• Have a fantastic summer break!
  • First Day of School on August 12th.
  • Don't forget your spirit shirts on Friday.
The Student News Site of Daegu International School

Jets Flyover

Daegu International School's student news site
  • Have a fantastic summer break!
  • First Day of School on August 12th.
  • Don't forget your spirit shirts on Friday.
The Student News Site of Daegu International School

Jets Flyover

The Student News Site of Daegu International School

Jets Flyover

Movember, Madagascar, and married life with Mr. and Mrs. Vis

DIS’s newest faculty couple reflects on a suitcase full of memories
Eugene Sung
Mr. and Mrs. Vis happily greet the DIS community.

The great blue stretches of the Caribbean, lush jungles of the Amazon, beautiful stars in the Saharan night – Mr. and Mrs. Vis have seen it all. Their worldly careers bring countless captivating stories to the Jets Flyover. Passionate educators, adventurous explorers, and loving parents, the teacher couple recounts everything from their childhoods, hobbies, and travel tips, to their love story in this all-inclusive feature. 

What drew you to DIS?

Mr. Vis: We love working at schools of this size. With 350 kids in K-12, It’s a really nice-sized school and it offers a lot for us professionally in terms of a good place to work and great people to work with, and a really good environment for our daughter in second grade. 

Mrs. Vis: I would agree with all of that. Obviously, we’re always looking for professional growth and opportunities but then once we had kids that’s also a really big factor. We really wanted a school and a community feel where our kids have opportunities to have friends and be happy and safe. For us, Daegu just checked all of our boxes. It has turned out to be that way; our girls are really happy here, and professionally we’re both also really happy here. It’s worked out really great on both sides. 

Describe the weirdest or most difficult thing you’ve experienced in Korea so far.

Mrs. Vis: I wouldn’t say I had any weird moments. I’ll tell you: the name thing and how they always put the last name first and then the first name and then the middle name. So that was a little different. The first time I went to set up my Coupang account, I didn’t do it the right way.

Mr. Vis: I think that’s still locked. 

Mrs. Vis: And do you know they banned me because I did it wrong? They wouldn’t let me fix it. They said I had to wait three months! They said try again in November – You know what? I think I could probably do it now. I felt so bad because I didn’t know any better. We had just gotten here. That was kind of frustrating. The same thing happened at the airport when the name on the boarding pass didn’t match because I didn’t put the middle name with it. I kept getting stopped at the airport. I’ve learned though.  

Mr. Vis: This is a pretty easy place to land. Really, nothing has been too strange or surprising. Bit of a language barrier – English is not widely spoken in Daegu, which makes perfect sense. It’s gotten a lot easier with tools and technology now to be able to get around. It really hasn’t been too much of a hurdle. 

What are some of your most memorable experiences at DIS so far?

Mr. Vis: I really enjoyed the talent show. I thought that was a really fun showcase of the different types of talents that we have in our student body. Some of the performances were really quite impressive. I enjoyed that. 

Mr. Vis: For me, it was my experience with the elementary school cross-country team. I have never coached anything before. I was just a person who kind of enjoyed running for exercise. They asked if I wanted to do this and take on this opportunity and I said “Sure why not?”. It ended up being a lot of fun and I got to know kids from other grade levels. I got to take them to competitions and just watching how hard they worked and getting to know them running the trail around the lake was a lot of fun. 

Tell us about your hometowns – its size, population, fun things to do, etc.

Mr. Vis and his younger sister Betsy enjoy themselves on a toy tractor in 1982. Photo courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Vis.

Mrs. Vis: I am from Columbus, Georgia in the United States. It probably has a population of around three hundred thousand? Not teeny tiny but not as big as Daegu or any of the big cities in Korea. It’s the kind of place where a lot of people are born there and never really leave. It’s definitely a place that still feels like home because a lot of the same people are still there, and you see a lot of familiar faces, which is nice. As far as fun things to do there, you can go white-water rafting there which is a lot of fun. Baseball is really big there, so there’s always a local high school or amateur baseball game to go to so that’s also a lot of fun. 

