Summer High School Programs in Cambodia with Rustic Pathways

Video and Photos

Green of a Temple
Green of a Temple
Our Boat as a Playground
Our Boat as a Playground
Temples of Angkor City
Temples of Angkor City
watching elephants at the Elephant Valley Project
watching elephants at the Elephant Valley Project
Sunset from the Floating Villages of Prek Toal
Sunset from the Floating Villages of Prek Toal

About

Cambodia is a country with a painful past and a hopeful future. Rustic Pathways has partnered with social enterprises and local community development organizations since 1999 to help students gain a deep understanding of the beautiful, complex realities of Cambodia. Our staff members are skilled at teaching while keeping it fun, and students often leave with a changed perspective on their own lives.

The ancient temples of Angkor Wat are jaw-dropping, the rural countryside shimmers with brilliant green rice fields, and the incredibly friendly locals are eager to show you around. Amongst the beauty, you’ll also be exposed to the pressing social and economic issues facing the country. The contrast can be shocking, but it can also be positively transformational.

Scholarships

Rustic Pathways Scholarships
Rustic Pathways Scholarships and Financial Aid

Rustic Pathways is committed to making life-changing opportunities possible for students worldwide. We know how impactful our programs are, and continually strive to make them more accessible to all students.

Value
$1,000 - $5,000

Questions & Answers

Reviews

96%
based on 28 reviews
  • Impact 9.4
  • Support 9.8
  • Fun 9.7
  • Value 9.3
  • Safety 9.8
  • Growth 9.6
  • Support 9.8
  • Fun 9.2
  • Housing 8.6
  • Safety 9.4
Showing 1 - 15 of 28
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Gustavo
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A learning adventure.

This experience was unique for me because I challenged and learn many things, since the fact that it was my first time traveling alone for three days but I enjoyed every moment of the trip because I knew since the very first moment that it was a unique experience. Words are not enough to describe all the experience because it was simply magic, knowing young people like you from different backgrounds and realities comparing things and finding similarities creating understanding between us.
The places that we visited were very beautiful and full of story, sometimes these stories reflected a reality of the country that impacts yourself and makes you reflect.
In resume this experience is unforgettable and incomparable, places and friends.Gracias!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Enjoy and learn from each moment of the trip. Be you!
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Tajo
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Off the map Cambodia

This trip was an overall amazing experience that hit all aspects of Cambodia, we drove lots around the country. Destinations we went to were out of this world such as the country side, beach, and Angkor Wat! Something very important about this program is the amount of service incorporated in this program which made me feel that I made a strong difference in the communities we visited. I would suggest considering this as one of the top program Rustic Pathways has to offers students over the summer. Rustic Pathways made sure that the students on the trip felt safe and comfortable with possible comfort-zones being pushed. Without a doubt the staff on the program knew exactly what they were doing and made sure the trip went as smooth as possible.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
Cooked tarantula in my hand, I ended up eating it.
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Grace
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Rustic Pathways Critical Issues Summit

The time I spent in Cambodia and Thailand for the Critical Issues Summit was the best three weeks of my life. I never thought I'd meet such an amazing group of people and be able to actually make a difference in what we did on the trip. It was really enlightening learning about the problems that Southeastern Asian countries face, and to get to meet with NGOs and local governments and to be able to interview them was amazing. In the end, my group ended up winning $2,000 to continue our project that we started, which will hopefully help better the lives and economies of the floating villages of Cambodia. Overall, I couldn't have ever asked for a better trip, and the memories and friends I made will stay with me forever. If asked, I wouldn't change a thing about my experience with Rustic Pathways.

