Saving for a Summer in South Korea

Your dreams of going to South Korea have been floating in your head for some time now. You will finally get to step on the same ground as your favorite Korean celebrity. You will eat authentic Korean food. You will practice all the Korean that Korean Dramas,, and possibly Korean classes have taught you.

All that #wanderlust on social media has sparked the travel bug within you, and you are ready to experience the Korea beyond what you see on the computer screen. There’s just one problem - money. Perhaps the largest problem for any struggling college student.

Fear not, young traveler. Below I have laid out a money-saving plan of action!

Two Options: Vacation vs. Study Abroad 

How will you spend most of your time when you get to Korea? Your two options are to either go for a vacation or make your stay longer and sign up for a study abroad opportunity.

To be realistic, let’s say that you’ll be in Korea for six weeks. (Might I add that six weeks is very long for a vacation.)

Here’s the cost breakdown for each:

These estimates come from my own experiences and the experiences of others who have spent a summer in South Korea. Vacations also have a way of becoming more expensive than study abroad, despite my calculations. Flight is not included, since ticket costs differ depending on location, time of booking, and the economy.

I will, however, say that if you plan spend your money very, very sparingly as I have done before, you can shave $1,000 off of the totals. This is only if you plan to live extremely frugally, like eating kimbap for most of your meals, not going out to drink and thinking wisely about where you want to travel within Korea.

Money Saving strategies

Let’s say your piggy bank of funds to Korea is currently at $0. Additionally, let’s say you are reading this article during the month it comes out, which is January, and that you plan to go to Korea in June. That means you have five months to save money.

If you just want to vacation for six weeks, you need to save $820 every month.

If you want to attend a language or study abroad program for six weeks, you need to save $940 every month.

Now, these numbers look scary for a university student who is probably earning barely above the minimum wage at a part-time job.

There’s a solution, however. Some study abroad programs offer scholarships for the tuition and housing.


STUDY: Scholarships and awards

For example, the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) pays for flights, tuition, housing, and outside excursions. It is quite competitive, but receiving the scholarship would definitely cut down on costs! For more information about the CLS program, click here.

CIEE Study Abroad also offers a Korean language program which can be funded through scholarships. Click here for more information.

I found out that nearly all of the students in the program received scholarships that were not publicly advertised.

If neither of these programs works for you, contact the language school you’re interested in directly to see if they offer scholarships. One summer when I was studying at Sogang University I found out that nearly all of the students in the program received scholarships that were not publicly advertised. Imagine how jaded I was knowing I paid the full tuition. Even if that isn’t the case, always ask the study abroad services at your university which programs are the best bang for your buck and and if there are scholarships for study abroad through your home institution.


VACATION: crowd funding & couch surfing

If you plan on just vacationing, you could always start an account on a crowdfunding website and share that across all of your social media, family, and friends. You can elevate your effort by making a proposal video to go along with the account.

While you are in Korea you can also try to save money by couch surfing. Couch surfing is basically living on someone’s couch/spare bed for a few days. The main website that coordinates this is I will warn, however, that this route will be looked at skeptically by parent-types, and you do have to be cautious in who to ask to stay with. If you are down for an unexpected adventure however, couch surfing will lower your costs in regards to housing, as long as you don’t mind moving every few days. For a stable long-term alternative, youth hostels are also an affordable option.

All in all, the bright and shiny dream of turning your #wanderlust aspirations into reality isn’t free, but with strategic saving and searching both the web and your social network for scholarships, you can lighten the payload.

If you have any other money saving tips or costs it took to you travel to Korea, leave a comment below!



Raquel “Rocky” Reinagel is a MA candidate and graduate assistant in the Department of Second Language Studies at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa; former president of Hanwoori Hawaiʻi; and Co-President of the Second Language Studies Student Association (SLSSA) at UHM.