This spring, a group of 21 students will travel to Cambodia for the second ever Study-Service Term (S.S.T.) to this country. Keith Graber-Miller, professor of Bible, Religion and Philosophy, will depart this Sunday with his family. Graber-Miller and his family have led S.S.T. on eight different occasions, including the first unit to Cambodia in 2007.
“It feels like going home,” said Graber-Miller.
The three year gap between units to Cambodia means that changes to the program are inevitable. Both service locations and host families will be new, and Graber-Miller plans on hiring a local assistant who will help students adjust to life in Cambodia. He hopes to line up additional Buddhist host families this time so that students can be fully immersed in Buddhist Cambodian culture.
The two primary field trips to Angkor Wat and Kep will remain the same. Angkor Wat is a series of 12th century elaborate temples and is one of the main tourist attractions for Cambodia. Kep is an island off the coast of Cambodia that remains unknown to many tourists where the SST-ers can experience the Cambodian coastal life.
The group will also spend a week studying the Khmer Rouge period—a time from 1975 to 1979 when the ruling Khmer Rouge party killed one-third of the Cambodians.
“There is still a collective post-war syndrome among Cambodians from all the atrocities and fear of this time,” said Graber-Miller.
The biggest challenge the students will face is language. Although they have been meeting every Thursday night to study Khmer from Susie Kauffman, a long-term MCC worker in Cambodia, the students will only know the basics.
“It is difficult to get to a level of speaking to have good conversations with Cambodians,” said Graber Miller.
Regardless of the challenges that a new language and culture offer, Graber-Miller, his family, and students are all anticipating next semester with excitement.
“Our whole family is looking forward to leaving this Sunday,” Graber-Miller said. “This is a pretty thoroughly mixed group, but we’re learning to know each other and getting along well.”