By: Heidi Hertler, PhD

Posted: February 10, 2015
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Staff Post

First Impressions of SFS Cambodia


Why did you choose to study abroad with SFS?
The School for Field Studies has appealed to me for many reasons since I began my undergraduate career. I was in search of a study abroad program which would provide rigorous academics equivalent to that of my home institution, along with a combination of culture, language, and general exploration. SFS takes students out of the classroom and into the field for high quality environmental and social observations of the countries and cities in which students reside for only a short three months. Coupled with unique destinations like here in Cambodia and Vietnam, this balance of desirable study abroad aspects gives SFS students the opportunity to learn about and contribute to both local communities and their home universities upon return from this experience.

What are you first impressions of the country?
The country’s physical and cultural beauty is almost overwhelming, and Cambodia is such an inspiring place, as are the Khmer people, who have proved to be resilient through decades of political struggle and warfare. The present is an important time of growth and development for Cambodia, and there seems to be an attitude of hopefulness that accompanies the people’s everyday friendliness. Experiencing the daily lives of the Khmer, as well as exploring the country’s dynamic past and the possibilities for the future, are all intriguing aspects of this program.

What are you first impressions of the field station?
The field station has quickly become “home” in this new place. We are fortunate enough to be living only a short tuk-tuk ride from the center of Siem Reap, where we have an ever-expanding collection of markets, restaurants, and overall culture to investigate during this semester. As it is just on the edge of all of the city’s bustle, the field station also provides quite the oasis for us as we prepare for and recover from our numerous field endeavors. Our field station is indeed the perfect “home base” for our travels, with destinations such as the ancient temples of Angkor, the Tonle Sap Lake, and countless others so nearby. The open air roof-top dining and lounge area has become my favorite area of the field station, and I think we all enjoy the views and sounds of the neighborhood around us, from the chants of Buddhist monks at the nearby temples to the company of tiny geckos and chattering birds on the roof.

What do you think the biggest challenge will be for you this semester both academically and culturally?
I think the greatest challenge will be finding a balance between cultural experiences and academics. While many of our cultural excursions are actually academic field trips, I expect that staying academically focused while surrounded by all the beautiful markets and historical sites will be a little challenging.

What are you looking forward to the most about the semester?
I am very excited for the Directed Research portion of the semester. Opportunities for field research are so valuable to undergraduate students, and the topics we will be able to explore are so unique! I am eager to get started with data collection and interviews, and to work so closely with our outstanding faculty.

Give three words that best describe how you are feeling right now.
Intrigued, wonderstruck, and jet-lagged.

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