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
The most nerve-racking moment of the trip, for me, was hitting turbulence on some of the smaller planes we traveled on. I'm not a big fan of planes, so I got pretty scared. However, the people on my trip rallied around me, held my hands during the flights, and made sure I got through it. That, to me, demonstrates what an amazing group of people I traveled with this summer and why I consider them some of my best friends I've ever made.
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Rachel
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

BEST TIME EVER

I had the best experience of my life in Cambodia this summer! I had the opportunity to visit Angkor Wat and the Tomb Raider Temple where trees grew in and around the temple! I was able to cross Angkor Wat off of my bucket list. To say it was fantastic would be an understatement. I had so so so much fun, and the best part is that I was able to be 100% myself. I never felt as if I was not included or able to be true to who I am. If you are a history buff, love photography, or are interested in trying new foods, Cambodia is definitely a place you should visit. I was challenged to discover the intricacies of another culture so different from my own. I want to study Anthropology in university and this experience was like dipping my feet in. 10/10 would recommend it!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Get ready for some intense heat! Temperatures reached up to 108 in the summer.
Default avatar
ainsley
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Off The Map Cambodia

As a rustic pathways alumnae, I was looking for a program that would challenge me more than my previous programs have. When searching for one, Off The Map Cambodia seemed the perfect fit. The website promised a service trip that would be full of adventure and impacting service activities. The program definitely met what expectations I had for my trip. I had an amazing experience that challenged me socially, intellectually, and physically. As always, I made some friends that I became closer with in three weeks than some of my best friends back home. The leaders were supportive, and the service experiences were amazing and inspiring. Whether we were in the village, at the elephant sanctuary, or in the floating village, both the local and american leaders supported all students through both emotional and physical struggles. Over all this was an amazing trip and I would recommend it to any student who is looking for a trip that will help them grow into a more confident leader and have the experience of a life time.

What would you improve about this program?
The only thing I would improve is having access to better food in the village. Although the food was healthy and nutritious, it just got a little repetitive.
Default avatar
Maggie
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

An Amazing 3 weeks in Cambodia!

My trip with Rustic to Cambodia was one that I will never forget. It was full of adventure, fun, and learning, not only about this amazing country, but of myself as well. The program was a perfect mix between tourism and service work. We spent one week in the Floating village where we built a house for a woman in need. This experience I am truly grateful for, because it was one of the most memorable! We stayed in a home-stay with a wonderful family who was so generous to us. The rest of the time in the country we spent learning about their history, from the founding to the Khmer Rouge, and exploring all the sites. We rode a bamboo train in the countryside while watching the rice fields zoom by, climbed to the top of a temple on a mountain, and explored the famous Angkor Wat temples at sunrise. I highly suggest this program because there is so much variety in it. I truly feel like I did and saw so many things in Cambodia, from the busy city to the countryside to the city of temples and the floating village. I will never forget the impact this trip had on my outlook and life. Thank you so much Rustic Pathways!

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
A tarantula! At one point in the program, we had the chance to eat a tarantula, and I went for it! I was nervous but it tasted like a potato chip.
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Tenny
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Cambodia Children's Project

This was the best thing that I have ever done. I have traveled before, but this was completely unique and absolutely amazing. We had the perfect combination of sightseeing in the cities and also doing meaningful service in the village. The leaders of this group were absolutely incredible and took care of each and every one of us. That being said, they were also fun and we had an incredible time. I am the type of person that tries to learn everything possible about a place when I visit, and the leaders answered all of our questions and taught us so much. One thing that I really value is service that is actually needed. I think too often, westerners will go to a place and enforce their values on a community and do what they think the community needs, and then leave. This isn't sustainable. This program felt completely different, because we were doing activities that the local village had asked us to do, and everything that we did felt respectful of the lives of the people we were helping. I learned so much on this trip, about Khmer culture and about the daily life. This program has had a huge impact on me. I just finished a very hectic junior year of high school, and this trip really made me reevaluate what the world has to offer and how I can impact other communities. The friends I made on this trip taught me so much about myself, and as I go in to my senior year and then on to college, I think that I will take many of these lessons with me. My advice would be to ask as many questions as you possibly can. Ask about the food, the culture, the history, the language. Ask your local guides about their own personal experiences. Ask as many questions as you can and try to learn as much as you can and immerse yourself as much as possible because that is how you will come home feeling the most impacted.

