SUMMER 2021 PROGRAM UPDATE: This program, typically offered during the Summer I session, will be offered during the Summer II session for Summer 2021 – see updated dates in the At A Glance box. This program will resume being offered during the Summer I session in 2022. Check out a list of other Summer I programs here.
Due to the ongoing pandemic, the program itinerary and details that you find outlined on this page may shift to accommodate enhanced safety measures, park closures, and thoughtful community interaction. This may include but is not limited to the field sites visited, guest lectures, community visits, and other program activities. We will communicate pre-program changes with students and are available to answer any specific questions regarding this program. You can read more about how SFS is addressing COVID-19 on our programs here.
Meet the gentle giants of Mondulkiri. Spend your summer in the lush Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary, studying the behavior and ecology of the endangered Asian elephant. Examine human-wildlife conflict and conservation pressures and discuss elephant welfare and management practices. Visit the vibrant city of Phnom Penh and the ancient temples of Angkor to explore the history and culture of Cambodia.
Stay at the Elephant Valley Project in the forested Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary to observe Asian elephants from meters away as they forage, bathe, and interact with each other in a protected setting
Program Costs & Financial Aid
Meet Your Admissions Counselor
SFS provides a comprehensive study abroad experience during a 6-day/week program schedule. SFS delivers the highest level of support and an unparalleled academic experience.
All students are welcome to apply for our need-based financial aid. Students who exhibit financial need for their program will be offered SFS financial aid. SFS aid is offered through a combination of scholarships, grants and loans.
Pell Grant Match
SFS matches Federal Pell Grant funding for students applying to an SFS semester program.
Many SFS students receive aid through their home institutions or other outside sources, so check with your financial aid office to see what aid may apply to an SFS program.
Amy was raised in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. She joined the SFS team after graduating in 2010 from Boston University with a degree in environmental analysis and policy. Her life-long passion for the environment and exploration was piqued by her own personal experience with SFS while participating in the Summer 2009 Session in Kenya, where she and her fellow classmates studied the national parks near Nairobi and Lake Nakuru and their relationship with the surrounding communities. Her study abroad experience enriched her passion and interest in the environment and society’s role in its conservation, and she is excited to help students benefit in the same way.
Itinerary varies from term to term and is subject to change. Program activities take place 6 days a week with one day free.
Week 1: Welcome to Cambodia! Meet classmates and SFS staff and attend program orientation in Siem Reap. Start classes with lectures on the history of Cambodia, Khmer language, and elephant evolution. Field excursion to the Angkor temples. Free day in Siem Reap. Head east to the Mondulkiri highlands where you’ll spend the next three weeks.
Week 2: Settle in at the Elephant Valley Project (EVP) and meet the elephants. Lectures on keystone species, ecological engineers, and elephant welfare, social behavior, and communication. Field exercises (direct and indirect) with the elephants. Workshop on grant proposal writing.
Week 3: Spend the week at the Indigenous Peoples Lodge in Sen Monorom. Learn about the livelihoods of the Indigenous Bunong people and the traditional role of elephants. Lectures on conservation threats and strategies. Guest lecture from Wildlife Conservation Society. Camera trap exercises and debate. Return to EVP for guest lectures on veterinary practices with captive elephants. Conduct exercises on body condition scoring, therapeutic techniques, and diseases.
Week 4: Farewell to the elephants. Travel to Phnom Penh. Visit Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center to experience caring for elephants in captivity. Learn about Cambodian culture and history through visits to the Royal Palace, National Museum, and S21. Discuss the future of elephant conservation and present grant proposals. Re-entry exercises and closing activities. Head home.
This academically rigorous program follows a six-day/week schedule. The interdisciplinary curriculum is designed to help students actively discover and understand the complexities of environmental, social, and economic issues in Cambodia.
Major academic themes include:
Asian elephant ecology and conservation
Cambodia’s highland ecosystems
Traditional culture of the Bunong people
Human-elephant interaction and conflicts
Wildlife management policies
Elephant health and welfare
On the Elephants of the Cambodian Highlands program, you will take one 4-credit course. This course is participatory in nature and is designed to foster inquiry and active learning combining lectures, field exercises, assignments, and tests. This course is taught in English.
Click on each course to view a description and download the syllabus
Ecology and Conservation of Southeast Asian Elephants
SFS 3111 Ecology and Conservation of Southeast Asian Elephants (4 credits)
This special topics course focuses on the ecology and conservation of the Asian elephant and the habitats in Cambodia where extant populations live. Students spend several weeks observing semi-captive elephants and visit regions frequented by wild elephants. Elephant welfare and management practices will be examined and the livelihoods of people affected, both positively and negatively, by elephants will be explored. In addition to the work with elephants, students will visit the World Heritage site of Angkor and the capital city of Phnom Penh.
You will gain practical skills in the field such as: behavioral observations of social interactions, foraging, and welfare of elephants, distance sampling, line-transect surveys, basic Khmer language, data collection techniques, mock debating, grant proposal writing, and oral presentation skills.
You will visit different ecosystems and communities, which may include a forested elephant sanctuary, the ancient temple complex of Angkor, lush evergreen and mixed deciduous forests, historical and cultural sites in Phnom Penh, and Indigenous Bunong communities.
The home base for this program is in the heart of the Mondulkiri highlands set on the slopes of the Elephant Valley. Watch the sunset over the forest and fall asleep to the sounds of gibbons and other nocturnal creatures. The valley provides great bird watching – from eagles to hornbills. Spend a portion of the program at the SFS Center in Siem Reap, our most urban location, located near the famed temples of Angkor.
Dorm living with 4-person bunkrooms
Lounge and study areas
The forest is at your doorstep
Open-air dining and kitchen area, Bunong chefs
Click on the icons below to learn more about our Center in Cambodia.