Participating in the ASK 2006 program was an opportunity I will always be thankful for. I had been looking for an in-country program to build my Khmer language skills and as someone who had never been to Cambodia before, ASK looked like it would offer the best introduction to the country. The topics we covered in class were very relevant to the country’s current state and detailed issues of politics, history, arts, entertainment, culture and education. Our teacher, named Rath, was always patient and ready to help anyone of us with any confusion over the subject at hand. Our in-class work included group presentations, skits, individual and group readings, written assignments, movies, and games.
The ASK Experience
Besides our in-class studies, once or twice a week afternoon field trips were taken to visit various organizations or educational resources within Phnom Penh that are helping to build and strengthen the country’s social, educational, and economic infrastructure. Had it not been for these types of afternoon visits, I would have never known about the accessibility of places like the Buddhist Institute, the National Archives, or various NGOs. Weekends were spent taking longer day trips into the surrounding provinces. These day trips were a great chance to get out of the main city and see areas of Cambodia and its people that aren’t typically well known to foreigners. The longest trip we took was to the province of Siem Reap for an entire week. Here, we spent most of our time visiting and learning about the various ancient temples and structures that Cambodia is famous for. The week in Siem Reap culminated with a visit to the famed Angkor Wat complex.
Although the schedule of classes, visits, and field trips tended to keep us all busy, there was plenty of time for fun. Afternoons were typically open and could be used to study, go around the local open-air markets, go to an organized activity, work on our independent projects or be spent with one of the tutors that would come to the house to help with our class work. Although the group was not forced to stay together during open periods, often times it was fun to go somewhere with a few friends or go out as a group for a meal or an activity.
For me, ASK is an experience beyond simply attending classes or visiting tourist locations in Cambodia. It provides the chance to meet people across the broad spectrum of educational disciplines and interests, the chance to strengthen Khmer language skills, and the chance to engage in a dialogue with Cambodians across all levels of society about their country and culture. Coming home from the program, I had not only built upon my language abilities and developed a better understanding about Cambodia, but I had also become friends with the quality group of people that made up the program. All of this is testament to the type of quality program that Dr. Channy Sak-Humphry, and her program coordinator, Lukas Wettstein, have worked hard to build.
-Hayden Brooks-ASK 2006