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Phnom Penh, Cambodia English Teaching Q and A with Maura Buchman

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What is your citizenship?

United States

What city and state are you from?

Atlanta, GA

How old are you?


What is your education level and background?

Some college

Have you traveled abroad in the past?

Some international travel with friends, family, business, etc.

If you have traveled abroad in the past, where have you been?

Central America, France, Spain, SE Asia, Britain, and Ireland

What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?

I had come back from a trip and decided I had had enough of the States and decided to head out. Sold my business and belongings and hit the road.

What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?

Visa and work permits, political stability in the country and region, climate.

What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?
They were supportive but secretly thought I was insane.

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Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?

It was the best fit.

Which TEFL certification course did you take?

Cambodia - Phnom Penh.
Which city and country did you decide to teach English in and why?

I decided to teach English in Cambodia in the city of Phnom Penh. It's easy to live here, and I really like it here.
How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay?
11 months. I will be here indefinitely

What school, company, or program are you working for?

New Gateway International School

During which months does your school typically hire?

Year round, like most.

Did you secure this position in advance of arriving?


How did you interview for this position?

In-person interview

What kind of visa did you enter on?

Work visa

Please explain the visa process that you went through.

Visas are easy. You don't actually have to have a job to enter on a work visa. You just pay $35 or $40 upon arrival at the airport. It's roughly $360 for a year. Work permits are a bit more involved, but the school you're at should help with the process and many will pay for it.

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What are the qualifications that your school requires for teachers?

- TEFL Certification
- Native English speaker

What is the best way to apply?


Tell us about your English teaching job!

HOURS: 10 hours a day, 4-6 hours face time with students.
SALARY: $1000 US dollars a month, so fair salary.
SAVINGS: Yes, you can save--it depends on where you live, how often you go out, and what sort of transport you utilize. It's easy to save at least $250 a month.
SCHOOL: An "international" school, but it's not accredited. It's just a fancy private school.
STUDENTS: I teach primary (4th and 5th grade) as well as three hours of kinder.
VACATION: We get paid Khmer holidays and a total of four weeks (two in the summer and two at Christmas)

How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates?

I used Airbnb for my first three months and ended up living in a fantastic shared house. Since then I've lived with other terrific roommates. It's very easy to find a place to live here, and it can be very affordable as well. Just depends on your tastes.

On a scale of 1 - 10 please rate your experience with this school.      7


Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc...    

Khmer people are very friendly and helpful. Cambodia in general is a warm and welcoming place. Knowing that, be aware of the brutal history of this place. The median age is 25. The ruling government is really more of a dictatorship. These people are missing an entire generation due to the horrific actions of the Khmer Rouge. It is not Thailand.

Transportation is mostly motos and tuktuks. Taxis are available but there's really no point in using them.

Phnom Penh has a vibrant nightlife scene.

The expat community is very fluid. Most who are here are either NGO workers, lawyers or interns for the tribunal, English teachers, or sexpats. Many people aren't here for more than a few months. The more permanent expats are few and far between. It's a very transitory place- if you plan on staying long, get used to saying goodbye.

I think everyone uses Tinder for dating.

There are many travel opportunities. It's always cheaper by bus!

If you are planning on coming to Cambodia, for any amount of time, please do your homework. Know the history before you come--I promise it will help you to understand why things can sometimes seem so backwards. You cannot be uptight here, so leave any expectations at home. Go with the flow.


What are your monthly expenses?

Rent: $250 (USD) excluding water and electricity
Food: $250 (USD)
Social activities: $200 (USD)
Transport: I own a Moto but sometimes take a tuk tuk $20 (USD)
Phone: $140 (USD) but I utilize a US number and a Khmer phone so it's abnormally high
Pet expenses: $40 (USD)

How would you describe your standard of living?

Middle class

In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?

$1000 (USD) should do it very easily


What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?

Come debt free. It's a real pain to have to wire transfer money to the US, and it adds up fast. Consider your expectations and honest needs. What can't you absolutely live without? Are you ok with intermittently losing power or water? What about being woken up at 3:30 am by monks chanting for a wedding? Are you wanting a walkable city? Make a list of what's important and then research, research, research.

English is hands down the easiest thing to teach in Phnom Penh. 

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