Attending university or college in the United States is expensive. Every year, students are taking out loans to further their education. I’m no exception to the millions of students not only in America, but around the world doing the same thing. Accumulating student debt is regrettably one of those things we just have to do if we want a decent job. While there are plenty of folks who land decent jobs without going to university or college and therefore don’t accumulate student related debt – and I ‘take my hat off’ to them, there are enough of us who do, to make it a burning national problem. It’s a cold hard fact that literally millions of Americans, young and more mature alike – living in the world’s richest country – are left debt-ridden due to pursuing tertiary education. In some cases, the debt lasts a lifetime, with folks unable to clear student debt, despite their best efforts.
Okay, enough of the ‘perspective’! This blog post is not about having a whack at the ‘user pays’ principle, which is the cornerstone of student loan policy in the United States – negativity. Conversely, it’s a good news story about something ‘out of left field’ that will allow you to clear student debt, and have a huge smile on your face while you’re doing it. Rest assured it’s not selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door or similar. Read on!
So, I completed my university studies in 2015 and graduated with a degree in Electrical Engineering. During my time at university my student debt rose to just shy of US $50,000. My debt was only a fraction of what some of my university friends had accumulated. I’m from New York City where the cost of living is outrageously high. It’s difficult covering every day living expenses in New York, let alone chipping away at student debt. I was working long hours as a professional engineer and getting nowhere fast. My social life was minimal, mainly because I was ‘penny pinching’. I was managing to cover the interest on my student debt, but after a couple of years the principle was more or less the same. It goes without saying that my way of life at the time bordered on soul destroying and from a mental and physical health point of view simply wasn’t sustainable. I needed a new approach that would allow me to meet my financial commitments and have an enjoyable lifestyle.
It wasn’t long after realizing that I was leading a crappy life, largely due to the size of my student debt, I learned about the opportunity to teach English abroad. After extensive research I decided that teaching English in Vietnam would be a wise move. Like all of Southeast Asia, Vietnam offers an affordable cost of living and decent salaries. Within 3 months of deciding that Vietnam is where I needed to be, I’d sold my motorbike, packed up my house, arranged for my sister to take care of my two dogs (beagles named Bonnie and Clyde) and had arrived in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Teaching English in Vietnam, having fun and saving money to pay off my student loans were all priorities.
Talk to me about systems and devices that use electricity or anything to do with electronics and electromagnetism (Electrical Engineering) and I’ll ‘bang on’ forever because it’s what I know. Teaching English requires a new skill set, knowledge and internationally recognized certification. It’s not enough to hold an American Passport or be an ‘upright’ native English speaker. With this in mind, I chose to enroll in the Australian Government accredited TESOL/TEFL (teacher training) program at AVSE-TESOL in Ho Chi Minh City. I loved the people who worked at AVSE. I also loved the intensive 4-week TESOL/TEFL course. The certification that comes with the TESOL course at AVSE is highly regarded by Vietnamese employers (schools) and employers around the world. The TESOL program at AVSE was my ‘ticket’ to clear my student debt through teaching English in Vietnam.
It’s now January 2020. I boarded that plane at JFK International Airport in New York City almost three years ago and there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t have a passing thought about how lucky I am to have found this opportunity. In addition to making a bunch of wonderful friends, Vietnamese and other expats, I’ve been able to: 1. positively impact the lives of local people by teaching English in Vietnam; 2. travel to a number of Asian countries, Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Singapore and Malaysia; and 3. clear student debt to the tune of US $45,000. Yes, I still have another US $5,000 to go, but there is no wayI would have the brilliant lifestyle I do in Vietnam, travel as often as I do – and clear my student debt – if I’d stayed in New York. Vietnam has been good to me and I’m very grateful.
Making the decision to move abroad isn’t an easy one. I miss my family and friends in New York and I miss my dogs. I’m prepared to cope with this right now because I know the ‘debt noose’ will soon be gone. Struggling to clear student debt is the reality for many Americans of my generation. People work long hours for years and years – and lead unfulfilling lives – because it’s the only way they know to clear their debt. If you’re anything like I was, up to my eyeballs in student debt, consider teaching English in Vietnam as a way to turn your life around. It’s a means to clear debt – and have fun while you’re doing it.
About the writer: Dave Weiss came to Vietnam in 2017 from New York City with some firm goals in mind. Teaching English in Vietnam in order to clear a decent size slab of accumulated debt from his time at university was one of those goals. An Alumni of AVSE-TESOL in Ho Chi Minh City, Dave’s ‘good news’ story can also be yours. Check out the AVSE website: https://avse.edu.vn/