How This Grad Paid Off Her Loans 5 Years Faster by Moving to South Korea

How Student Loan Hero Gets Paid

How Student Loan Hero Gets Paid

Student Loan Hero is compensated by companies on this site and this compensation may impact how and where offers appears on this site (such as the order). Student Loan Hero does not include all lenders, savings products, or loan options available in the marketplace.

Advertiser Disclosure

Student Loan Hero Advertiser Disclosure

Student Loan Hero is an advertising-supported comparison service. The site features products from our partners as well as institutions which are not advertising partners. While we make an effort to include the best deals available to the general public, we make no warranty that such information represents all available products.

Editorial Note: This content is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the financial institution.

how this grad paid off her loans

We’ve got your back! Student Loan Hero is a completely free website 100% focused on helping student loan borrowers get the answers they need. Read more

How do we make money? It’s actually pretty simple. If you choose to check out and become a customer of any of the loan providers featured on our site, we get compensated for sending you their way. This helps pay for our amazing staff of writers (many of which are paying back student loans of their own!).

Bottom line: We’re here for you. So please learn all you can, email us with any questions, and feel free to visit or not visit any of the loan providers on our site. Read less

If you want to pay off debt fast, you most likely have to increase your income or decrease your expenses.

By teaching English in South Korea, Lauren Kubik, now a travel blogger at Long Lost Lauren, managed to do both.

Not only did she gain a decent income after graduating from college, but she moved to a location with a lower cost of living.

I spoke with Kubik to learn how moving across the globe helped her pay off her student loans faster.

Here’s how she benefited from moving abroad, as well as her words of encouragement for new graduates interested in doing the same.

Moving abroad with $30,000 in student loans

When Kubik graduated from Seattle Pacific University in 2012, she left with a degree in history. She also left with a lot of student debt.

“I graduated with about $30,000 in loans,” said Kubik. “My minimum payments post-graduation were about $300 per month.”

Unlike many of her peers, though, Kubik didn’t spend the months after graduation hunting for a job. She had already decided to move to Ulsan, South Korea, and teach English.

“I knew during my senior year of college I would go straight to South Korea to teach abroad after graduation,” Kubik said. “I chose to go to South Korea [because] I knew the salary was good for a newbie grad with debt and would give me a chance to travel.”

Kubik landed a teaching job in an elementary school through a program called Adventure Teaching. She made $2,000 per month, and the costs of housing and airfare were covered.

Not only was she spared the stress of a post-graduation job search, but she didn’t have to worry when her first student loan bill came. “When student loan repayment kicked in, I had zero stress,” said Kubik.

Lowering the cost of living to help pay off debt

With a monthly income of $2,000 and no expenses for rent, Kubik was able to ramp up her monthly student loan payments to $500. Plus, she put another $500 aside each month for savings.

Kubik was careful about sticking to a budget. And she enjoyed the fact that Ulsan, a city with more than 1 million people, had a much lower cost of living than Seattle.

According to, restaurant prices in Seattle are 87.78% higher than in Ulsan. And while Kubik didn’t have to pay rent, found that Seattle’s rent prices are a whopping 288.88% higher than those in Ulsan.

By August 2014, after two years of living and teaching in South Korea, Kubik saved almost $10,000 and paid off the same amount in debt. Plus, she had enough money to travel.

“I backpacked Southeast Asia for four months right after teaching and used only about $3,000 in that time period,” said Kubik. “My money could go far in Southeast Asia.”

Returning to a more expensive life in the US

After two years of living in South Korea and four months traveling around Southeast Asia, Kubik felt the pressure to return home.

“I eventually moved home (to Washington state) because I assumed that’s what adults were supposed to do,” she said.

But once she encountered the high cost of living, Kubik had to tone down her aggressive debt repayment. In fact, she had to apply for a Graduated Repayment Plan and reduce her monthly payments to $78 just to keep up.

Part of the reason she had to lower her student loan bills was her lower salary.

Kubik’s first full-time job back home was in social services, and she was making just $12.50 an hour. Kubik was dealing with a much lower salary than the $2,000 a month (plus free housing) she was making in South Korea.

To increase her income, Kubik took on side gigs. For instance, she continued to teach English as a second language (ESL) through online companies, a gig that made her more than $20 an hour.

Kubik also coached soccer, worked part time as a barista, and became a brand ambassador for Kind, a healthy foods company. She even made $1,500 in two months crocheting hats and selling them on Instagram.

As time went on, Kubik took a different full-time job at another social services agency that paid $20 an hour, plus benefits and free transportation. As she got her stride back, Kubik started ramping up her debt repayment goals again.

“In my last one-and-a-half years, I paid over $1,000 per month,” she said. As her loan balance got closer to zero, Kubik decided to take $2,000 from her savings to polish off the rest. Instead of sticking to the 10-year Standard Repayment Plan, Kubik ultimately cut her repayment in half.

“I paid off my loans in exactly five years,” she said. “My loan payments started in October 2012, and I finished off the $30,000 in October 2017.”

