Spring semester is drawing to a close and the students have just submitted their Directed Research (DR) papers. Three months have now passed since they arrived and trod the hallowed ground at Angkor Wat. Many classroom hours, field trips, and guest speakers later, the adventure is drawing to a close. With the hectic schedule of DR, presentations and community presentations, the long trip around Cambodia and Vietnam, just one month past, now seems a distant memory.
All of the experiences in the past three months brought the students into contact with SFS partners and community members. The community presentations at the end of the semester are the opportunity for these people to see the work that the students have done and also an opportunity for the students to meet these people one last time.
Our community of stakeholders here, as at other SFS Centers, are local people, government officials, and representatives from other non-governmental organizations. We are fortunate to be engaged with people that are working on a wide range of issues from fishers, government agencies and social development groups looking at biodiversity and policy on the great lake of Tonle Sap, to conservationists at a butterfly center that promotes alternative livelihoods through butterfly farming.
Our students have had a myriad of contacts and experiences across the spectrum of environment, conservation, and cultural issues. These vary from a visit to the local municipality’s waste dump, to walking in the forest and looking at livelihoods on Mount Kulen, to seeing the mélange of large water birds nesting and residing at Prek Toal on the Tonle Sap Lake, probably the single most important breeding ground in Southeast Asia for many of endangered species of large water birds. Culturally, students also experienced two New Year celebrations: Chinese New Year and Khmer New Year. The community evening is a time to reflect and relive some of those moments spent in close companionship of fellow students the new friends made along the way.