately $2,000-$3,000 per month for ESL educators while the Middle Eastern nations pay double that. In Europe, I couldn’t make that at all (the highest salaries are around $1,000 per month, but with cost of living being what it is there, saving isn’t feasible).
What are my new priorities? Obviously having new experiences, trying something different, and traveling to new and exotic locales remain at the top of the list. Since that’s the case, anywhere but Korea should suffice. Most likely, the coming year will be my last year living abroad. Needless to say, I want to make it count.
My first choice based on income, location, cultural exposure, and opportunity was Turkey. I figured a position in Istanbul would be ideal since the country is half-in and half-out of Europe anyway. I could realistically immerse myself in both Euro and Middle Eastern culture, customs, and traditions. Turkish schools pay relatively well ($1,600 USD per month).
Apparently hazard pay:
With Turkey out of the running, my eyes turned west toward Europe and North Africa. I’ve heard nothing about amazing tales of Prague – the capital city of the Czech Republic though the pay is substantially lower than in other parts of the world. The benefit to Prague is buying a eurorail pass and hopping around the Continent (that’s what my British friends call it – the Continent… I’ve adopted it as well) on weekends as opposed to a 2 or 3 month backpacking trip at the end of my contract.
The downside is having to dip into my savings for living expenses since the schools pay so little by comparison. So the decision I’m left with is whether or not the beauty and history or Prague and the experience living there outweighs the monetary shortcomings of that decision.
Another option for a position in a fun country that pays substantially well, according to another ESL teacher, is Morocco. I’d have a year to perfect my Humphrey Bogart impression in Casablanca. The only trouble with Morocco is that I have zero contacts there. I’ve sent out about a dozen applications and almost every one of them bounced back. So I’m not sure that option is even in the cards.
My third idea was back into the Middle East, but to a very international city with a huge community of ex-pats. The city of Dubai is not only right on the water, but is also a very wealthy place. It’s a developed city nestled into a third world country. Businessmen from the four corners of the globe converge on the city and many of them could use help with their English language skills. I’m not sure I’m comfortable living in the Middle East at all, in spite of the $4,000 per month salary and all expenses paid (potentially saving over $35,000 in just one year). The problem with Dubai is the schools require at least 2 years experience because the market is so competitive.
The last option I’m considering is a return to Asia, though quite a change from Korea. The small island nation of Taiwan boasts a very exciting capital city of Taipei – my friends who’ve visited this part of the world have all agreed that Taipei is the most fun place they’ve been. At this point in the search, I’ve turned down two jobs in Turkey, scheduled one interview with a school in Prague, and have a recruiter working to find me something decent in Taipei. The big plus side to Taiwan is the weather – they’re much more tropical than Korea so I wouldn’t have to pack any winter clothes.
No decisions have yet been made.
Regardless, I still have to get my ass out of Korea before anything else can happen and that takes a lot of work. I had to book a flight myself because the school was only willing to pay for the cheapest, slowest one available. So they’re going to reimburse me the portion they authorized – 1,300,000 won. The flight I selected was 1,478,000 won (approx $160.00 out of my pocket), and to be honest, I don’t mind since the flight they would’ve booked had three layovers and 35 hours in the air just to get me home. Thankfully, I ended up on a plane with only a 2 hour Dallas layover and only 15 hours in the air.
In addition to a flight reimbursement, I’m owed my 2,100,000 won bonus for completing the terms of the contract. I’m also owed 600,000 won security deposit on my apartment. I just sold my motorcycle for 550,000 won (a net profit of 150,000 won). And, because I’m an American citizen, I qualify to get 100% return on the money I paid to the Korean Pension Service. So I took a quick trip to the NPS office and filled out a form to get the 2,000,000 I paid into my Korean pension plan refunded. All I needed was my passport, alien ID card, and my airline ticket (so they know I’m actually leaving).
This week, I’ll also need to cancel my bank account here and have the school transfer those funds to my account in the States. Finally, I need to pack up my apartment, sell anything else that’ll sell, and determine which of my things gets taken and which get thrown out – pretty standard ‘moving’ type stuff. I’m also still finishing the second draft of the novel as well as the outlines and sketches for book II of the trilogy.
Within a week, I’ll be sitting pretty in the Western Hemisphere, Eastern Standard Time, and within a drive of all my family, friends, and loved ones. I can’t wait to see everyone. I can’t wait to relax and enjoy my summer break. I can’t wait to get an agent and get published. I can’t wait to start the next adventure…
I can’t wait!