Teach and Travel with VIPKid

So, you want to teach and travel the world…

I wrote a post awhile back introducing you to my love for teaching English online. Now that I’ve done my first (brief) stint in Southeast Asia, I thought I’d give you a little heads up about how it all works to teach and travel. It seems like the dream, right? Travel around the world, work a little bit here and there, and never worry about money! Well, it truly is great, but there’s more to consider than that.

If you don’t already know, I teach for VIPKid and absolutely love it. I used to work for another company, but now solely work for VIPKid (and like it much better!) It has allowed me to roam around the US for 6 months, and come back to wander around Asia for almost 2 months without watching my savings account dwindle.

Requirements for being a VIPKid Teacher

 
 
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fisher twins // unsplash
 
 
 

First of all, you’ll need to be hired if you aren’t already (obviously). Make sure you fit the requirements. As of late 2018, these are the requirements straight from the VIPKid website:

 
 

– Eligibility to work in the US or Canada (sorry, California residents are now excluded)
– Bachelor’s degree in any field
– 1 school year of traditional teaching experience or the equivalent in mentoring, tutoring, or alternative education

 
 

You can be creative with that last one! ANY kind of work with kids, provided it has been a year or longer, can be translated into “teaching experience.” Maybe you were a volunteer tutor, art or dance teacher, or worked at a daycare. If you’ve worked with kids before and loved it, you will enjoy this job too!

 
 

You’ll also obviously need a computer (right now the platform is compatible with a Desktop, Laptop, MAC, or Surface. You’ll also need a camera (your built-in is fine!) and a headset (I use earbuds with a mic as I find them more comfortable–big head problems).

 
 

How to teach and travel

 
 

Internet speeds, internet speeds, internet speeds. This is the most important part of choosing a place to stay when you are preparing to teach and travel. You’ll need to find a quiet place to teach too, so cheap hostels are out. This is the most difficult part of teaching and traveling. You have to message your host on AirBnb, Booking or wherever you choose to book to have them send you a screenshot of their download and upload speeds. It should look something like this:

 
 
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These speeds are perfectly acceptable for teaching, although a higher download speed wouldn’t hurt. 
 
 
 

You might think that it’s too expensive to rent an Airbnb while traveling, but you can pretty easily earn your money back for a week’s stay in a day or a few. You can usually arrange a discount with your host, too, if you stay a month or longer.

 
 
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spend the morning lounging at the ocean and a few hours in the evening teaching cute kiddos! #vipkidlife
toa heftiba // unsplash
 
 
 

How much can I make?

 
 
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$$ with vipkid, you’ll always be paid in usd $$
 
 
 

Everyone wants to know how much money you can make while they teach and travel. It greatly depends on 2 things: 1) bookings and 2) how many classes you teach.

 
 

Peak hours are 7-9pm Beijing time and all morning on weekends, and when I open those hours they are typically fully booked. Most teachers start at $8/class, but a $1/class bonus for just showing up on time and not having IT issues. If you teach more than 40 classes in a month there is an additional $1/class bonus. Sometimes VIPKid also runs incentives where you can earn bonuses for opening a certain number of classes in a given time period.

 
 

All of that being said, I will tell you that I am super casual about teaching, and I don’t usually teach on weekends. I have a full-time job contract starting up again in Korea so I’m just not that worried about saving a ton of money at the moment. You could say I’m kind of on a “mini-retirement.” 😉 For the sake of example, let’s say you teach all the peak hours during the week. 

Peak hours during the week: 20 classes x $8/class base pay = $160
Participation Bonus: 20 classes x $1/class bonus = $20
40+ Classes/Month Bonus: 20 classes x $1/class bonus = $20
Total pay: $200/week x 4 weeks = $800

 
 

That’s $800/month for just working 10 hours a week. Sure, you’ll need to consider taxes (If you decide to stay abroad for 11/12 months of the year and you’re American you’ll qualify for the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion though! My amazing friend Jerrica of Jerrica from America is doing just this!). But if you’ve ever been to Thailand or Vietnam, you’ll know $800 is more than enough to live on in a month. And, by all means, teach more if you want to earn more. Teach less if you don’t need it and just want to relax. You’ve got the power, baby.

 
 
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alesia kazantceva // unsplash
 
 
 

How to find a place to stay

 
 

Most people I know use a word-of-mouth referral from another VIPKid teacher, or find places on Airbnb directly and message the host about internet speeds.  It’s also good to have a sim card plan that can be used as backup should the wifi cut out for a time.

 
 

Several teach and travel Facebook groups exist with recommendations of places to stay by fellow teachers who can vouch for the reliability of the internet connection. I like this one.