What would you improve about this program?
We did have quite a bit of down time in between service and while in Siem Reap, and I wish we could have gotten out a bit more. To be fair, we were often very tired after a day of service, however I would have liked to have had more organized activities in the down time. I also wish we would have taken the temples a bit more slowly, and even gone to more temples in Siem Reap. But other than that, amazing amazing amazing!!!
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Clara
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Cambodia Floating Villages

My trip to Cambodia was probably one of the best times I have had in the short 17 years I have been alive. Since day one, I have been attached at the hip to my identical twin sister. We look exactly the same to new people, make the same grades, have the same friends, share clothes, and are never alone. It is never one or the other but “Hasie and Clara did this” or “Hasie and Clara, let’s do that!” We simply did not know how to be an individual before we went our separate way for the first time ever. With Rustic pathways, I left for the floating villages in Cambodia, and she left for India. It was the first time I would be on my own and discovering who I was without my twin sister. As I traveled around Cambodia, I learned how to make friends on my own and how to be okay with having my own experiences. I found my individual voice and formed more of an idea of who I was as I tapped into a deeper side of myself.
After our work was done and dinner was finished, my group spent every night in the village sitting on the top of our boat reflecting on our day and life and everything it has to offer. We talked about the immensity and wonders of space, social pressures and how they have shaped us, differences and similarities of religion, and almost anything else you can think of. We told funny and sad stories and spent every moment getting know one another that much better. No time was wasted on our phones scrolling through social media and dwelling on the lives of the people who were not with us, and instead, we spent every moment present and engaged in thoughtful and unforgettable conversation.
If I am going to be specific, the most life-changing experience I had was talking to the woman who we built a house for from start to finish. For four or five days, my friends and I spent almost all day hammering wood, tying on bamboo for walls, and sweating as we prepared this house for her. To be completely honest, at first, it seemed a little unfulfilling. We were building a house for one person when we could be out in the community doing anything else that could help multiple people at a time. However, that mindset changed after the conversation we had with her. Our local leader translated, and she told us of her struggles due to the Khmer Rouge. She was taken to a working camp where she worked from sunrise to sunset picking rice and cutting wood with only single bowl of rice to fill her stomach each day. She said she went to bed hungry every night but had to wake up ready to work every day because that was the only way to survive. During the genocide, she lost her husband who was taken to a killing field and two of her four sons. After the Khmer were defeated, she and her two sons went back to their village but could not find their home. As everyone else, they were displaced and had no way of finding their way back to it. As a result, her small family was forced to survive in the woods lining the river. During the dry season, her sons swam through the river grabbing anything that could float in order to make a raft to sleep on when the rain came. They tied it to a tree using its branches as a roof and floated up and down with the rise and fall of the river. For food, they had little and managed to find leaves and a rice substitute which they buried and cooked beneath a fire. Her sons eventually moved away, and she acquired a boat which she then lived in for some time. She has been a guest of her friend’s house but has not had a house of her own since the beginning of the genocide, some 40 years ago. We, however, were able to give her that. She is eighty-four and living far past the Cambodian life expectancy rate, and in her last years, we were given the privilege of providing her a house. After her story was over, she looked each one of us in the eyes and said, “Thank you. I was drowning, and together you all saved me.” We saved one woman and with a few days of hard work were able to restore her independence. The Khmer Rouge took so much from her, but because of us, they could not keep that. I could ask for nothing more. Saving one woman was enough for me, and I no longer desired any other service. We changed her life, and in return, she changed ours by showing us how capable we are of making a difference in the world. Because of this, Cambodia will not be my last trip, and I plan to live a life of service devoted to doing what I can to make even just a single person’s life that much better.

