This installment of “Stories from the Field” features the experiences of the University of Tennessee Chattanooga (UTC) Honors College 3-week group trip to Cambodia. It will be a 5 part series highlighting the meaningful work and experiences the students from UTC accomplished while volunteering in Cambodia with Global Service Corps.
Part 5: Last days of the program
The students were sad to leave Youth for Peace but were proud of the work they accomplished there and made lots of great connections with the kids and staff (click here to read about their work at YFP). For the final days of the program, the UTC students traveled to a wat (Buddhist monastery) to spend some time with Buddhist monks. The peaceful wat is a about an hour outside of Phnom Penh and is part of GSC’s Teaching English and Buddhist Immersion Program. Usually when volunteers serve at the wat they teach English at a local English school, join in the community activities and learn about Buddhism. GSC volunteers usually spend a minimum of two weeks volunteering but the UTC students were only there for two days so they didn’t do any English teaching but they were able to spend time with the monks.
The monks at the wat have their own radio show which the students were able to participate in. They all piled in the studio for the evening show and the monks encouraged listeners to call in with questions for the “American students”. Many more calls came in than expected; at some point there were 23 callers on hold waiting to ask their questions! The callers were all positive and so thankful that the students came to volunteer. The students came out of the radio show feeling energized, excited, and much appreciated. It was another great way to be immersed in Cambodian culture, and the relaxing setting of the wat was a perfect way for the students to unwind after their service-learning experience and prepare for the long journey back home to the states.
For the final day of the program the group traveled back to Phnom Penh for one last day to explore the city. They had a goodbye meal with GSC In-country Coordinator Sophak and thanked him for all his help and guidance during the experience. There were many goodbye hugs and Facebook friend requests made!
The next day the students headed home to Tennessee with great memories and valuable lessons to reflect on. Hear from the students themselves about their time in Cambodia serving with GSC:
“The overall trip gave the students a very well-rounded experience. It combined aspects of learning and culture (with the week-long orientation), and service-based activities with local people and organizations. While we were only in Cambodia for three weeks, the level of engagement and authentic learning we experienced was very high.” – Lindy H, UTC staff member
“I enjoyed this project so much. I feel like this experience contributed to my personal growth and professional development, and I enjoy all of the friends I’ve made while in Cambodia. I think this experience will impact me to be a more inter-culturally aware person.” – Robert K, UTC student
“The trip impacted me in ways I am still discovering. I am so grateful to have been given this opportunity and would do it again in a heartbeat.” – Victoria N, UTC student
“I met my personal goals for this trip. I got completely out of my comfort zone and experienced a country in a way that many people never get too. I had an amazing trip.” – Connor S, UTC student