 
 

Meet all the requirements and want to apply?

 
 

I’m here for you. If you apply through my link or use my referral code (AMAND0639) and shoot me an email, facebook message or comment here with your email address, I’ll gladly send over the feedback I received during my interview (I was hired immediately after the first interview so I think it can be useful for you!) I’m also happy to answer any questions you might have that aren’t covered in this post.  For transparency’s sake, I do get a referral bonus if you use my link. I’d appreciate the support if you’ve read this far! 🙂

 
 
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nabilah saleh // unsplash
 
 
 

Thanks for reading, beautiful people! 

 
 
Amanda

Beginner’s Guide to Budgeting in South Korea

If you’ve landed a job teaching English in South Korea, congratulations! It can be a confusing process–you’ve passed the first hurdle. You may not be thinking of you finances just yet, but it is always good to have a plan! You will need a budget if you want to make the best of this situation financially. Because a lot of your expenses are covered, you may think budgeting is unnecessary. But with so much potential to pay off debt or save money, it’s good to have a general idea of where you want that extra cashflow to go. Follow my guide to budgeting in South Korea and tweak it to meet your own personal needs!

Everyone’s job will have a slightly different pay scale. For the sake of averages, I will say that you are starting with a 2.2 million won budget.  If you happen to make more than this, congratulations! You can follow my budget plan and put the remaining money into various categories depending on your needs. I recommend adding anything extra to debt payments first, then an emergency fund, then investments. It’s easier than you think to save over 50% of your income while in Korea.

Something that’s important to remember when making your budget in Korea is that you should always pay yourself first. What does that mean? It means you should put your budgeted amount of money “away.” This will look different for everyone, but for everyone it means that you cannot easily touch or spend this money. Do not leave this money in your normal checking account. Depending on your situation, this could mean putting aside 1 million won, paying 200,000 into your savings account and 800,000 towards your debt. Maybe you already have a solid emergency fund and you want to put the whole 1 million towards your debt.

You will, of course, be able to include fun in your budget. Part of the reason you went to teach abroad in the first place was because you wanted to enjoy a new culture, experience a new country and travel to surrounding countries. You should definitely allot a certain amount of money per month for these kinds of expenses because if you travel all the way to South Korea to sit in your apartment for one year spending no money, having no fun, and never experiencing the culture around you–you’re definitely missing out on something important! It’s the kind of investment that isn’t monetary.

Kimbap! Cheap, delicious and filling.

 

That being said, I was able to pay off $23,000 in debt, save about $6,000 and travel to 8 countries. I also traveled all around South Korea and regularly did fun things in my city with friends. I went out, had drinks, ate all the food and visited almost every province. If I can do it you can do it too!

Because in most cases you’re not legally allowed to have a side income while you’re working in Korea, you’ll have to rely on one source of income when making your budget. This makes it pretty simple and straightforward. I’ve created a sample budget below. Keep in mind that I’ve simplified everything for the sake of example. This would have been one of my more extreme months when I lived on only about 500,000 won. Your numbers will look different than mine because you’ll have different goals and interests.

 

Reflections: Two Years in Korea

Today is the first day of 2018! Time flies, as they say. This past month, as I’ve finished my last full month of teaching for the school year, I’ve been reflecting on all of my time here.  Two years ago I arrived in this small town in rural South Korea, knowing next to nothing. I was nervous out of my mind and filled with self-doubt. I couldn’t stop thinking…how is it possible that they hired ME to teach a bunch of middle school and elementary school kids who speak a different language than me?

goodbye 2017

From the moment I stepped into my first classroom, nothing was what I was told it was going to be. Nothing could have been farther from what I had imagined it was going to be. Before I moved here I thought I would be teaching cute little elementary students every day and working at the same school at least most days of the week. None of these things were true. I taught at five different schools, one different school each day. Middle school was especially a challenge for me as I hadn’t expected to be teaching that age group at all and I just do much better with younger students in general.

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For my first three months, I barely slept at all. My coffee addiction jumped off the charts. From finding the right buses to get me into the countryside at the right time to planning twenty unique lessons a week to trying to understand the social norms of a new culture and society and the stress that comes with starting a new job in general…I was a mess, to say the least.

coffee

Despite all of the madness, I ended up staying a second year.  This was partially due to all the work I had put into my first year–planning lessons and figuring out life here, and partially due to the fact that I actually started to (gasp) LIKE it here.

