SFS Cambodia: Conservation, Ethics, and Environmental Change (Semester)

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From the ancient temples of Angkor to the floating villages of the great Tonle Sap Lake, you will learn about threats to biodiversity, environmental governance, and the ways in which conservation efforts and community livelihoods are intertwined. Traveling extensively, you will spend time in the elephant-inhabited forests of Mondulkiri, the mountain and coastal ecosystems of Kampot, the Vietnamese Mekong Delta, and at key sites along the Mekong River.

SFS students live and study at the Center for Conservation and Development Studies – our most urban Center – which lies on the outskirts of Siem Reap, near the famed temples of Angkor. Campus is a breezy, modern complex nestled in a quiet neighborhood minutes away from the bustling downtown area where you will find restaurants, shops, and markets with unique Cambodian flair.

  • Spend the night in a floating village on the Tonle Sap Lake and speak with villagers about climate-related livelihood challenges and adaptation strategies.
  • Visit the Mondulkiri highlands to study elephant conservation and learn about the changes and challenges to the indigenous Bunong peoples’ traditional lifestyles.
  • Explore neighboring Vietnam: Visit the Can Tho floating markets, Ho Chi Minh city, and the Tra Su flooded mangrove forests.
  • Develop field skills including: Species identification and wildlife monitoring, Khmer language, conservation grant writing, research design, data collection, scientific writing and presentation
  • Conduct research in some of the following areas: Elephant ecology, climate change impacts, traditional ecological knowledge, biodiversity conservation, environmental justice, environmental anthropology

Questions & Answers


based on 4 reviews
  • Academics 8
  • Support 9
  • Fun 9
  • Housing 9
  • Safety 9.3
Showing 1 - 4 of 4
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Studying in The Kingdom of Cambodia

I had a wonderful experience with SFS. The Field Center is beautiful and was a great place to live and study. Since everyone lives and works in close proximity we became very close. Sometimes spending so much time with such a small group was a bit tough, but it was also comforting to have such a tight-knit community while being far away from home. It is also exciting to have friends from all over the country and internationally. All of the professors and staff are welcoming, which made for an easy transition. Meals were made by SFS cooks and the food was delicious (I still have dreams about the curry)! They were also very accommodating if you have particular dietary needs. The center is also very close to downtown Siem Reap. You can easily Tuk Tuk to restaurants or markets if you need a change of scenery. There are also many attractions around Siem Reap, such as Angkor Wat and The Cambodian Circus. These are fun options to check out on days off.

The program is very structured and there is a pretty detailed schedule. Between classes, homework, social activities, and field trips the semester is jam-packed, so free time is limited. The classes, particularly the directed research class, are fast-paced and require hard work. However, I learned so much through my classes and had a very enriching experience. The field trips and community engagement activities throughout the program gave me the opportunity to speak with local community members and learn about their experiences. This shifted my perspective on environmental issues and will continue to impact the environmental decisions that I make in the future. Through my directed research I gained invaluable field experience, which has prepared me to tackle my senior capstone this coming year and any future research opportunities. The cross-Cambodia and Southern Vietnam trips were some of my favorite parts of the semester. Cambodia and Vietnam are beautiful countries with rich cultures. It was eye-opening to learn about the different aspects of Cambodian and Vietnamese history and traditions. Visiting different ecosystems, landmarks, and communities in the region was also an amazing way to apply the classroom teachings. While studying in Cambodia I grew both personally and academically and cannot believe how many memories I made this past semester. Even though I just completed the program 3 months ago I am already becoming nostalgic and looking back on this program with fondness.

How can this program be improved?
At times I was overwhelmed with school and felt like I was in an SFS bubble. I wish that there was more free time throughout the semester to interact with people in the community and to decompress. Some of the assignments were badly timed (i.e. while traveling). During these times it was difficult to participate in activities and take in experiences, while being stressed about completing a large assignment or studying. In addition, I wish that there could have been a longer home stay. I think this would have helped me to learn even more about the culture.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Amazing experience

My experience on the Conservation, Ethics, and Environmental change program through SFS was life changing. I went into the program with little knowledge of environmental ethics and conservation biology, but I came out of the program with a passion for environmental ethics and a more open mind. The professors on the program are all experts in their fields and have methods of teaching that ensure a full understanding of all material by the end of the semester. I never felt overwhelmed by the amount of course work because the professors were always available to offer assistance and all of the course work was genuinely intriguing. The directed research portion of the program offered a chance to focus the skills we learned during the semester on a specific topic that interested us. The research experience prepared me for the real world and for a career in environmental research more than any experience I have had at my home school. The setting of the Siem Reap center is very intimate. You live, eat, study, socialize, and learn with the same exact people the entire semester, and while this had definitely offered some challenges, we were a family by the end of the semester. I deeply valued my time with the other students and we are planning on having a group reunion in the near future! The housing arrangement was more than I could have asked for. There is enough space available for independent studying or if you just need an escape, but the center is enclosed so you always feel safe to roam around. The food prepared by the kitchen was amazing and the center staff are friendly and engaging. Being located in the city of Siem Reap offered many advantages. As students, we were able to go into the city to study in local coffee shops and explore the nightlife (all while being a 10 minute tuk tuk ride from the SFS center). I am incredibly happy with my choice in this program and would highly recommend it to anyone who is willing to step out of their comfort zone and immerse themselves in the Khmer culture. I will value the experience for the rest of my life.

Yes, I recommend this program
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So.. when can I move to Cambodia?

Having the experience to study abroad in Cambodia was the best thing I have ever done. This program is so unique in that it allows you to immerse yourself in a new culture, as it is part of your everyday curriculum. Whether that mean you get breakfast on a floating market to talk to vendors about effects of climate change or sit with monks in Angkor Wat to discuss tourist behavior, the SFS program allows you to deepen your understanding of relevant issues as well as learn more about a new culture. The professors on this program understand what it means to be global citizens and they show all facets of work that are done throughout Cambodia and the world. This experience really opened my eyes to what I can go on to do in the future, which is not something I even expected out of it. I came away from four months in Cambodia with a broadened view and better tools to tackle my next journey (which may be interning at an elephant sanctuary in Cambodia). This program gave me lifelong friends and experiences that I will simply never forget. Also, who doesn't love home cooked curry every night.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Cambodia 2017

I was in Cambodia in the spring semester of 2017. I escaped the cold and icy weather of Virginia and was welcomed by the tropical weather of Cambodia. Local people were as warm and welcoming as the weather. I am a Math and Environmental Science double major and I wasn't sure what career field I wanted to pursue after graduating from Hollins University. The classes in Cambodia were designed to help us interact with the local communities and understand the environmental issues faced by the community members. By visiting the community forests, mangrove forests, interviewing the INGOs, NGOs and local guides, I become more aware and exposed to the environmental challenges faced by Cambodia. Along with the educational aspect, I was really impressed by the cultural norms and practices of local people. I am originally from Nepal and some of the cultural and traditional practices were similar to Nepali culture, which I found really intriguing. My time in Cambodia allowed me to reflect the similarities and differences between my culture and the culture I was living in Cambodia. I had an amazing time in Cambodia and I am grateful to SFS, Hollins University and everyone I met on this journey.

Yes, I recommend this program

About The School for Field Studies (SFS)

The School for Field Studies (SFS) offers field-based programs that revolve around environmental studies and research. The programs involve exploration of the human and ecological aspects of issues having to do with the local environments. Students...