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26-year-old American teaches English in South Korea: Advice to expats

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In November 2019, Michaela Cricchio, 26, booked a one-way flight to Seoul, South Korea, to teach English abroad.

Cricchio first heard about programs to teach English in a foreign country during an international studies class in college. When she couldn’t afford to move right after college, she spent a year and a half working on a cruise ship, where she could live rent-free, to save up.

After becoming certified to teach English and applying for a work visa, she was off to live on her own for the first time, and in a foreign country where she barely knew the language, no less.

“I remember sitting on the plane a year ago for my first year of teaching in South Korea and thinking, ‘What am I doing?'” Cricchio recalls. “Now, to actually be here and wake up every morning knowing I’m in a different country and so far away from home, it still hits me sometimes … I’ll realize that this is my life.”

The biggest misconception of living abroad

Cricchio loves her expat lifestyle. As a foreign English teacher, her school pays for her rent, which allows her to live in Seoul comfortably on $24,000 a year. During the weekends, she meets up with friends to visit cafes, restaurants, bars, art museums, parks, shopping districts and other city attractions.

But despite all the highs, she has one word of caution to other young people who want to travel the world and work abroad.

“The biggest misconception about living abroad is that it’s not all sunshine and rainbows,” Cricchio says. The Instagram photos and vlogs of people living abroad rarely cover the challenges and mundane parts of daily life, she says.

Michaela Cricchio’s school pays for her rent on a studio apartment in Seoul.

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For Cricchio, living in South Korea has been a major culture adjustment, since even basic errands like going to the grocery store can be challenging on her basic proficiency of the language. She still has work to do, bills to pay, health check-ups to schedule — she also still has to pay taxes to the U.S. government. “It’s still real life, just in a different place,” she says.

And teaching English grammar to elementary school students when it isn’t their first language is harder than you’d think, she adds.

Cricchio says it’s important to have realistic expectations in mind when making such a big life change. Also, it’s completely expected and normal to feel lonely during the experience.

She’s used apps to find English-speaking friends who are all in similar situations — young, newly independent and very far from home. “It’s really great to have your friends practically become your family,” she says. “But of course, there are times when I really miss my family. Being in this apartment alone at night, it gets lonely.”

FaceTime has become a lifeline for her to stay in touch with friends and family back home, including her parents and three older siblings. Sometimes, seeing them all together makes her even more homesick. But during those moments, she reminds herself that she’s living this lifestyle to learn and grow on her own.

Her No. 1 piece of advice

Still, Cricchio wouldn’t change the experience for anything. She hopes to continue building her financial cushion and finding opportunities to be a digital nomad, where she can move around, teach English part-time and freelance write about travel and teaching.

“Living in Korea has changed the way I look at my future,” Cricchio says. “Before, I was super afraid of the world, super shy. I wasn’t really sure about what direction I was going in.”

In the last year and a half, however, her confidence has skyrocketed. “It’s helped me grow up a lot. I 100% rely on myself here. I do have the help of my friends and school, but overall, I rely on myself a lot: financially, mentally, emotionally. I’m all I have.”

Michaela Cricchio uses apps to meet friends and fellow expats in Seoul.

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Elon Musk says Tesla will likely start accepting bitcoin again

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the company will likely start accepting bitcoin for vehicle purchases again.

“It looks like bitcoin is shifting a lot more toward renewables and a bunch of the heavy-duty coal plants that were being used…have been shut down, especially in China,” said Musk on Wednesday at The B-Word conference, an event hosted by the Crypto Council for Innovation.

“I want to do a little more due diligence to confirm that the percentage of renewable energy usage is most likely at or above 50% and that there is a trend toward increasing that number. If so, Tesla will most likely resume accepting bitcoin,” he said.

In May, Musk said on Twitter that the company would suspend vehicle purchases using bitcoin out of concern over the “rapidly increasing use of fossil fuels for bitcoin mining.”

Since then, Beijing has cracked down on crypto, expelling the country’s crypto miners, who have since begun to patriate elsewhere. New data from Cambridge University shows many miners are headed to the U.S., which is now the second-biggest destination for the world’s bitcoin miners.

The U.S. is home to some of the cheapest sources of power on the planet, which, more often than not, are renewable. Fred Thiel of Marathon Digital said most miners new to North America will be powered by renewables, or gas offset by renewable energy credits, and Compass CEO Whit Gibbs estimated that bitcoin mining in the U.S. is more than 50% powered by renewables. 

“Long-term, renewable energy will be the cheapest energy, but it doesn’t just happen overnight,” Musk said. “But as long as there is a conscious and determined, real effort by the mining community to move toward renewables, then obviously Tesla can support that.”

Bitcoin was trading nearly 8% higher on Wednesday.

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Tesla caused two-thirds of my personal, professional pain

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Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX and chief executive officer of Tesla Inc., arrives at the Axel Springer Award ceremony in Berlin, Germany, on Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020.

Liesa Johannssen-Koppitz | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said Wednesday that his electric vehicle and solar business could help bitcoin miners switch to renewable energy, but is currently limited by tight supply of battery cells.

He also acknowledged that Tesla is still not manufacturing its custom-designed 4680 cells for commercial use in electric cars or energy storage systems yet.