My friends here like to joke “If we can make it in this job, we can literally do ANYTHING.” And I really do feel like I can do anything now. Everyone’s job in Korea is different due to different school settings and different coworkers, but generally we all share the “WHAT IS HAPPENING” feeling at the end of the day. To my friends here…we made it through the year. Congratulations, you’re amazing.

thiscat

Last year, I made some New Year’s resolutions on this blog, so I thought I’d revisit them to check in with myself, and see if it’s even worth making new ones this year (haha).


  1. Hike 3 Korean mountains.

  2. Intensify my Korean language studying. Finish through TTMIK Level 3.
  3. Yoga Revolution! And a continued exploration of yoga throughout the year.
  4. Visit 3 new countries. (I’ll start with Hong Kong in January!)
  5. Blog once a month, rather than sporadically as I have been.
  6. Stick to my new budget and pay off my last student loan.
  7. Choose to be happy and light in the everyday madness.

Well! It wasn’t so painful after all. I hiked, I studied Korean although I took an online class rather than continuing my self-study (I plan to continue that once I get back to the US and have a lot of time on my hands). Yoga! Always saving my life, one breath, one asana at a time. I visited Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan this year as well as (kind of) North Korea on the DMZ tour. Does that count? I DID pass the border underground. As far as my student loan goes, it’s not quite finished but will be in February(!)

wolchulsan

I can’t say I chose to be happy and light EVERY day, because, you know…I’m human. But I felt a definite weight lifted this year…a weight of caring too much what people think and worrying about small things. I feel a lot more in tune with what I need for myself and open to the continued search for all things true and light in the universe. In that sense, life has been lighter.

2018 should be an exciting year. I will visit northern Vietnam in January, finish up my contract in Korea in February, and travel around China and Japan in March and April before heading back to the USA.

travel

In the US, first I’ll visit my mom in Colorado, head to Minnesota to see the majority of my family members and then head to the west coast to visit friends and my little sister, who is having a BABY! That’s right. I’m an auntie now. I have no words for how exciting this is. After that, who knows! I predict more exploration of myself and the world around me and even more freedom as I finally move about the world debt free! (Wooo!)

If you have read this far, thank you for following along on my journey. Thanks for being a part of my life, or if we don’t know each other, thanks for existing and fulfilling your beautiful part of the fabric of the world. Here’s to the new year, lovely people!

peacelovehappy

 

 

Year One in Korea: Reflections

Another year has passed on the solar calendar.  On this lovely Saturday morning, I am lounging lazily on my heated floor mat, sipping my coffee and reflecting on the year gone by.  In February, I packed a few suitcases and flew across the world to teach a bunch of Korean kids who might have actually thought I knew what I was doing.  I did try to come sans expectations; still, I could’ve never imagined what this year would be.

new-year

Starting a new job is intense as it is; starting a new life in a foreign country is next-level. I can say with confidence that I’ve never been this challenged in my entire life.  Looking back at my journal entries from around the time I arrived, I was asking myself questions like, “uh, what did I do?” “why am I here?” and “the most ridiculous thing happened to me today…”

whyinkorean

I did NOT think I’d be remotely interested in sticking around for a second year, yet two days ago I signed another year of my life off to this country.  Why did I decide to stay?  Basically, I put in a lot of hard work this year.  When I first started, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.  I was working all day at school, then going home and trying to make my lessons better all night.  This is partially because I struggle with an unobtainable desire for perfection and a bit of performance anxiety (I wanted my lessons to be super great all the time and for all my students to love them–ha), and partially because I just had no clue how to be a teacher.  For a few months, all I did was drink coffee and lesson plan (and sadly, most of my lessons still sucked).  I’ve heard rumors of some elementary school native teachers in Korea having very little work, but this couldn’t have been farther from my reality.

coffee

At this point, I know what works for my students and I have a whole stockpile of back-up games and lessons in case things fall apart.  Basically, most days now I actually feel like I (kind of) know what I’m doing, and I’ve almost totally given up on trying to please everyone with my lessons.  I rarely bring work home now.

Anyway, I worked hard to get to this point, and all my lesson-planning work for next year is essentially finished.  Apart from minor tweaking, I just have to show up and teach!

My other reason for staying another year in Korea is my life here.  I genuinely like Korea.  I’m happy with my lifestyle and I also don’t want to go back to paying rent and car insurance (ha).  Though friends come and go in the foreign community, I’ve made some really close friends and there’s always someone to enjoy my time with.  Also, Korea is a naturally beautiful country, and I have many more mountains to climb before I leave.  Also, makgeolli.

makgeolli

 

In the spirit of New Year’s Eve, here are my 2017 goals.

