An Interview with San Mouy

San Mouy is a 2017 graduate of Southern Oregon University. He teaches English in Daegu, south Korea.

Ed Battistella: Tell us about the program you’re teaching?

San Mouy: So right now I am a foreign English teacher at a private school (Hagwon) in Daegu, South Korea. I signed a one-year contract with the school to teach students between 1st-8th grade, and sometimes teach adult classes at night. The lessons are relatively simple. They are taken directly out of English workbooks designed for young learners, with the main focus on short sentences and new vocabulary. The higher-level classes are essentially the same, however, there is more reading and a higher level of comprehension required. As for the adult classes, there is a workbook, but it is mainly used to keep a conversation going between the students and the teacher. My goal for the adult class is to help them become comfortable speaking English and help them learn new words and slang that they may not know already. The young learner and middle school classes take spelling tests and listening tests every week, and after each lesson I have to set up a game that covers the lesson for that particular day. That basically covers everything haha

EB: How did you find it/ What was the application and training process like?

SM: I found a teaching abroad website searching on Google. While teaching in Korea wasn’t my first choice (I applied to teach in Cambodia with Peace Corps,) after seeing some of my other classmates on Facebook teaching abroad in countries like Japan or Korea, I decided that I should try applying to those places as well. With numerous websites looking for English teachers abroad, I didn’t have as much trouble finding one, more so finding a location that I felt would be most comfortable living in for a year or so. Also, most overseas public English teaching jobs require additional documents (such as a TEFL certification) to be considered. And while I didn’t have that when I was looking for potential jobs in Korea or Japan, the positions available to me were further narrowed down. In the end, I got in contact with a recruiter after applying at, and I am very grateful with the job that I have.

The application process was fairly easy. After reaching out to travel and teach, I was guided by a couple recruiters that made the whole process less stressful. While there was a list of requirements that I had to have in order to continue with the hiring process, I knew that I would have to obtain everything on the list on time in order to truly be considered for the position.

Of course, though, obtaining everything meant spending a lot of money. I had to pay off a certain about of student loan debt in order to receive my Bachelors degree in the mail, I had to get a passport, fingerprint scan, FBI background check, Sign up for an online TEFL class, official notary to notarize all of my documents, extra passport photos, etc, which in total was upwards of 3k before even signing my contract. Getting everything took me almost ten months, but once all that was done, and as the deadlines for available positions came nearer and nearer, my recruiter set up three interviews for me to work in Korea; one in Daegu, one in Pohang, and one in Dejong. While two of the three wished to have me sign a contract, I felt Daegu would suit me best and decided to work there. Once I arrived in Korea, I met up with my Foreign Manager for the Hagwon and he helped me get set up in my apartment. I started training the next day.
Training was fairly simple, I would observe the other foreign teachers teach in class, take notes, and prepare to do what they have shown me for one or two classes while they observe and take notes on me. After the week of training, I was assigned my own teaching schedule for the semester and sent on my way. I still feel like I am learning how to be a better teacher everyday, so training for me is to be a better teacher than I was yesterday.

EB: How did you get interested in teaching abroad?

SM: I love traveling and thought teaching abroad would be a great opportunity for me to use my degree and to travel both at the same time. And after seeing how much fun my friends and classmates were having teaching abroad, it really made me decide that there wouldn’t be another chance like this than now.

EB: Did you experience any sort of culture shock teaching abroad?

SM: So far, the hardest part for me is to confidently order something on the menu or talking to anyone else in Korean. Haha Not really culture shock, its more a being aware that I am the foreigner in their country and need to accept that.

EB: Had you studied Korean before you travelled?

SM: Not a single day. In fact, I have yet to study any Korean seriously other than a couple of words since I have been here (about three months). Only because I plan on taking a Korean class that will show me everything I need to know about reading, writing, and speaking Korean soon.

EB: Have you been able to learn much Korean?

SM: I literally know less than 10 phrases and/or words

EB: Is there anything you wish you had known or known more about before you started?

SM: I wish I knew exactly how much money everything was going to cost me before taking that plunge. I knew that if I started to complete the requirements, but didn’t go through with everything, then I would have wasted a lot of money for nothing. At the same time, moving to another country takes a lot of money to get settled in. I’d say that in total, getting everything set up to sign a contract and getting situated in Korea cost me almost 5k (including paying off bills back in the united states). Other than that, I am truly loving every day knowing that I am an English teacher in another country. I feel like a tourist exploring the world, while at the same time saving money and doing a job that I am happy doing.

EB: How has the experience of teaching abroad influenced your career plans?

SM: I knew that teaching abroad would be a huge career change for me and feel like I will be doing things like this for at least the next 5-10 years. Its very rewarding to be able to travel and teach haha.

EB: Any suggestions for others thinking about teaching abroad?

SM: Honestly, the best advice I would give is to plan out where you want to teach, and then dig deeper to see what that place is like, and then save save save money. Be prepared to jump through a lot of hoops, sign a lot of papers, and follow a lot of orders.

About Ed Battistella

Edwin Battistella’s latest book Dangerous Crooked Scoundrels was released by Oxford University Press in March of 2020.
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