Month: October 2016 (page 1 of 2)

Teaching in Cambodia

Having never left the United States before, learning to live and work in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on my own was an opportunity of a life time. I have learned more about myself in the past three months than I would have ever imagined I could in my four years at the University of Oregon. I was given numerous opportunities throughout the duration of my internship that allowed me to fall in love with the country, the culture and the people, as well as learn about a whole new part of myself in the process.img_7289

I arrived at Sovann Komar Children’s village on the first day of my internship with my roommate Ruth, the schools English teacher.  The school day was already in full swing as our bus regularly got us to school half an hour after class started. I spent my first day shadowing Ruth, and touring the school. The children were all very excited to meet me and the held my hands as I walked through the school all the while chattering away about different things that I wasn’t faintly familiar with yet. By the time lunch came I was overwhelmed by the generosity and hospitality that the village offered to me. The staff was very supportive and grateful for my presence from the very beginning. Although It was overwhelming and stressful to be alone in a new country, I was immediately accepted into the community at Sovann Komar and at the time there was no better feeling in the world.

With the help of teachers and staff at Sovann Komar I began to settle into my new surroundings and learn how to appreciate the more relaxing culture that exists in Southeast img_7473Asia. I found it very hard at first to transition from my busy American student life to a more flexible professional environment. However, as the summer wore on I began to adapt and replicate their culture in my own daily routine until I was able to let my organization and time management skills rest to appreciate all that was available to me in the moment at the village.

For the majority of my time in the village I taught various classes for about six hours a day. I created and taught two lesson plans; one that focused on animals and one that focused on multiculturalism and diversity. Teaching came with its own set of challenges, language barriers were one obstacle that I continuously worked to overcome. I learned how to effectively work through and adapt to cultural barriers that I have never been exposed to before. As a human service professional, this skill will be very applicable as I continue to work with vulnerable populations. After teaching for eleven weeks, I was also able to leave the two curriculum packets that I developed for the school to continue teaching.

img_6893I was fortunate to have my weekends free to adventure around the country and learn more about the rich history that exists in Cambodia. One of my most memorable trips was when I took a bus six hours north to Siem Reap to visit the Angkor Wat temples. I spent two days wandering in and out of the largest religious monuments in the world, observing gigantic intricate pieces of stone that were quite possibly older than anything I had ever seen before. I was amazed at how beautiful and individual each temple was, it really signified why they call Cambodia the Kingdom of Wonder.

I was able to learn and grow personally and professionally in a way that I have never had the opportunity to before. I think about my community at Sovann Komar often and will be forever grateful for the gratitude they showed me during my stay. I no longer feel limited by my lack of travel knowledge. Through this trip I was able to gain confidence in myself as a teacher, traveler, and individual, and although thi s may have been my first international trip I know that it will not be my last.img_7436

-Chelsea Kimura, Summer 2016


A Trip to Palenque

This summer I spent seven weeks in Southern Mexico on the GEO Maya Communities and Social Justice in Chiapas Study Abroad Program. For the most part we stayed in the beautiful city of San Cristobal de las Casas, but we also explored a lot more of the state of Chiapas. img_20160805_154246-1jb9et8-300x169Our longest excursion was an overnight trip to Palenque.

The trip one way was supposed to take about five hours but it was closer to six due to the winding roads and low speed limits, that are enforced by speedbump. After we left San Cristobal the temperature increased from about 75 degrees Fahrenheit to 90 with close to 100% humidity.  We left the mountains and drove into the rainforest, although certain parts had been cleared for farming or raising cattle. Finally, after a six-hour car ride we made it to the small city of Palenque. We stayed just outside of the city center in a nice hotel that had a pool and air conditioning. My roommate and I walked into the town to explore it a little bit and went to a pizzeria, while everyone else ate at the hotel. After dinner we all went swimming and then we went to an awful hotel karaoke bar.img_20160820_120414-15r0zqm-300x169

The next morning, we got up at eight and it was almost just as hot as when we arrived the evening before. We ate breakfast and took off toPalenque. The town Palenque is named so because it is next to an ancient Mayan city of the same name. We arrived and I bought a hat and a huge water bottle because I could tell I was going to need it. There were vendors and tourists everywhere. Our tour guide gave us our tickets, we covered ourselves in bug spray and we all went in. At the entrance to the site there is a sign informing visitors that Palenque is a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) heritage site. Basically, that meant if there was ever a war that threatens the site the UN would come in and protect it because it is an important human historical site.

