In November/December I travelled overseas to Cambodia, predominantly staying in the city of Siem Reap. I travelled through a company called Antipodeans Abroad – they had our in country partners organised and pretty much everything organised for us. I couldn’t talk up the experience anymore than I’m about to.
15 students from FNQ, Australia (me included), were selected as volunteers to travel to Siem Reap, Cambodia, to teach English in local community schools. Having the opportunity to teach English to young children from another culture was the most incredible experience ever, and really taught me so much about appreciation, gratitude and going with the flow. Being my first time in a developing country, I learnt so much about their culture and lifestyle. It was all very unfamiliar to begin with, with the language barrier, confusing road rules (just kidding there weren’t any), and constant awareness you had to have. But the people I met along the way made everything so much easier, and I couldn’t have done it without them.
Who Did I Meet?
I met some amazing people over my time in Cambodia. The locals I spent most of my time with were absolutely incredible. They would go out of their way just to help us out, and make us feel comfortable. The teachers at the school were so knowledgable and humble! So humble that a few of them let us call them by the wrong name or pronunciation for over a week (awkwardddd)! They really made us feel so welcome. We were able to observe their strategies, as well as give us the opportunity to teach and try out our own strategies. They were just so appreciative of our presence. It was truly beautiful, and I would honestly go back to volunteer again.
Our translators were also the most beautiful people, who travelled to and from school with us each day. They put up with our garbage, our attempt to teach them slang words, and our struggles with the language barrier during school. They became our closest friends and it was truly sad to say goodbye. I definitely feel like I’ve taken away more than I could have given! Bless everyone who I met on my travels and may I see you again someday. ♥
What Did I See?
What didn’t I see should be the question! While in Siem Reap, we spent most weekdays at school. On the weekends and at nights, we got to explore! I was exposed to many a things including temples, massages, traditional food, Tuk Tuk’s……
While in Siem Reap, we visited the famous Angkor Wat temple, as well as other nearby temples including Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm. If you head to Cambodia, these temples are a must do.
We also travelled to Phnom Penh for a long weekend (and a 6 hour bus trip) and visited S21, the Killing Fields and the Royal Palace. If you’ve never heard of the Khmer Rouge and you enjoy some history, it’s definitely something worth looking into (or click the word). I’m genuinely gobsmacked at the whole thing, and am super grateful I’m living in Australia at this day and age.
As well as this, we also visited the Royal University of Phnom Penh, and got to chat with some of their insightful students! What a weekend!
More About Spitler School and Teaching
The 15 of us stayed at the same hotel, but were split up into three school to teach at – Spitler School (primary school), Kurata School (primary school), and Srah Srong (middle school). These were all a part of the Spitler Foundation, who graciously let us teach full time in their English classrooms.
Before leaving Australia, we created a GoFundMe page to raise money for the each of the three schools we taught in. We are over the moon to announce that we managed to raise just short of $2000AUD! This money was divided equally among the three schools, which was used to buy much-needed printers, books and resources for each school.
There are around 700 students that attend Spitler School, from kindergarten to Year 6. Half of the students come to the morning classes, and half to the afternoon. I had the privilege of teaching most of these students, and got to see the amazing commitment, gratitude and pure love they have toward their education. Most of the children at Spitler School sadly come from impoverished backgrounds. In order to break away from the cycle of poverty, English is considered an important skill to develop from a young age. English is a globally recognised language, and knowledge of the language will secure a better future for these children and their families.
If you would like to donate money to the school, please click here. What might seem like nothing to us is everything to them! Remember, every bit counts.
What did I eat?
While in Siem Reap, we ate at the hotel, at the same local restaurant for lunch each day, and at our own restaurant each night. The hotel provided a western spin on Cambodian breakfast, consisting of eggs, toast, vegetables, fried rice and noodles. For lunch we shared traditional Khmer dishes – a different curry each day, chicken and cashews, pumpkin and eggs, morning glory, capsicum dishes, chicken and pineapple, stir fried veggies and more… All with a staple of rice. Oh, and I can’t forget the to die for spring rolls we had each day (yes I may have put on a couple of kg’s). For dinners we got to explore Siem Reap and pick our own traditional meals or find western restaurants and devour some yummy Mexican meals, burgers, hot chips or fried rice.
We also got to try some traditions such as fried crickets and caterpillars. I can’t say I’m going to add them to my diet anytime soon.. but it’s all part of the experience!
Have You Been to a Developing Country?
This journey truly opened my eyes to how different life is in a third world country, and how much we really take for granted. It was one of my inspirations to start this blog in the first place, and I can’t wait for when I’m able to back and visit my friends from Cambodia again!
Have you been to Cambodia? Or maybe you’ve travelled elsewhere overseas – either way, I’d love to hear about it! If you’ve got the thyme, share below. ↓
DId you know?
70% of children in orphanages actually have parents? Some children’s parents send their children into orphanages that attract tourists purely because they need money. Some children are also sent out to beg or sell items to tourists. If you travel to Cambodia, please don’t buy off young children, or give them money because you ‘feel sorry for them.’ This discourages them going to school. At school they can receive an education that will shape their future! I can’t stress enough how important it is to do the proper research before travelling to developing countries such as Cambodia.