At the age of 27, Kubik was completely debt-free. And it was just in the nick of time, since her feet were itching for another international adventure.

Becoming a full-time traveler again

In February 2018, Kubik returned to South Korea to visit. From there, she went on to Thailand, where she plans to live for the foreseeable future while continuing to travel as much as she can.

“I’m always planning a vacation,” she said. “I have upcoming trips scheduled in Ukraine and South Africa. I’m planning on staying in Thailand at least a year but want to country-hop each year with my boyfriend.”

She supports herself through travel blogging, freelance writing, and teaching ESL online. Although her varying income sources can be challenging, Thailand has a low enough cost of living that she can cover expenses.

Because the cost of living is so much cheaper than it is in Seattle, she can work less and travel more without breaking the bank.

Living abroad could help you save money and pay off student loans

If you’re interested in living abroad, Kubik highly recommends teaching English to gain job experience, see the world, and pay off debt.

“Teaching abroad is amazing,” she said. “There are so many perks, you meet so many people, and you get to fully live in a new country. [There are] tons of ways to go abroad for free or cheap.”

You might go through a program as Kubik did. Or you could get your Teaching English as a Foreign Language certificate and contact international schools on your own.

That said, teaching English isn’t the only way to live in another country. Consider other ways to get paid to travel, such as freelance writing assignments or working on a cruise ship.

If you can find a job that also provides free housing, you’ll likely be able to put a big chunk of your salary toward your student loans. Instead of scrambling to cover living costs, you could get out of debt fast while having the adventure of a lifetime.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 6 lenders of 2020!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
1.89% – 6.66%1Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Splash

1.89% – 5.90%2Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Laurel Road

2.25% – 6.09%3Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit SoFi

1.99% – 5.34%4Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Earnest

1.97% – 8.54%5Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Lendkey

2.39% – 6.01%Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Elfi

Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.

Splash Financial Disclosures

Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount.

The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.

To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Splash Financial conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.

Splash Financial and our lending partners reserve the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen and meet our lending partner’s underwriting requirements. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. This information is current as of October 1, 2020.

2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

All credit products are subject to credit approval.

Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit

As used throughout these Terms & Conditions, the term “Lender” refers to KeyBank National Association and its affiliates, agents, guaranty insurers, investors, assigns, and successors in interest.

  1. Checking your rate with Laurel Road only requires a soft credit pull, which will not affect your credit score. To proceed with an application, a hard credit pull will be required, which may affect your credit score.
  2. Savings vary based on rate and term of your existing and refinanced loan(s). Refinancing to a longer term may lower your monthly payments, but may also increase the total interest paid over the life of the loan. Refinancing to a shorter term may increase your monthly payments, but may lower the total interest paid over the life of the loan. Review your loan documentation for total cost of your refinanced loan.
  3. After loan disbursement, if a borrower documents a qualifying economic hardship, we may agree in our discretion to allow for full or partial forbearance of payments for one or more 3-month time periods (not to exceed 12 months in the aggregate during the term of your loan), provided that we receive acceptable documentation (including updating documentation) of the nature and expected duration of the borrower’s economic hardship. During any period of forbearance interest will continue to accrue. At the end of the forbearance period, any unpaid accrued interest will be capitalized and be added to the remaining principle amount of the loan.
  4. Automatic Payment (“AutoPay”) Discount: if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically from a bank account, the interest rate will decrease by 0.25% and will increase back if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically from the borrower’s bank account. The 0.25% AutoPay discount will not reduce the monthly payment; instead, the discount is applied to the principal to help pay the loan down faster.

Assumptions: Repayment examples above assume a loan amount of $10,000 with repayment beginning immediately following disbursement. Repayment examples do not include the 0.25% AutoPay Discount.

Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): This term represents the actual cost of financing to the borrower over the life of the loan expressed as a yearly rate.

Interest Rate: A simple annual rate that is applied to an unpaid balance.

Variable Rates: The current index for variable rate loans is derived from the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) and changes in the LIBOR index may cause your monthly payment to increase. Borrowers who take out a term of 5, 7, or 10 years will have a maximum interest rate of 9%, those who take out a 15 or 20-year variable loan will have a maximum interest rate of 10%.


This information is current as of September 9, 2020. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.

3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student loan Refinance: Fixed rates from 2.99% APR to 6.09% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.25% APR to 6.09% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.25% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 0.18% plus 2.32% margin minus 0.25% ACH discount. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, and the term of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. See eligibility details. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. *To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms SoFi can offer you up front. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan. In addition to requiring your explicit permission, these credit pulls may impact your credit score. Terms and Conditions Apply. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. 

4 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.

Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 2.98% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.49% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.34% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of October 26, 2020, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.

Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.

The information provided on this page is updated as of 10/26/2020. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit, email us at [email protected], or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.

© 2020 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.

5 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

Refinancing via is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it  endorse,  any educational institution.

Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of  5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.

As of 11/13/2020 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.97% to 8.54% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.95% to 8.77% Fixed APR with AutoPay.