Summer High School Programs in Cambodia with Rustic Pathways

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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.

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Reviews

9.64 Rating
based on 28 reviews
  • 9-10 rating 92.86%
  • 7-8 rating 7.14%
  • 5-6 rating 0%
  • 3-4 rating 0%
  • 1-2 rating 0%
  • 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 - 8 of 28
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Gustavo
17
Bolivia
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
20
United States
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
19
United States
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
18
United States
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.
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ainsley
17
Female
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
19
United States
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.
Default avatar
Tenny
19
Female
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
20
Female
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.