Mr. Vis: The hometown question is a hard one for me because I’ve been away for so long and moved a lot even as a kid. I was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and I was a month old when my family left there. In some ways, that’s a hometown because I have a lot of extended family; aunts and uncles and one living grandfather in that area. My sister and my brother-in-law and their daughters and my parents live in Massachusetts. That’s kind of a hometown and that’s where I went to high school. Usually, I think about Massachusetts and Michigan as being kind of where I’m from. Grand Rapids is pretty typically midwestern. It’s known for people who are pretty polite, smiley, and welcoming. Massachusetts is pretty typically New England where it’s not very smiley and not always so welcoming, especially to outsiders. In terms of personality, I’m probably a little bit more Midwestern than a New Englander. 

Do you ever get homesick?

Mr. Vis: Not really. Where it gets hard is when people that you care about get older and pass away. I’ve lost three of my grandparents. All three of my grandparents were living when I left the United States in 2002. All of them have since died while I was out of the country and far away. My living grandfather is 93 and won’t be around a whole lot longer, so that’s hard. My parents are healthy and doing well, but they’re aging. I think the time will come when being far away will be much harder for that reason. Beyond that, not being able to see my sister and my nieces. It’s the family that sometimes pulls a little bit on the heartstrings. Most of the time, life just stays so busy that I’m not really thinking about it too much.

Mrs. Vis: And I would also say that technology has changed a lot in the time that we’ve both been overseas and when we both left. Well, when you left because you’re older. When you left, technology wasn’t a thing. 

Mr. Vis: You had to buy an international phone card with a code. You had to go to one of the old payphones with the receiver attached by a wire, and you had to punch in a code. 

Mrs. Vis: So I’m a little younger than that. Skype did exist when I first went overseas, but kind of barely. It was a pretty new technology, and it cost money then. It cost more money to use than it does now. And now of course we have smartphones. We can FaceTime. We both have weekly calls with our parents. So I think that really helps alleviate any sort of homesickness that we would otherwise feel.  

What is your origin story – when and where did you first meet each other, and how did you fall in love?

Mrs. Vis: Oh, this is perfect timing actually, because DIS knows about your Movember campaign. We were working at different schools in Guatemala and a coworker of mine, his wife, worked at the school where Steve worked. And he said, “Oh, I’m going to this gathering tonight with some other teachers.” I had not been in Guatemala very long, and I didn’t have very many friends. I was like, “Oh, great, this is a great opportunity to meet some new people.” Well, it turned out to be Mr. Vis’s End of Movember party, where all the guys got together, and they shaved off their mustaches at the end of the month. So when I first met him, he had this really horrible mustache. 

Mr.Vis: I’d say distinguished.

Mrs. Vis: And that first time we met, we actually bonded a lot over baseball because I’m a very big baseball fan, and he was wearing a Boston Red Sox hoodie. I am not a Boston Red Sox fan. I’m an Atlanta Braves fan. I immediately went up to him and gave him a very hard time about the fact that he was wearing a Boston Red Sox hoodie. That was kind of one of our first conversations.  

Mr. Vis: It then moved pretty fast because she was going to leave Guatemala to go to another school. 

Mrs. Vis: I was going to move to Ecuador.

Mr. Vis: You were going to move where I had worked previously. Anyway, I begged her not to leave and she stayed. Then I proposed.  

Mrs. Vis: And here we are.

Mr. Vis: Well, the second time I proposed, when I had a ring, was at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. I said I chose that spot because Abraham Lincoln famously brought the North and the South together. I’m a northerner and she’s a Southerner.  

Mrs. Vis: And that is very indicative of his sense of humor.  

What is something special about your partner that DIS should know? 