Default avatar
Veronica
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Snapshots of Southeast Asia

People always discuss culture shock as a noticeable part of their experience when traveling to foreign countries. However, the more impactful experience that I felt was the reverse culture shock that unexpectedly hit me when I returned to Los Angeles. I began to see the people I know, my regular hangout spots, and my life in a new light after the most transformative adventure in Southeast Asia. The journey I underwent with Rustic Pathways is something I will never forget and has changed me forever due to the skills I learned, the exotic cultures I was introduced to, the life-changing people I met, and the perspectives I gained as a result. This trip is focused on photography and, as an extension, photojournalism. Not only did I learn how to properly use a camera but I was taught the meaning of the difference between a "tourist" and a "traveler" and how to be a respectful photographer when you want to capture the sincerity of another culture and make connections with locals, but you don't speak their language. Along with those tangible skills, the edification I received as I talked to locals of each village we went to and heard their stories, improved me as a person because I gained perspective as they taught me (whether intentionally or not) the importance of life and appreciating all people. That's why, when I returned to Los Angeles and I saw the lifestyle of the world around me, I began to think about Eng, a 59 year old woman who has been making clay pots all day everyday since she was 13 who we met when visiting her village. She accepted us with excitement and guided me as she attempted to teach me her trade of clay pot-making (which is quite difficult). I still think about her and the other encounters I had with strangers who are always going to be in my memory, the skills I learned from the talented and genuine program leaders, and the beauty of Southeast Asia. For these reasons I implore you to take this journey with Rustic Pathways.

What would you improve about this program?
Never underestimate the toll that traveling can take on your body and mind. This program was jam-packed with incredible activities in each moment of every day, coupled with constant traveling by boat, van, and plane. The two other girls and I were utterly exhausted by the end of the day, so although every moment of our journey was quite fulfilling, sometimes it was hard to appreciate because we were so tired. This issue could be aided by more frequent rest moments and perhaps less traveling each day. Overall, this is a minute issue and gives you a good excuse to drink lots of their delicious coffee.
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Sarah
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Floating Village Service

Going to Cambodia with Rustic Pathways has been one of the most eye-opening and valuable experiences of my life. I, along with the amazing program leaders and friends that I made on this trip, got to experience many sides of Cambodia. We began our trip by learning about the unique culture that the country has, and then we got to see it first-hand in the various cities we visited and during the homestay. Our homestay took place on a floating village on the Tonle Sap River, and it was an experience that I will never forget. This part of the trip felt the most "rustic" as we slept in mosquito nets in small floating houses with limited electricity and no running water. Despite this contrast from the lifestyle that I am used to, there was never a time that I felt uncomfortable during the homestay. We got used to bucket showers and holes in the ground for toilets. When we weren't at the floating village, our group enjoyed hotels with AC and visited various important sites such as Angkor Wat and the S-21 museum. Overall, this trip was an enduring adventure filled with amazing people and experiences that I will not forget.

What would you improve about this program?
Although this trip was nearly perfect, being able to spend more time with the locals during the homestay would be an improvement.
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Isabelle
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Off the map cambodia

Off the map was an exciting lively program, there was never a dull moment of the trip and all the leaders that work for rustic are absolutely amazing, this was my 7th trip with rustic (hopefully that says a lot about how I feel about rustic) and everytime I expect the best and I get it. Rustic pathways puts so much time and effort into every program not one is lacking. Off the map concludes in the floating villages which is a beautiful village that Is literally floating on tonle sap lake, I've been there twice now and it just keeps getting better.

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Hannah
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Floating Village Service

This trip is one of the most underrated trips Rustic offers. Cambodia is a country just people overlook, and do not really care about. This trip opened my eyes to a country I never really knew about. Everything about their history is facinating, and the things you do, and the sights you see are things everyperson should see. Completing this trip, you get to stay in hotels with AC which is nice, but you also get Rustic and live like a local and use a squattie pottie. It is the perfect combination. All of the food you eat is amazing, and all of the people who sign up for the trip want to be their, not just because their parents forced them to come. I 100% recommed this trip to everyperson in the whole wide world because it has changed me as a person, in every way shape and form, and has opened up my eyes to a country that will always be in my heart.

