To Whom It May Concern:
I am writing this letter to talk about my
participation in the Advanced Study of Khmer (ASK) program this past
summer, 2007. I have been studying Khmer for two years now at
the University of Hawaii, Manoa and this past summer was definitely
the highlight of my Khmer language learning experience.
Studying Khmer in Hawaii has proven to be quite challenging as I
rarely practice what I’ve learned outside of the classroom.
However, having the opportunity to be immersed not only in the
language but in the Cambodian culture as well was an opportunity of
Every day we would have four hours of language
learning at the Royal University of Phnom Penh’s Institute of
Foreign Languages. In the beginning of the program we were
given assessment tests to gauge our understanding of the language
and based on the results we were split into two levels. This
proved to be very helpful as I was nowhere near the level of some of
the other students in the program, and would not have been able to
learn as much if it were at a faster pace. Our professor,
Sisotha, did an amazing job of teaching us Khmer, as well as making
herself available after hours to help us as much as she could.
One aspect of the program that I thoroughly enjoyed was our
afternoon visits to various NGO’s in Phnom Penh. This aspect
of the program brought our language study to “life” as we were able
to see first hand how issues in Cambodia were being addressed by
people from various backgrounds. One of my favorite places
visited was the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam). We
were able to meet with some of the people who have been collecting
information about the Khmer Rouge in order to build up a case
against the surviving Khmer Rouge leaders in the Extraordinary
Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). This was an
experience that many students don’t have the opportunity to take
part of. As a student of Southeast Asian Studies with my focus
being on Cambodia, to be able to see history being made first hand
was an unbelievable opportunity for me personally. This trip
to DC-Cam was one of many visits we did to NGO’s who are making a
tangible difference in the lives of everyday Cambodians.
Another highlight of the program was our weekend trips to
various locations around Cambodia to experience life outside of
Phnom Penh. We also had the opportunity to study in Siem Riep
for one week and visit the world famous Angkor temples. It was
incredible to learn the history of the Angkor civilization. To
study the history of the temples in the classroom in Siem Riep
before visiting them made the experience that much more valuable, as
we were able to be more than just tourists admiring the beautiful
Looking back on this summer I realize that the things
I experienced in the ASK, both in language learning as well as
practical everyday application of Khmer, will be beneficial to me
for many years to come. I appreciate the opportunity given to
me by Dr. Chhany to participate in the ASK program, and I know that
anybody else who has the chance to do the program will benefit
greatly from it.
Fulbright-Hays Groups Projects Abroad Program
Dr. Lungching Chiao
Senior Program Manager
International Education Programs
U.S. Department of Education
1990 K Street NW
Washington DC 20006-8521
I am sending this letter in support for the renewal of the Advanced Study in Khmer (ASK) program for the upcoming 2008-2011 financial cycle. It is my understanding that government funding for this amazing program is set to conclude at the end of 2007. I believe that this program is not only an excellent opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students, but it is also one of the most important in the repertoire of academic programs associated with the University of Hawaii. Funding for the study of Khmer language, culture, and history—even on an international level—is incredibly difficult to find. Therefore, I believe that it is fundamentally essential that the University of Hawaii is allowed to continue this rare and exceptional academic opportunity.
I am PhD student in the history department at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. I have studied Southeast Asian history for the past 6 years where I have earned both a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts in history. I have studied the Khmer language since 2005 at the University of Hawaii. This past summer I was fortunate enough to be included in the six week ASK program. Through this intensive program I was introduced to studies in Khmer language, culture, and history at an incredibly advanced level which tested all areas of my previous studies. Furthermore, through the six week period I was immersed within vibrant culture and society of Cambodia, something that was previously unattainable with respect to my academic instruction in the United States.
It is difficult to sum up the totality of experience that I received from the ASK program. For six weeks straight students were asked to study Khmer language on an average of eight hours per day. Four of these hours would be spent in a typical classroom environment where students could interact with the Cambodian instructor and his/her peers at the Royal University of Phnom Penh. The other four hours were spent completing homework assignments and preparing for various examinations and presentations which usually took place in the apartment in Phnom Penh. However, in addition to the daily academic instruction, the students were provided with a schedule of field trips to a variety of historical, cultural, and institutional sites in and around Phnom Penh. Even more incredible, the students spent an entire week in the province of Siem Reap where they were able to visit some of Cambodia’s most amazing and world renown temple sites, an experience that is undeniably and unforgettably unique to the ASK program.
With respect to the program itself, as well as the instructors and coordinators involved, I have nothing but heartfelt praise and gratitude for my experience in the past summer’s ASK program. Both Dr. Sak-Humphry and Lukas Wettstein were incredibly supportive within the day to day activities associated with the ASK program. Moreover, the Cambodian professors that instructed the students on a daily basis were altogether inspiring and passionately dedicated to their profession. Indeed, it was their personal touch that ensured this program would be an invaluable success to everyone involved.
Unfortunately, not everyone felt the same way about the experience. Although the majority of students were there to learn Khmer language and gain as much experience as possible within the six week program, there were a few students whose actions and attitudes transformed and otherwise exiting experience to one of personal struggle and tolerance. In fact, the only negative aspect of this past summer’s program was a handful of students who took it upon themselves to create an uncomfortable atmosphere within the living situation in Phnom Penh. I will not go into details about these students nor their actions; I see little reason as this aspect of the program and the students’ opinions have little to do with the program itself. Instead, it is sufficient to state that the proverbial “rotten apple” attempted to spoil the bunch.
Yet despite the often unbearable social atmosphere that a few of the students chose to create for the rest of the group, this program was a remarkable success. As such, it is a testament to the program’s undeniable triumph as both an intensive language study as well as an opportunity to immerse oneself in the culture, history, and society of Cambodia. No where else is there a program of this magnitude or eclecticism, nor can the University of Hawaii bear to lose this invaluable study abroad program. I strongly urge that funding be made available so that this incredible program and its associated staff are allowed to continue their sensational work and achievement.
Ryan Jonathan Koo
University of Hawaii