After we climbed a jungle covered hill, we came to a plateau and the trees opened up allowing us to see a grass field before a giant stone edifice. We climbed inside of what is known img_20160825_115957-1hw3f57-300x169as the Temple of the Inscriptions and saw a stone sarcophagus painted red with an arsenic rich mineral. Next we headed to the Palace. The Palace has a large maze of tunnels in it, a courtyard, and a Mayan watchtower unique to Palenque. After climbing through tunnels we emerge on top of the Palace and were able to explore it. These are the only two imposing structures we explored because a majority of the site is still covered by tropical forest. Exploring this pre-Columbus American city was a once in a life time opportunity!

-Casey Smith, Summer 2016

Ethiopia: Past, Present & Future

It has been 11 years since I’ve stepped foot in Ethiopia, yet every day I am reminded of this country. The day I arrived in Ethiopia was one of the most exciting moments of my life. As soon as I landed and stepped out of the airport I was greeted by uncles and cousins that I had not seen in over a decade. One of the first things I noticed about Ethiopia is that it has drastically changed. There were skyscrapers on almost every block in the capital city, and it seemed as if common-river-3the amount of people that lived in the city was multiplied by ten! There were so many cars, people, buildings and traffic. For a moment I thought I may have landed in the wrong country. Over the last ten years, Ethiopia has industrialized extensively then I had ever imagined. Nevertheless, although Addis Ababa is now known as the capital of Africa, there were still moments of the old Ethiopia such as cows, goats and sheep running around the city. I also noticed that the only means of “fast food” in the country included grilled corn, or steamed potatoes and samosas on the side of the road. After spending a night in the capital city, Addis Ababa, I began my journey to start my 10 week internship in Aleta Wondo five hours south of the capital.

The journey to Aleta Wondo was not an easy journey, mostly because the roads are not completely paved yet, so the car ride was extremely jerky. Upon entering the Common River gates I was mesmerized, it was like I had walked into a tropical garden. My experience common-river-1interning with Common River has been nothing but enjoyable. All of the faculty and staff on site were always there to help me in anything I needed, and I was able to get a long a create meaningful relationships with all the other international volunteers. In my internship with Common River I completed an ethnographic study of the Sidama tribe in Southern Ethiopia. Throughout my three months in Aleta Wondo, I completed a number of different interviews with the local Sidama people learning about all the different aspects of Sidama culture, including their cultural foods, dance, clothes and I even had the opportunity to participate in the Sidama new year. It was amazing to see how the people of Sidama value their religion. Through my internship in Aleta Wondo I was able to see how much the Apostolic movement has influenced the city. There were church conferences almost every weekend in neighboring towns, in which thousands of people would gather to church. While in Aleta Wondo I also had the chance to explore the city. Aleta Wondo is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever experienced because of its exquisite natural scenery. Aleta Wondo is a sub-tropical area so there common-river-7were several avocado trees, coffee trees, passion fruit, pineapples and more on almost every corner of each street. I also had the opportunity to help teach an English class for students in primary school. Because I come from an Ethiopian background myself and speak the national language, Amharic I was able to efficiently help teach and translate during English lessons with some of the other international volunteers. Although Aleta Wondo was an extremely beautiful city, it was also a city struggling to cope with poverty like many other cities in Ethiopia. Poverty and hunger are serious issues that the beautiful city of Aleta Wondo is still battling, allowing me to truly appreciate the beauty and nature of this city. There were many things that I have learned through this trip but one thing that I am most grateful for from this adventure is the relationships I have created. From the staff and faculty that work at Common River as well as all the students and parents I was able to work with, I will forever be grateful for these relationships I have made and cannot wait to reunite in the coming years.  common-river-5-Ruhama Dimboré, Summer 2016

California to Canada: Vancouver Study Abroad

Growing up in California is a gift and a curse. The California suburbs, much like Hollywood portrays it, is a place of manicured lawn (before the drought), friendly neighbors, and endless sunshine. Despite living in California for most of my life, I’ve never run out of things to do. 03-fujj9176Everything, including a change of lifestyle, was a stone throw away. Lake Tahoe, in the north, with its wood cabins, tranquil sceneries, and ski resorts. San Francisco, located in the opposite direction, with its hi-­‐tech offices, world-­‐famous landmarks, and bustling neighborhoods. Spoiled by the weather and proximity to different settings, the shortcomings of elsewhere becomes more than a nuisance. I would enjoy the novelty of a new location for the first few days then quickly get bog down by something I find irritating. Places like D.C and Texas become too humid. Places like Seoul and Tokyo become too quick-­‐ paced and too dense. This is, however, not to say that California does not share its own set of problems. My bias, as a long time residence of California, meant that there is always a “home is best” mentality. And then I was presented with Vancouver and it changed the way I perceived a place.


