[caption id="attachment_32846" align="alignright" width="350"]The spring 2016 SST unit poses for a group photo. They returned April 5. Photo by Sadie Gustafsson-Zook The spring 2016 SST unit poses for a group photo. They returned April 5.Photo by Sadie Gustafsson-Zook[/caption]

Last week, the Spring SST units from Cambodia and Peru made the return to Goshen College after 3 months of learning, serving and living in another country.

Students in Cambodia, a southeast Asian country nestled between Thailand and Vietnam, spent the first half of their Study-Service Term in Phnom Penh, the capitol city.

Students took classes for the first six weeks at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, growing accustomed to the language and culture while learning about the country’s rich history and customs through class and trips.

The students had the opportunity to visit historically significant sites to Phnom Penh’s past, such as the Angkor ruins and the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum, which was once a prison used for interrogation during the Khmer Rouge.

For the latter half of the semester, many students relocated to areas that are much more rural. Some of the service opportunities included teaching English to schoolchildren, working at orphanages and working with local organizations to organize outlying villages for more integrated rural communities.

Brodie Nofziger, a sophomore, valued the relationships and time spent with host families, especially on service. He took away a couple of learning experiences through his time in Phnom Penh and the city of Kampot.

“I learned and am still learning to just roll with the punches when situations don't go as you hoped, rather than getting upset about things not going my way,” he said. “I also have thought a lot about the value I put on material objects like my phone. Seeing my host families find joy in everything was inspiring, and also made me reflect on small arguments with friends or siblings over things rooted in capitalism, and decide what's really important to me.”

The Peru SST group spent their first six weeks in the bustling city of Lima, a home to 10 million Peruvians. Students commuted to the small church of Buen Pastor, where they took classes learning about ancient Incan history and Peru’s recent political past. Students also had to opportunity to visit sites such as the famous Macchu Picchu and Caral, the oldest cities in the Americas.

For study, students were spread across Peru to experience the variety in geography the country had to offer: jungle, mountain and coast.

Jacob Penner, a junior, served in an eco-tourism lodge where he was tasked with feeding captive peccaries—an animal that Jacob describes as “a wild jungle pig.” On week 4 of caring for these pigs, however, he was bitten on the leg by one of the peccaries.

X-rays and rabies shots aside, Penner recounts it as a learning experience. “I navigated the hospital by myself and entirely in Spanish, learning way more than I ever intended to about the Peruvian healthcare system,” he said.

Both Nofziger and Penner were shocked by the transition back to the States.

“Coming home was also tough,” said Nofziger. “Being so used to dependence on my host families made it strange to have so much independence when I returned.”

Penner was also taken aback by the tranquility of his Kansas home, having flown out of the active city of Lima. “I still want to address strangers on the street in Spanish, and the silence and relative lack-of-people where I am right now in Kansas is a huge change as well,” he said.

This summer’s SST destinations include another trip to Peru and the West African country of Senegal. The groups depart Wednesday, April 27 and Thursday, April 28.