Any visitor to Cambodia will quickly conclude that Cambodians are resilient. The complex and turbulent nature of Cambodia’s recent past creates a delicate situation as the country learns how to deal with the present. This, along with the wild jungles and interesting scenery, makes Cambodia a unique and exotic destination that can satisfy any study abroad students curiosity.
Cambodia has a vast history and amazingly friendly culture that one will come to embrace and love. One will find that many programs for Cambodia combine two or more South East Asian countries or cities. It is highly recommended to find a program with a built in support system. This will allow a student to broaden his or her culture experience while still having the security to know that there is a safety net, just in case there are hurdles along the way.
It is hard to contemplate that a land with such beautifully enchanted monuments can bring you to tears of joy. At the same time, this land can also bring you to tears of heartache by bearing witness to the results of genocide, with pyramids of skulls stacked on top of one another in killing fields where innocent bodies still lay. Nonetheless, the resilience of the Cambodian people allow them to push and move further. Cambodia still moves forward with both their dignity and a warm embracing smile that will lighten up even the darkest of situations.
Phnom Penh, the capitol city of Cambodia, is not only the most developed city in regards to western standards, but it holds the most smiles with well over 1 million people living there. This city houses the national museum, grand palace Tuol Sleng Museum and several other national and historic sites.
Siem Reap offers a variety of benefits, one of them being that it’s the gate way to an old ancient civilian that is known as Angkor Wat. There are several ways into Angkor Wat but none as impressive as Ankor Thom, which is a spectacular bridge leading into Angkor Wat. This is anything but the average bridge - words cannot do Ankor Thom justice. Siem Reap also is home to major universities such as Angkor University and University of South East Asia.
Planning Your Trip
Cambodia is a world away from the United States way of life. The standard of living is dramatically different and will take some getting used to. Go into studying abroad with an open mind and be flexible. One should at least have the desire to learn the language. Even though many major universities do offer English courses, still take it upon yourself to learn the language.
Student life is very much different than in the USA with many universities not providing student housing or the typical university student life.
There are a few programs that combine culture and historical excursions while studying abroad. Here are some great places to be your quest for the perfect study abroad program: for Siem Reap and Phnom Penh check out CIEE summer program or check out the section on this Go Overseas page for student reviews on top programs.
In regards to obtaining a visa for extended stay in Cambodia, it is best to refer to this website. Also, contact a study abroad counselor or host university to get detailed information on obtaining a student visa. Penalties can be harsh and an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
When traveling to Cambodia it is best keep a few things in mind:
- Make sure that you understand that Cambodia is still a developing Asian nation, error on the side of caution when faced with unfamiliar situations
- Bring water with you when traveling as it does tend to be extremely humid
- With humidity comes flying blood suckers so mosquito repellent is strongly recommended when outdoors or traveling into jungles
- Malaria is still prevalent in this part of the world
Here are a few more tips that you should consider when meeting and greeting people:
- Always take off your shoes when entering in someone’s home
- The head is considered the highest point and the feet the lowest, so never kick someone, point with your feet nor step over someone
- When greeting someone, place the palms of your hands together and raise hands to your head. Then nod with head forward slightly
Though it is typically safe in most areas, it is best to travel with a buddy system in place if you have the opportunity to do so. This is not because it is dangerous, but because you will find English spoken in very few places outside of major cities or popular tourist areas. Being lost is not fun, let alone being lost on the other side of the world where only a handful of people speak your language, literally.
On the mere surface Cambodia is a third world country just looking to make its day view on the global scene as a prominent, proud, and strong nation. Though this may be true, it is also a nation learning to deal with its recent devastating past.
Nonetheless, the fight of the Khmer people is strong and their love for life is witnessed in their enjoyment for the simpler things such as family, faith and the present. Studying abroad in Cambodia will definitely give you an appreciation for these things by learning about the triumphs, downfall and huddles they must learn to overcome.