As the Summer 2019 SFS students began to settle into their new homes around the world, we asked them to share their impressions of the experience so far. Paul Ruback had this to say about SFS Cambodia:

Why did you choose to study abroad with SFS?
My biology professor told me she thought I would be a great fit for a study abroad like SFS because of my adventurous spirit. When I did more research, I felt like the Cambodia conservation program was made for me; the course topic and life abroad seemed like exactly what I wanted to challenge myself to. If that wasn’t enough, in my bucket list of travel destinations, Cambodia was the very first country I wrote down. I’m not sure where the yearning to live in Cambodia came from, but this and the curriculum made me think SFS was the perfect program for me.

What are your first impressions of the country?
I noticed almost immediately how warm and kind hearted the people here are. Whether in town or at the center, I feel like the Cambodian people want to genuinely be helpful and interact with me. Besides that, the street vendors and tuk-tuks give Siem Reap so much character.


Photo courtesy of Kiri Brenner

What are your first impressions of the Center?
I arrived late at night to the Center, and even then, I remember thinking of how beautiful it was. Once the morning arrived, I was blown away with all the amenities even the landscaping.

What do you think the biggest challenge will be for you this semester, both academically and culturally?
Academically, I know that our schedule here is packed. Between travel, lecture, and activities, I think it might be difficult to allocate a suitable amount of time to my school work. Culturally, the conservative nature of Cambodia will be a hurdle for me, similar to my time studying in China.

What are you looking forward to the most about the program?
Getting closer to the friends I’ve already made here is something I’m most excited about. Before my flight from JFK to Guangzhou took off, the girl behind me tapped on my shoulder and asked if I was with SFS. We then spent the next 15-hours watching our favorite movies, napping on each other’s shoulders, and getting as many snacks from the attendants as we could. Of course, our seats weren’t originally together, but we were talking across the aisle so much, a man in front of me offered to trade seats. We’ve been inseparable since that flight and I can’t wait to see how much that friendship grows even more.

Give three words that best describe how you are feeling right now.
Excited, Hopeful, Content


→ Elephants of the Cambodian Highlands in Cambodia