First Impressions of Cambodia

Posted: September 10, 2018

As the Fall 2018 SFS students begin to settle into their new homes around the world, we asked them to share their impressions of the experience so far. Makenna Hutchinson had this to say about SFS Cambodia:

Why did you choose to study abroad with SFS?
The most attractive thing about SFS programs is that they don’t take place in a traditional university setting. I have always been a hands-on learner, and I value the experiences and knowledge that can be gained from getting into the nitty-gritty of what I’m studying. All of the SFS programs sounded incredible to me, but I ultimately chose the Cambodia program based on its focus around conservation and development, which is what I want to study more in my career.

 

Photo courtesy of Arden Simone

 
What are your first impressions of the country?
Though I knew that Siem Reap is an urban area, I was surprised to see such a lively and bright city for our first night in town. I have seen far more tourists than I expected to see in Cambodia, so I am eager to venture into rural areas to gain a more unique perspective of the country. We have also encountered some very sweet people so far; the local Khmer people offer warm welcomes everywhere we go.

What are your first impressions of the Center?
The center is absolutely beautiful. I am a giant fan of the open-air concept in the residential building and dining area. And the brand new classroom building is incredible! Getting to know my peers was a breeze because everyone is so friendly and excited to be here. The food is also incredible, and I haven’t gone hungry once since I arrived – huge props to our cooks! It was easy to settle in … although I’m not used to sharing a space with so many geckos.

 

Photo courtesy of Arden Simone

 
What do you think the biggest challenge will be for you this semester, both academically and culturally?
Academically, I think my biggest challenge will be balancing classwork with all our trips, activities, and my personal down time. Knowing that SFS is a rigorous program ahead of time helped me prepare for a challenging semester, but it’s easy to allow time to get away when you’re still getting to know new friends and itching to see an entire country. The biggest cultural challenge will probably be remembering to be mindful of different cultural norms because they’re so different from those in the U.S. For example, Cambodians will very rarely make eye contact with others, even during one-on-one conversations, but in the States it’s polite to make eye contact when addressing someone.

What are you looking forward to the most about the semester?
I think I’m most excited to go on our longer trips to the northern and southern parts of Cambodia. I love time at the Center, but those weeks traveling will make me feel even more immersed in Cambodian culture. I’m also happy to be learning some of the Khmer language!

Give three words that best describe how you are feeling right now.
Exhilarated, curious, exhausted.

 

Photo courtesy of Arden Simone

 

Photo courtesy of Arden Simone

 

Photo courtesy of Arden Simone

 

Photo courtesy of Arden Simone

 
→ Conservation and Development Studies in Cambodia