What would you improve about this program?
More time with children
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Catherine
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Review: Off the Map Cambodia

After doing five Rustic programs, I can confidently say that Off the Map Cambodia, which I did this summer, was my favorite. This trip is a three week service oriented trip that does a fantastic job of providing students with a full view of Cambodia. We got the opportunity to do two village homestays, one of which was in a rural village on land and the other of which was in a floating village. These two portions of the trip were my favorites because we not only got to form a complete picture of what life in Cambodia is like, but we also got to partake in extremely meaningful, intense service projects. Another aspect of the trip was the time in the more developed cities of Cambodia, Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. These were also great legs of the trip because they satisfied our interests as tourists to see the major landmarks of the country. Personally, I felt that this trip gave the perfect balance between travel/sight seeing and service/cultural immersion. I got to experience everything from swimming under monstrous waterfalls and touring magnificent temples to eating tarantulas and using a bucket shower each day. By the end of the three weeks, I had made lifelong friends of my peer students as well as my local and international leaders. Not only did I have the best three weeks of my life, but I grew tremendously as a person. I learned so much about myself physically, mentally, and socially by pushing my boundaries and challenging myself in ways that I could never get at home. Not to mention, I made lifetime memories and learned so many things that I never would have known had Rustic Pathways not given me this opportunity to travel.

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Nicole
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Floating Village Service

The Floating Village Service in Cambodia was the most unique and interesting experience. While there we got to experience a range of activities, from visiting world-renowned sites to interacting with the locals. Some of my favorite things that we got to do was visiting and swimming in a waterfall in Siem Reap, building a house for an 83-year old woman, and just bonding with all the people on my trip. From the leaders, to the people, to the amazing place, I cannot recommend this program more.

What would you improve about this program?
The only thing that I would recommend is that there was a bit more interaction with the children in the villages. All the locals we met were absolutely amazing and so welcoming and it would be so fun if we could see them more.
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Jaden
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Incredible experience in the Floating Villages!

I spent five weeks with Rustic in SE Asia this summer (Floating Village Service was my last program of the season), and the experience has tremendously impacted my life in the most positive way imaginable. Rustic Pathways has an incomparable amount of unique connections throughout the region, and staying in a floating village along the Tonle Sap River is definitely one of them.

From learning about the tragedies of the Khmer Rouge to building a floating house for a family in need, I was lucky enough to have experienced the unparalleled culture of Cambodia. This program was a great, balanced mix of city life and village life. My group and I spent a few days exploring Phnom Penh and Battambang before heading to two floating villages (primarily Prek Toal) for about a week. We slept on thin mattresses with mosquito nets, and we went to sleep sweating because it was so hot! And I loved every second of it! The final few days were spent in a really nice hotel in Siem Reap. We explored Angkor Wat, markets, and museums there.

Completing service and living in a floating village really opened my eyes, and made me even more grateful for the privileges I have. All three of my leaders were caring, kind, hilarious, and fun. At one point during my trip, I got sick with tonsillitis, but my leaders took me to the clinic and encouraged me to stay positive so I could continue to have the time of my life (and I did, many thanks to them!). There was a total of seven students on the trip (five girls and two boys), and we all bonded really quickly. Everyone on the trip was so interesting and fun, and even after arriving home from the trip, we've kept in touch.

By the end of your program, two weeks will have felt like one day! Prepare for an unforgettable experience.

What would you improve about this program?
Nothing, it was incredible!

Location

Location:
Cambodia
Currency:
Cambodian Riel
Weather:
Jan-Mar
95 F / 70 F
Apr-Jun
95 F / 75 F
Jul-Sep
91 F / 73 F
Oct-Dec
88 F / 72 F
Airports:
Phnom Penh International
( PNH )
Siem Reap International
( REP )
Sihanoukville International
( KOS )

The biggest draw to Cambodia is typically Angkor Wat; however, this country has a lot more to offer. Cambodia is less touristed than its neighboring countries, and there are plenty of unspoiled areas to explore, such as Koh Thmei, Koh Ta Kiev and Koh Totang.

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About Rustic Pathways

Travel and volunteer abroad with Rustic Pathways. Choose from culturally-immersive adventure and volunteer programs in 17 countries. Make lifelong friends from around the world, work on sustainable community service projects, and discover new...