First Impressions of SFS Cambodia

Posted: February 11, 2016

Why did you choose to study abroad with SFS?
I chose to study abroad with SFS because I wanted a study abroad experience that differed from the classic college idea of “abroad.” Europe always sounded great, but Europe wasn’t going to offer me an experience that would challenge me in the ways a field-based learning program in a drastically different culture would. I knew SFS would give me the valuable research skills I need for a future in my major while also immersing me in the beautiful and exciting Khmer culture – this was the program for me.

What are your first impressions of the country?
I’ve only been here for four days but my first impressions have been strong. The landscape of Siem Reap is as intriguing as it is shocking. It’s a bustling urban city but the dirt roads and buildings come at a surprise at first since it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen in an American city. The people we’ve met are friendly and incredibly patient with us as we practice our Khmer with them. It’s beautiful and busy and operates with a rhythm that I’m so excited to pick up on.

What are your first impressions of the field station?
Honestly, I can’t believe that we get to stay here. If the open air dining area on the roof isn’t reason enough as to why the field station is amazing, the incredible staff, delicious food, spacious rooms, and adorable resident pets should convince you.

What do you think the biggest challenge will be for you this semester both academically and culturally?
I think confidence will be my biggest challenge both culturally and academically. A lot of our field work will be interviews with villagers and monks and I’ve always struggled with intimate interactions with people I don’t know – especially if there’s a language barrier. I’ll have to work very hard this semester in order to get over that hurdle and make the most of the amazing opportunity we have in interviewing locals. Culturally it will be the same. I want to practice my Khmer as much as possible but I’m always worried I’ll say something incorrectly, and I need to realize that I’ll gain nothing if I don’t get over that fear.

What are you looking forward to the most about the semester?
Putting that confidence fear aside that I just mentioned, I’m really looking forward to learning Khmer! I also really can’t wait for our monthlong trip around Cambodia and Vietnam and for the opportunity to see more of the country that we’re calling home for these three months.

Give three words that best describe how you are feeling right now.
Stimulated. Captivated. Happy.

→ River Ecosystems & Environmental Ethics Semester Program in Cambodia