Initially, I hesitated to apply for the Vancouver program because it is simply “too close” with barely a seven hours ride from Eugene. It seems like a place that I can visit instead of studying aboard. But the prospect of learning about kinetic architecture (gizmos that transform spaces such as recessing a wall to create a larger space) and living in an urban setting was captivating. As someone wants to design residential housing in the future, I believe it is important to live in one myself. The opportunities Vancouver promised heavily outweighed my initial hesitation, so I applied.


Of all the cities that I had the fortune of living in, Vancouver may be at the top when it comes to livability. This city seems to have it all. My daily commute from my apartment in downtown 01-fujj0232Vancouver to class on Granville Island involves a twelve minute bike ride crossing a bridge and arriving at the destination located under another bridge. Granville Island is like miniature city. During my lunchtime, I would often mingle with the locals or tourists in its large pubic market try one of the dozens of restaurants the island offers, or eat my own lunch at one of its vista points.

I was so curious and so fascinated by what Vancouver has to offer; I would constantly spend all of my free-­‐time biking around exploring with my camera and sketchbook, capturing landscape, people, and even wildlife. I would go to different coffee shops each time so I can take a different path home. Despite going to all the major point of interests, by the end of the trip, I felt like there are still so much more nooks I have not discovered!


I took this curiosity and fascination back with me. Now I often find myself bringing a sketchbook out to sketch the sceneries and being really excited to explore familiar places with new eyes. This mentality allows me to really enjoy what a place has to offer. These places do not have the same charm that California has but they do not have to. They are very charming in their own way.



-Hieu Vo, Summer 2016

Medical Internship in Bolivia

Before going to Bolivia, my greatest anxiety was my Spanish level not being high enough. Although my first few weeks were very challenging with being able to understand and img_1869-1communicate with others in a different language, I am so happy I made the decision to go to a country where not only I would be observing different medical aspects of a new country but I would also be learning a new language. Although it has been amazing to observe medical practices and different forms of health care in a different country, I think it has been even more amazing to improve my Spanish skills and gain the confidence that being able to converse with people in a different language gives.

I have learned that when I am on my own, I am capable of figuring things out and being independent by myself in a different country, even if I can’t speak the language fluently. Before this trip (in the United States), I would be very shy on asking people for directions or asking people for help if I was confused about something, but being in Bolivia has made me a lot more confident on asking people for help, and for taking initiative for myself in the hospitals (like for which rotations I want to go to, or if I want to go to the emergency room in the evenings). I have also gotten a lot more confident in asking people questions if I don’t understand something in Spanish. A lot of times, all of us students in the program wouldn’t understand something that img_2083our medical director said, or that our Spanish teacher said, and they wouldn’t say anything about it. I was always the one to tell them I didn’t understand everything and ask them to repeat it.  I think the greatest reward here has been being able to see things that I wouldn’t have been able to see if I hadn’t taken initiative for myself. For example, I got to see an amazing surgery during my internship, but if I hadn’t asked the doctor if I could go to the emergency room after my rotation, I wouldn’t have been in the hospital when the surgery was going on and I wouldn’t have been able to see it. Additionally, I think me not being scared to try to speak Spanish (or even if I am nervous to try), even when I know that I am going to make mistakes every time I speak has been a great reward because it has allowed me to gain confidence as well as allowed me to improve my Spanish level immensely.

One of my favorite moments on this trip was when I went to the emergency room after my clinical hours to observe. My roommate and I went to the emergency room because one of the doctors had told us he would meet us there at 8pm. However, when we got there, he had already left and we were left alone, unsure of what to do. The doctor told us he was going to call another doctor that was there and he would help us. The new doctor told us that we were going to go to a surgery with him but to just wait in the room for a little bit until the surgery was ready. In the United States, if someone were to tell me to wait for a little bit I would assume 20 or 30 minutes maximum of waiting, but the culture in Bolivia is definitely different when it comes to the perception of time. Instead of waiting for just a little time as they had said, we waited for almost 2 hours for the surgery to start. While we were waiting we were a little confused what was going on because the doctor that had told us to wait never came back to us during the time we were waiting: were we supposed to keep waiting? Did we hear the doctor correctly? Did the doctor already go into the surgery without us? I think if I hadn’t already been in Bolivia for 7 weeks, I would have left, thinking the doctor had forgotten about us, but because I had been here for almost 2 months, I understood the culture a little more and knew that they wouldn’t have forgotten about us, they are just on a different time schedule. One of the main cultural me-in-lab-coat-2differences between Bolivia and the United States is the perception of time (in Bolivia, everyone is at least 20 to 30 minutes late from the predetermined time). Although this cultural difference can be very frustrating at times, I think it has helped me be a little more relaxed and patient, which can be very hard for a perfectionist.


-Sofia Hardin, Summer 2016

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