Mr. Vis: I would say Katie is one of the best teachers that I’ve ever worked with. I’ve been in the uncomfortable position of being her supervisor sometimes. But what’s made it a lot easier is that she really is an absolutely amazing teacher with particular talents in literacy instruction. So that’s something people should know. She’s a really phenomenal mom and does a really great job of balancing. It’s really challenging sometimes balancing the professional work responsibilities and everything at home that we need to do with the girls. She’s a great cook. She loves to cook. My waistline is evidence of that.  

Mrs. Vis: I make healthy food!

Mr. Vis: You do make healthy food, I joke, I kid.

Mrs. Vis: Just blame that on me. 

Mrs. Vis: I would say two things. The kind of more serious professional one is that Steve is a very thoughtful decision-maker. In the years since he’s moved into an administrator role, I think a lot of times people don’t always see the amount of research and thought and time and care that goes into the decisions that he makes. He’s not impulsive, he’s a thinker, and he really thinks things through. That’s something that I think would be really good for people to know about him. The more fun fact; he’s a really good singer. He doesn’t like to sing by himself in front of people. He won’t do that. But in a group, he would. 

Mr. Vis: Thank you for that.  

Mrs. Vis: You’re welcome. I made sure that I mentioned you don’t want to do it on your own. But he is. He’s very talented in that regard. When he was a kid, he was part of a relatively well-known youth choir that traveled to other countries. He got to perform with Audrey Hepburn.

Mr. Vis: Now the Miami Marlins. But then the Florida Marlins. We sang the national anthem at their very first inaugural game as a team. I’d like everyone to know that we beat out Julio Iglesias and Gloria Estefan. I know, that doesn’t mean anything to you. That’s okay. That’s all right. It doesn’t matter. [Laughing]

So what is it like having two daughters?

The Vis family revisits their old spots in Old Town Riga, Latvia. They are reminded of fond memories of their time there. Photo courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Vis.

Mrs. Vis: It’s a lot of fun, but it’s also a lot of work. It’s kind of one of life’s greatest adventures, honestly. There are times when they’re just so funny and the things they say just have us in stitches. There are other times when you have to be the parent and do the, you know, “Now, now, please, we need kind words, gentle hands”, those kinds of things. But they’re great. They’re really different. The wild thing about having a second kid is once you have one, you think you know what parenting is like. When you have a second one, you realize that they can be so different. And our girls are very different personalities in the best ways possible. Sometimes when you have one kid, you just love your child so much, it’s hard to imagine that you have the capacity to love another little person that much. Once you have that second baby in your hands, you go, “Oh no, you can.” Your heart expands, and you just realize that these are just the two greatest little things that you’ll probably ever do.

Mr. Vis: I can’t say it any better than that. So I agree. I’m happy we had girls. I wanted girls.  I mean, boys are great, but we are difficult.

Mrs. Vis: Girls are difficult in their own way.

Mr. Vis: Yeah. I’m not looking forward to the teenage years. I’ll say that much.

If you could have any other career, what would it be and why?

Mr. Vis: On my harder days, I joke about how I wish I could just go stock shelves or hand out food samples at Costco. I guess more seriously than that, there was a period of time when I was thinking about landscape architecture as a career path. I like the outdoor aspect. I worked in landscaping for a number of years to pay the bills in high school and university. It’s creative and sort of has an impact that can last for a while. So maybe landscape architecture.

Mrs. Vis: The obvious answer is working in education. It turns out that is my ideal dream career. Before this, I had a career in public relations. That was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed the creative side of that field. I got to do a lot of writing in that job. I got to plan events. I really loved event planning and I got to work with some really fun people and go to some amazing events. That was a lot of fun. I can’t imagine ever leaving education because I’m just so happy in this field. I guess that has always been another field that has had a lot of interest for me.

What do you want to achieve this year, both professionally and personally?

Mr. Vis: I guess on a personal level, I’m always trying to maintain balance which can be really challenging in a school and maybe particularly in my position as an administrator. It can be really hard, especially in year one in a new place because there’s so much to learn. Professionally, my hope is that I’m able to be a part of continuing to build this school and specifically this elementary school forward in ways that are going to impact student learning and in ways that are going to make this a really great place to be for students and for teachers and for families. I hope to be a part of just continuing the good work that’s happening here at the school. 

