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Global Education
was both excited and anxious when I learned I had been selected to
participate in "The Cambodian Experience," a three-week International
Education Fellowship scheduled to leave in late May 2015.
I have traveled to Nicaragua, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic
as part of church mission trips. Although those trips were extremely
rewarding, my trip to Cambodia provided an opportunity to learn
about people and culture in a much more expansive way.
The students participating in the Cambodia trip were a very diverse
group of six women and three men of various ages, cultures and
educational interests. Our leaders, Art Professors Margaret Rack and
Yary Livan, each have had extensive experience traveling in Cambodia.
Rack had spent a month studying and conducting research in Cambodia
on a Fulbright Fellowship. Livan, a Lowell artist renowned for his work
in Cambodian ceramics, was born and raised in Cambodia. He lived
through the Khmer Rouge period (1975-79) before immigrating to the
United States as a refugee.
Prior to traveling, we fellows participated in a weekly class, where
we were exposed to Cambodian history, art, culture, religion and
environmental concerns. We also learned to speak some basic Khmer.
Once we arrived in Phenom Penh, we saw hundreds of tuktuks
(three-wheeled motos) transporting people and goods. There were
markets along the road that sold all kinds of things from shrines
to snails.
Cambodia has two seasons: hot (95+ degrees), humid and dry; and hot,
humid and rainy. Although we arrived during the monsoon season, we
only had two brief showers during our 20-day stay. This may seem good
for touring, but the rice fields, which should have been lush and green,
were dusty and unplanted. Without the flooding rains, rice, the main
staple of the Cambodian diet, will be in short supply.
Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) play an important role in
Cambodia. We visited many, including a village pottery co-op in
Kampong Chhnang. We toured Angkor Hospital for Children in Siem
Reap, which provides free care and health education. We also spent
a morning in cultural exchange with the children of Anjali House,
which provides educational support to street children in Siem Reap.
One of the most emotional experiences on the trip was a visit to the
Tuol Sleng Prison, where 20,000 Cambodians were tortured and
then taken to the Killing Field of Choeung Ek. It was difficult to
learn the horrors of this prison, and even more difficult to realize
there are hundreds of these sites around the country where
1.7 million Cambodians were killed.
The role of art and dance in Cambodian life is evident in many
of the places we visited. Most of the traditional artists were
The Cambodia Experience
Seasoned International
Volunteer Deepens Understanding of the Developing World
"This trip brought to
life the struggles of
people who continue
to rise above atrocities
and face each day with
pride and caring for
Jessica Price, EdD, MSN, RN
Arriving at Cambodia's Sien Reap International Airport (front row, left to right) Lizzi Bo and Professor Margaret
Rack; (in back row, left to right) Professor Yary Livan, David Mota, Alexandra Nolet, Theresa Gray,
Rafaela Gonzales, Chris Mahoney, Ilse Bellido, Jessica Price and Evan Dingle.