  1. Hike 3 Korean mountains.
  2. Intensify my Korean language studying. Finish through TTMIK Level 3.
  3. Yoga Revolution! And a continued exploration of yoga throughout the year.
  4. Visit 3 new countries. (I’ll start with Hong Kong in January!)
  5. Blog once a month, rather than sporadically as I have been.
  6. Stick to my new budget and pay off my last student loan.
  7. Choose to be happy and light in the everyday madness.

What are your goals?  I’m curious.  If you don’t have any physical goals in mind, I would encourage you to try yoga with me in January (click the link above).  It’s free and in your home and it will make you feel like a new, refreshed human being. It doesn’t matter how old or young, or in or out of shape you are. If you can breathe, yoga will improve your life if you let it.  (Basically, I’m a walking infomercial for Yoga with Adriene, just ask my friends. I’ll stop now, though).

Lots and lots and lots of love~~~

Amanda

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my korea life: the halfway point

I’ve passed the six month point in my yearlong contract! How has living in Korea been this far?  How can I even begin to describe the changes I’ve undergone, the strange (to me) things I’m slowly adapting to or the interesting situations I’ve found myself in?  Let’s just say it’s been many things…amazing, terrible, beautiful, ugly…it’s been everything life normally is with the addition of the heightened senses you experience when you are wandering around a foreign land.

 

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friends!

Teaching has certainly been an adventure.  Teaching at five schools means I’ve gotten a varying array of experiences.  It means I always know what day of the week it is based on my location (I haven’t messed up and taken the wrong bus yet!)  Mondays through Wednesdays have me teaching middle school students–13-15 year olds.  I’ve had some really good days with these kids–many of them are so sweet and I love when the kids come to practice English with me before or after class.  I’ve also had many days where, looking out at my totally uncontrolled classroom, I’ve felt that I was a zookeeper rather than a teacher.  Just this week I had my first day of “giving up…” basically I lost control of the class to the point where the girls were having a screaming contest, some boys were playing “baseball” with my foam dice and the rest of the boys were doing things that will not be mentioned here.

Anyway, sometimes middle school kids go a little crazy in English class but overall, the longer I stay, the more respected I feel (by the kids). And they have so much studying in their lives that I kind of get the “go crazy in English class with the foreign teacher” thing.  Elementary school kids are just plain cute and it makes Thursdays and Fridays feel like a breeze carrying me into the weekend.  If I could choose, I would just teach cute little 3rd graders all the time.  Singing and playing and learning the ABCs and basic words with enthusiasm…. sigh.  I love them.

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some of my students being cute

Life in general has been good most days!  Living in Korea is so fun.  There’s always something going on and somewhere to go, and my city has everything I need for a chill weekend at home as well.  The job here can be stressful, but the weekends and holidays make it all worthwhile.  My friends here are really great; I know I’ve made some lifelong friends here.  It’s cheap to eat and drink here, public transport is so convenient and easy, and I’ve been traveling all over the country and all the while saving a bunch of the money I’m making.  It’s a great set-up overall.  Soon, though, I need to decide whether to stay a second year or head out and move on.  I don’t quite feel ready to commit to another year (seems like such a long time…) but I also feel a little terrified of the reverse culture shock and lack of life plan I’d have if I went back to the US.  I miss family, but I don’t have any specific thing I want to do with myself in the US.  I don’t know if I’m ready to live that life again.

I’m not going to say too much on this subject, but dating in Korea as a foreigner is….weird.  Things I’ve learned so far: guys (and probably also ladies) can be idiots all over the world, but the cultural difference adds in an extra dimension of confusion to the chaos that is the dating world.  Anyway, at this point I’m happily single, hanging out with my wonderful friends and meeting new ones, keeping an open mind but (the more people I meet) becoming ever more comfortable with the idea of being a crazy aunt to my little sister’s future babies and having a cat-child or two of my own.

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😉

Visitors! I’ve had visitors.  Mary came to visit in the beginning of September and now my sister is here.  We’re sitting at a cafe in Busan overlooking the ocean as I write this, actually!  It’s been fun showing them around my adopted country and seeing Korea through fresh eyes again.  It showed me how far I’ve come in terms of understanding what the hell is happening here, as well as how much Korean language I’ve picked up from studying and just living here.  My speaking basically sucks, but I can read and often understand the gist of what people are saying.  It feels like a huge accomplishment even if I am incredibly far from fluency.

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Mary and I at Gyeongbukgung in Seoul

I’ve been a bad blogger, but I have lots of posts up my sleeve!  Stay tuned for my personal anthology of Korea’s themed cafes, a resource page for people interested in coming to work in Korea through the EPIK program and of course, more updates on my various experiences here.  Love you all!

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