Mrs. Vis: This year my professional goal has really been around looking at what literacy looks like in every subject area. I’ve been doing a lot of reading about that and doing a lot of training around that. I’m really trying to connect with people within our building, but also in other international schools to have conversations around that. I’m really trying to grow in that area. Personally, I think just exploring more of this part of the world. For me, Asia is largely unexplored and untraveled. I’m excited about some of the trips we have coming up and seeing new places and learning more about the cultures in this part of the world.

Where do you see yourselves in ten years?

Mrs. Vis: Still in education for sure. I don’t know. I think ten years from now, what I would like to be doing is still being a mom and watching our girls grow up and guiding them through high school. Also just doing more work with curriculum and curriculum design and working with other educators and other teachers. That’s the kind of work that I would like to be doing a lot more of ten years from now.

Mr. Vis: I see myself in education still, educational leadership in some capacity. Ten years from now Vivienne will be in her senior year of high school. I guess ten years from now, mentally we’ll be preparing to say goodbye to our oldest daughter as she heads off into whatever she’s going to do. That’s going to be a major transition year for us as well.

What are your hobbies?

Mrs. Vis: I love cooking, baking, and reading. Those are kind of my trifecta. I have dorm duty this weekend, so I’m going to do some holiday baking with the kids. Those are my big hobbies that I love a lot.

Mr. Vis: For someone who has done as many really quite remarkable and surprising things in his life as I have, I am very very boring when it comes to hobbies. So I work a lot. When I don’t have work responsibilities, the girls are in bed, I’m really happy to just sit down and put something on television. I enjoy the outdoors. Whenever I’m able to get out and hike, I do that. I have an interest in science in the natural world, if that can be considered a hobby. I am interested in fossils and geodes and how this world works. If an interest can be considered a hobby, then I suppose I would say that science and the natural world are hobbies of mine. But I also enjoy a good, mindless television show.

What inspired you to leave the US and do you see yourself staying abroad for the entirety of your careers?

Mrs. Vis: I got my master’s degree in teaching. The year was 2010 and the United States was really just recovering from a big economic crash. A lot of states, including the state where I’m from, Georgia, cut budgets, including education budgets. A lot of teachers were being laid off. As a first year teacher, I was competing for jobs with really experienced teachers. So the job market was really tough. It was hard to find a job. Somebody else that I had been in graduate school with had gotten a job working at a school overseas, and it was the first time that I had ever heard of the idea of an international school. It was a completely new idea to me. I said, “Oh, well, that sounds interesting.” You know, I was young. I was in my early 20s and I thought that could be a fun adventure. So I got online and started applying for jobs in random countries and I ended up at a school in Guatemala. It was the best thing that ever happened because I just had this great adventure ever since. I think for me, I do see myself staying overseas for the entirety of my career. Not only do I love the travel and seeing new places and experiencing different cultures, I just find that international schools are more advanced in terms of what they’re doing with education. The students in international schools are eager to learn and come from all over the world and have great backgrounds and stories. That’s also really an environment that I want my kids to be raised in and to go to school in as well. 

Mr. Vis: Well, first of all, I’m happy to hear that she plans to stay in international schools for the rest of her career, because that’s my plan as well.

Mrs. Vis:  So that works out. 

Mr. Vis: That works out nicely. I finished my undergrad in 2002, and I was an education major. I knew I had been planning to teach for quite some time as part of my undergrad. I spent a semester in Spain learning Spanish and I also went on a month-long program to Ecuador for a biology program. We went into the Amazon rainforest and to the Galápagos Islands. I really enjoyed those opportunities. My plan was I would finish my undergrad and I would go teach overseas for one year, and come back and work in public schools in the United States. I moved to Ecuador, where I had done that biology program, and I did go teach there for a year. I followed through on my plan. I returned to the United States. Within a pretty short period of time, I knew that I wasn’t very happy being back in the United States. I changed my plan and I found another job working in an international school. I moved to Bangkok, Thailand as my next move, and I’ve just not looked back. So it was not exactly the plan. The plan was to do it for a year, but it’s worked out really nicely. And yes, I’ll be doing this forever.

