#7: How did this conference change your understanding of development in Cambodia? Concretely summarize several things that you have learned as a result of the seminar presentations, Q&A and multi-national small group discussions.
For the first week or so I thought it was a little odd that the trip was titled “Transforming Cambodia.” Up to that point we had done mostly sightseeing, shopping, and some service work, which I thought was worthwhile and beneficial but could not be described as transforming a country. However, the title seems more fitting after spending two days at a student led conference about good development in Cambodia. The conference featured students from three different Cambodian universities, along with Korean law students and Calvin College. I was very impressed with their ability to speak English, because I would not imagine trying to lead a conference and make presentations using a second language. It was a unique experience to be with students who almost literally are from the opposite side of the world and talk about possible solutions to Cambodia’s problems.
Prior to the trip I knew little to nothing about Cambodia and the areas that were in need of reform. Although the presentations were for the most part very informative and interesting, my favorite part of the seminar was when we split up into small groups and discussed with the locals. The first day we discussed the education system, which is currently very poor due to low teacher salaries, corruption, and lack of motivation for teachers and students alike. The second day we discussed corruption in the government and how even though people dislike the current leaders, they do not speak up or vote for another leader because they fear another war or Khmer Rouge style take-over could take place. These were both very eye-opening and surprising discussions for me.
As I looked around the room I saw the future leaders of Cambodia, all very bright students pursuing advanced degrees in law and agriculture who have the ability to bring about the much needed change. Cambodia is in need of transformation in multiple areas, but with student and some Western help Cambodia can be transformed.