One of the things I looked forward to the most in coming to Goshen College was the Study Service Term abroad. I was intrigued and absolutely terrified at the idea of leaving the country, but I knew that I wanted to go somewhere out of the ordinary. When Cambodia became an option for me, I immediately fell in love with it because I knew so little about the country. It was something different, and I looked forward to the unique experience.One year ago I was enjoying 90-degree weather with almost 100 percent humidity and the best fruit and Coca Cola in the world. I was both terrified and excited about living in a big city for the first time. During the first week, each person in our group had a bicycle, and we were released to explore (and inevitably get lost) in the capital city of Phnom Penh. When I first brought my bicycle home to my host family, they thought I was crazy for wanting to take on the traffic, but I loved the freedom.
When I traveled to the southern part of Cambodia for my service assignment, I took my bicycle with me, which was a mistake. Upon arriving in Kampot I had to ride a half-hour with a flat tire on the bumpiest road I have ever come across. Yes, that day I was able to get the tire patched, but almost every other day I would deal with the front tire popping at the most inconvenient of times. Once, I got a flat tire twenty minutes away from my home, and had to walk the rest of the way only to have my sandal break as well. It was just one of those days. However, the good moments outweighed the frustrating ones.
I was very fortunate to have a wonderful family, both in the city and while on service. My city family spoke English fluently so I was able to become really close to them. I even became “Aunt Trisha” to my baby niece, who I saw grow from a helpless newborn to an almost walking toddler. I cried for at least two days when I had to leave them to move to the country.
However, when I got to know my service family I grew to love them as well. I wasn’t as close to them because of the language barrier, but still found it extremely hard to leave after six weeks. I have never been fully satisfied with how I left my family, as it was impolite to hug those who were older than me. I could only show my thanks and respect by raising my hands and pressing them together into the “sampeah”, then bowing slightly to my mother who admitted that she was “heart sick” because we were leaving.
I am beyond appreciative of my SST experience to Cambodia. Goshen College has a very unique program that allows students to explore different countries that they might never think of going to otherwise. Although I would encourage students to go to Cambodia as well, I know it is not the right fit for everybody. But I do want to encourage all who are able to go on SST to take that step outside of their comfort zones and experience a really sweet three month long adventure.