Mr. Vis, you brought Movember to this. So what inspired you to do this, and what inspired you to start this annual tradition before?

Mr. Vis proudly shows off his Movember horseshoe mustache. Photo courtesy of Mr. Vis.

Mr. Vis: I’ve been involved in Movember for I think something like 15 years now. Movember is a campaign that raises awareness around men’s health issues. I think it’s true that we men generally do not do a wonderful job of taking care of ourselves. We’re maybe somewhat more reluctant to discuss health concerns. I mean, I get that, but it can have significant consequences. My main reason for starting with Movember was that in high school, one of my closest friends died of testicular cancer. It was in our junior year of high school. He was diagnosed during our sophomore year, so he was really young. The issue was that he knew something wasn’t right, but because it was his testicles, he didn’t say anything, because you don’t talk about that. The problem was that by the time he did say something, the cancer had spread through his body, and it was too late. If he had said something, he almost definitely would be alive right now. Almost certainly. The treatment rate and the success rate of treatment for testicular cancer are extremely high. It’s one of the highest. That was my main impetus for getting involved in Movember, and it’s still a main reason I’m involved in it right now.  

What were the best places you’ve traveled? Why?

Mr. and Mrs. Vis take a stroll on the beach in Little Corn Island, Honduras in 2011. The waves crash behind them as the salty smell of the ocean drifts through the air. Photo courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Vis.

Mrs. Vis: That’s a really big question. We’ve been to a lot of places and every place is so different and unique and has so many different things to offer. I think my favorite family trip was to Iceland. Iceland was just spectacular. It just has so much to offer. We had snow, we had sun. The girls were hiking around the rims of volcanoes and there were waterfalls, glaciers, and geysers. It’s just such an otherworldly landscape and just so absolutely beautiful. We saw the northern lights. It’s a place that as a family, was great because you would get in the car every day, you would drive an hour, and the girls could be out running around outside the rest of the day. That was probably my favorite family trip that we’ve done so far. Another place I really love is New Zealand, that’s where we got married. We eloped there. We spent two weeks in our rental car just driving around the South Island. That’s another place that’s just so beautiful and has so many different landscapes. The people there were so warm and welcoming and friendly as well. So New Zealand is a really special place to us. There are so many places I love. I love Rome because the food’s amazing and the history is amazing, and I love Barcelona because of the architecture. It’s so hard to choose favorites. I love so many places for so many different reasons, but those are some of my highlights.

Mr. Vis: Probably my favorite destinations have been some of the outdoor opportunities where I’ve been able to just explore some really beautiful and unique locations on the planet. I traveled the length of the Amazon River by boat. It took over a month. The Galápagos Islands were an amazing opportunity. Madagascar has a huge percentage of endemic species, 90-something. I forget what the percentage is. Being able to explore Madagascar was amazing. Camping in the Sahara desert and watching the stars, Iceland and the northern lights, diving on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, these sorts of things I’ve been really fortunate to have done. I’ve been really fortunate that I’ve been able to go on so many trips, that for some people, they get to do maybe one of them, and it’s like the thing that they’ve done in their life that is like that amazing trip they’ve done. I’ve just done hundreds of them. It’s been great. And I’m 44. I’m maybe about halfway through? So there’s a lot more time to go explore, which is great.

You lived in Latvia and Madagascar before Korea. What is something everyone should know about each of these countries and what is your favorite memory from each?

Mr. and Mr. Vis reminisce about the beautiful scenery at the Alley of the Baobabs in Madagascar in 2014. They are surrounded by local wildlife as the sun sets over the horizon. Photo courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Vis.

