Posted: February 13, 2017

SFS students in programs around the world have arrived, and as they begin to settle into their new homes, we asked them to give some first impressions of the program. Sandra Plato had this to say about her experience in Cambodia so far:

Why did you choose to study abroad with SFS?
I honestly had the hardest time deciding where to study abroad. I want to travel as much as I can! It was hard for me to limit myself to one choice. My professor suggested this program since I did well in his Environmental Ethics class. I looked into it and the program seemed really great. Best of all, we get to travel to many places in Cambodia and Vietnam!

I love the whole Lumineers album but I really took these lyrics to heart: “Cause if we don’t leave this town, We might never make it out, I was not born to drown, Baby come on”. SFS to me was saying “Come on an adventure!” If not now, when?

What are your first impressions of the country?
I think I expected more wilderness, but the city we are in is extremely developed. The land we drove through to get to the parks was full of loggers and brick makers. It was unanticipated but definitely a learning experience. We are not here to be comfortable or to have everything catered to our needs. We are here to learn about this country, the issues Cambodia faces and hopefully we can make a difference to work toward a better future for the Cambodians and their environment.

The traffic is crazy but I love it. Overall, the people here are extremely friendly. I think I will be best friends with the kitchen staff by the end of the semester.


SFS Cambodia students! All photos courtesy of Peter Wedell

What are your first impressions of the field station?
One word. Pool. But in all seriousness, our dorms and classrooms are amazing. I love how open everything is. The kitchen area is a great combination of being indoors and outdoors simultaneously. If one thing influences your choice to come to Cambodia it would be the lounge area. It has got to be the coolest room ever.

What do you think the biggest challenge will be for you this semester both academically and culturally?
I’m worried that academically it will be hard to balance schoolwork with our full schedules. Those of you who are used to the two or three hours of class a day at college, prepare yourself for much less free time. I love all the activities we do together as a group. However, it leaves less free time for homework.

Culturally, I haven’t really faced any great challenges yet. I had to accept the fact that I couldn’t wear shorts in public here but that’s totally fine because I love wearing dresses.

What are you looking forward to the most about the semester?
I’m really excited to gain all this knowledge our professors have to offer. Although I am a little worried about handling all the schoolwork, I am extremely excited to become the more knowledgeable person I will be by the end of this semester. On a side note I can’t wait to go to Vietnam and drink coffee with sweetened condensed milk.


Students on the trail in Kbal Spean, observing insects

Give three words that best describe how you are feeling right now.
Grateful, excited, bold


Students in front of Angkor Wat temple complex


Students exploring Angkor Wat

→ Conservation, Ethics, and Environmental Change in Cambodia