The comments came during an appearance at The B Word Conference, which was focused on bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. During a panel, Square Crypto lead Steve Lee asked Musk what the energy-intensive bitcoin industry can do “to accelerate the transition to renewable energy” and “could Tesla Energy play a role?”

Musk replied, “Well, I think Tesla can play a role.”

Then, the 50-year-old CEO broke into a reflective moment, implying that Tesla’s entire reason for existence was to transition the world to clean energy.

“I would say I’ve had some pretty tough life experiences and Tesla’s probably responsible for two-thirds of all personal and professional pain combined to give you a sense of perspective there.”

Tesla’s energy business

Tesla has been selling commercial and residential solar installations since acquiring SolarCity in 2016 for around $2.6 billion, a deal that landed Musk in a Delaware court this month.

But before it got into the solar business, Tesla created and began selling energy storage products in 2015, including a backup battery for homes called the Powerwall, and larger batteries that can store solar or wind energy generated intermittently so it is available for use whenever utilities need it.

Tesla has installed a number of these utility-scale energy storage systems, Musk reminded his audience on Wednesday, that have helped utilities with “load-leveling the grid,” including in South Australia and elsewhere. But he noted that battery production was currently constraining produciton.

“In fact the limiting factor for us right now is cell production. So we need to both internally get our Tesla internal battery cells produced as well as increase supply from suppliers.”

Musk also repeated that even once Tesla can make its own battery cells, it will still rely on other battery cell makers. Its current cell suppliers include Panasonic, LG and CATL.

“Generally when I talk to our suppliers and they say ‘how many cells would you like?’ I say ‘how many cells can you make?’ you know ’cause sometimes they’re concerned, is Tesla gonna compete with them on cells? I’m like no no, if you want to make the cells be our guest. It’s just that we need a crazy number of batteries.”

In a Twitter exchange with fans after the bitcoin conference, Musk wrote that Tesla is still “not quite done” getting to “volume production” of its custom-designed 4680 battery cells.

He also acknowledged that Tesla sold Maxwell Technologies’ ultra-capacitor business and other assets to a San Diego-based startup called UCap Power, which is led by Gordon Schenk, preivously Tesla’s VP of sales for its Maxwell division.

Tesla initially acquired Maxwell in 2019 in a deal valued over $200 million. The exact terms of the sale to UCap Power Inc. were not disclosed, but may be discussed when Tesla holds its second-quarter earnings call on Monday, July 26.

Finally, at The B Word conference, Musk said energy storage systems, combined with solar and wind weren’t the only ways to transition bitcoin to cleaner energy. He endorsed existing hydropower, geothermal and nuclear energy to reduce the environmental impact of bitcoin mining.

“My expectation is not like that the energy production must be pure as the driven snow, but it also cannot be using the world’s dirtiest coal which it was for a moment there. So. You know, that’s just difficult for Tesla to support in that situation. I do think long-term renewable energy will actually be the cheapest form of energy, it just doesn’t happen overnight.”



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Stock futures are flat after major averages turn positive for the week

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U.S. stock index futures were flat in overnight trading on Wednesday, after the major averages advanced during regular trading to turn positive for the week.

Futures contracts tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 27 points. S&P 500 futures and Nasdaq 100 futures were marginally higher.

During the session the Dow gained 286 points, or 0.83%, while the S&P climbed 0.82%. The Nasdaq Composite was the relative outperformer, rising 0.92%. Energy was the top-performing S&P group, advancing 3.5% as oil prices rebounded.

Wednesday’s gains built on Tuesday’s strong session, and the major averages have now erased the losses from Monday’s sell-off. The Dow dropped more than 700 points to start the week as rising Covid cases worldwide hit sentiment. The yield on the 10-year Treasury dipped to a five month low of 1.17% at the beginning of the week, which also caused investors to offload equities. On Wednesday the yield on the 10-year rose 8 basis points to 1.29%.

“The truth is investors have been very spoiled by the recent stock market performance,” noted LPL Financial chief market strategist Ryan Detrick. “Incredibly, we haven’t seen as much as a 5% pullback since October. Although we firmly think this bull market is alive and well, let’s not fool ourselves into thinking trees grow forever. Risk is no doubt increasing as we head into the troublesome August and September months.”

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A busy week of earnings will continue on Thursday. AT&T, D.R. Horton, Southwest Air, American Airlines, Abbott Labs and Union Pacific are among the names on deck before the opening bell. Intel, Twitter, Snap and Capital One will post quarterly updates after the market closes.

So far 15% of the S&P 500 has reported earnings, with 88% beating earnings estimates, according to Refinitiv. Of the companies that have reported 84% have topped revenue expectations.

Investors will also be watching the weekly jobless claims number from the Department of Labor on Thursday. Economists polled by Dow Jones are expecting the number of first-time filings to be 350,000, down from the prior reading of 360,000. Existing home sales figures will also be released.

“We expect a continuation of sloppy trading through the seasonally-weak summer months; however, our base case remains that the primary trend over the next 12 months remains higher,” Keith Lerner, chief market strategist at Truist wrote in a note to clients. “The S&P 500, which just made a new record high last week, has gone one of the longest periods of the past decade without so much as a 5% pullback,” he added.

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