Mrs. Vis: Latvia is incredibly beautiful. It is a place where people really value nature and being outdoors. It’s like you imagine kind of a European town square. It’s not overrun with tourists yet because it’s a place that’s a little bit off people’s radar still. It shouldn’t be so far off people’s radar because it’s really charming and beautiful. So a favorite moment from there? Oh, there’s this. So it’s outside of the capital, Riga, and again, just a beautiful, beautiful city, old buildings, cobblestone streets. Just really beautiful. But there’s a place about an hour and a half away called Sigulda. And it has this beautiful national park that it’s in the middle of. And in the fall, all the leaves turn and we went up there. This is when we just had one daughter, Vivienne, when she was maybe two and a half. We rented a little cabin out in the middle of the forest there, and spent several days there, just hiking and running and jumping through the leaves. And at night we’d come back to this little cabin, and it was attached to this bed and breakfast. The owner would make these dinners. Every night they would deliver this picnic basket that was full of this amazing meal and desserts. We would sit there, and we would have this homemade dinner in this cozy cottage. That’s a really great highlight for me of our time in Latvia. It just so represents what Latvians value – being out in nature and being out in the forest. They really try and have tried to protect a lot of their forest. So that’s a highlight for me, I think.

Mr. Vis: One thing to know about Latvia is that they put dill in everything. I mean really it’s remarkable. So that’s one thing to know about Latvia. Latvia has had a really hard history. It’s been overrun multiple times from both the East and the West, largely Russia and Germany. They are a tough little country and they’re proud. And they should be.

Mrs. Vis: They’re resilient.

Mr. Vis: They are resilient. And Latvian people have a hesitance to open up quickly to people. So that’s another thing to know about Latvians. It takes time to build trust, probably more time to build trust there with people than anywhere else I’ve lived. But it’s also true that once you’re in, you’re really in. And after having been there for five years, I feel fairly confident that I have Latvian colleagues and friends that forever, for the rest of my life, if I ever needed anything, they would be there for me. That would not have been true in the first probably one, two, maybe three years that I was there. So it took a little bit of time to get there. But that’s another thing to know about Latvia. They’re genuine. Latvian people are genuine. They do not suffer fools. They will not just accept anybody for any reason. You need to earn it.

What are your final words for DIS or the Jets Flyover?

Mrs. Vis: I would say that well, first of all, thank you to the whole community. We’ve been so unbelievably, warmly welcomed. The community has made us feel welcome and made our children feel welcome. You know, we’re just a few months into our time here, but so far, we’re really enjoying it. We’re just so impressed with the students at this school. The teachers at the school are fantastic. Some of the best as a group that I think I’ve ever worked with. So just thank you for welcoming us and making us feel at home in this new place. We’re just so happy to be here.

Mr. Vis: I might speak to our high school students, in particular to our grade 11–12 students who are about to go out into the world. I entered education as a pathway to try and make this world a better place. And I think there continues to be a deficit of kindness and compassion and acceptance. My hope is that the remarkably capable students at this school are able to go out and not only be successful and happy but also find ways to make the world better.

The duo’s riveting backstory takes us through quite the journey. Their worldly experiences and lifelong adventures serve as an inspiration to become global citizens. The DIS community looks forward to working with the Vis family for years to come. 

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About the Contributor
Eugene Sung
Eugene Sung, Writer
Caffeine addict Eugene Sung rejoins the Jets Flyover team as a writer in his junior year at Daegu International School. His short attention span and passion for exploration means he ventures around Daegu often to visit local cafes and see the sights. His love for traveling inspires most of his writing, as he often journals about his experiences. He hopes to bring this curious spirit to the Flyover as a writer to take interesting pictures, meet new people, and discover captivating locations.

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Comments (3)

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  • J

    Joseph BeckFeb 22, 2024 at 6:31 pm

    Welcome to DIS Mr.Vis and Mrs.Vis!

  • S

    SolaJan 19, 2024 at 11:36 am

    Welcome to DIS!!!!!

  • D

    Daniel. kimJan 18, 2024 at 6:27 pm

    WOW. It was nice knowing about Mr. and Mrs. Vis.