American Youth Leadership Program in Cambodia

Every year since 2011 a group of around 30 students from different American school visits Cambodia in June. They travel for 16 days in the country and enjoy a diverse and intense travel program filled with local encounters and new experiences.

Institution                 U.S. Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ Exchange Program, via Global Explorers

Education                 U.S. high school students and adult mentors

Group                       30 students, 5 educators, 3 supervisors

Purpose of visit        To learn more about the tourism industry in Cambodia as part of their curriculum

Travel dates              Yearly in June

Travel Route             Phnom Penh – Chi Phat – Sambor Prei Kuk home stay – Siem Reap – Poi Pet in 16 days

Khiri Travel Cambodia’s Sustainability Ambassador and Educational Travel Manager organizes and joins all educational travel groups in the kingdom. Traveling with younger students requires extra attention to such things as asking the local hotels to remove all alcoholic drink from the guest room minibars,finding transportation companies that provide us with their best buses, and having office staff prepare inportant paper work like evacuation and emergency plans and remain flexible to the student’s need during the operations of the tour.

Visits of this kind are very rewarding for both the students and the local community. For example when this group stayed at Sambor Prei Kuk home stay, they had a lively exchange about utensils needed in daily life. The American students had to guess the use of certain Khmer tools that were obvious for the locals but not so much for the visitors. One student picked up a bamboo tool used for fishing and put it on his head as a basket to carry goods. A great laugh for both cultures.

The students visited the following projects:

CCBEN (Cambodia Community Based Ecotourism Network)

Students joined a presentation by CCBEN in which staff shared information about their work in responsible tourism.

ChildSafe Network

The group, invited by Child Safe’s office in Phnom Penh got the students’ full attention in a presentation and discussion about their work in Cambodia with exploited and abused children.

Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center

The rescue center is a sanctuary for rescued animals like gibbons, sun bears, elephants, deer and birds. Khiri Travel Cambodia arranged for the group to meet the people from the center and take a walk around the premises to see various animals.

Apsara Art Association

While in Phnom Penh, the students visited this school to learn how to perform traditional Khmer dance and exchanged performances with local students. Playing games together for several hours served both Khmer and American students with a fun cross cultural exchange.

CBT Communities

The American youth visited several Community Based Tourism villages such as the Chi Phat, Sambor Prei Kuk or Isanborei communities, and the Tonle Sap community. The children overnighted in home stays, joined activities with local students, planted trees, took boat trips, and had a bicycle tour. Obviously, this facilitated a lot of interaction with the Khmer villagers.

Ecole d’Hôtellerie et du Tourisme Paul Dubrule

The U.S. students visited this hospitality school in Siem Reap during their stay in the ancient Angkor capital. Besides interacting with the local students, they also participated in a cooking class.

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Student travel to Cambodia

Summary of the travel itinerary:

Day 1 | Arrival in Bangkok

Traveling from the United States, the group first arrived in Bangkok, before continuing their journey to Cambodia the next day.

Day 2 | Bangkok – Phnom Penh

Our guides greeted the group at Phnom Penh airport and then gave the new visitors a tour of two highlights of the capital: the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda. Lunch was at a restaurant staffed by disadvantaged children who have received hospitality training from the Friends-International charity. The afternoon was free time followed by dinner at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club.

Day 3 | Phnom Penh

A visit to the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center in the morning was followed by a lecture on the effects of global warming in Cambodia at the Ministry of Environment.

Day 4 | Phnom Penh

We spent the entire day at the Apsara Art Association teaching English to the children and learned the first steps of traditional Cambodian dance. The Khmer children and the American students both performed their own cultural show in the afternoon after a shared lunch.

Day 5 | Phnom Penh

The US embassy welcomed the youth in the morning, while the afternoon was set aside for visits to the Choeng Ek and Tuol Sleng museums to learn about the brutality of the Khmer Rouge.

Day 6 | Phnom Penh – Chi Pat

Right after breakfast the students visited the offices of the Cambodian Community-Based Ecotourism Network (CCBEN) and the ChildSafe Network. Afterwards, the students took a 3-hour drive to a boat landing for a 2-hour boat trip to Chi Pat village. The group was hosted at several home stays.

Day 7 | Chi Pat

Breakfast was packed in rattan boxes and handed to the children to enjoy during a bird watching trip by boat. Lunch was enjoyed at the community restaurant. The afternoon included a bicycle tour to visit another village, tree nursery and waterfall, where they had an opportunity to take a swim.

Day 8 | Chi Pat

The Americans taught English at one of the local schools using drawing and coloring. They also learned more about the community based tourism project and had a lot of time in the afternoon to play football and volleyball with the villagers and local students.

Day 9 | Chi Pat – Sambor District

The group arrived at Sambor district in between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap by boat and car. Students met their hosts and all collected for a reception and dinner at a local school funded by the Thai Royal Family.

Day 10 & 11 | Sambor District

The group spent a full day at the local high school joining all sorts of activities like peer training/ education workshops, team building exercises, leadership development workshops, and exercises related to increasing tolerance and cooperation strategies for future collaboration and cooperation.

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Day 12 | Sambor District

This morning the students visited a silk farm and several local houses to get an insight into how local people make their living. Students learned about palm oil, flattened rice (unique in Cambodia), organic rice, Khmer noodles, and stone carving. In the afternoon the whole group helped plant rice, working together with the local people.

Day 13 | Sambor District

We explored the Sambor Prei Kuk temple ruins by bicycle and visited the Isanborei community, a Khiri Reach project. In the afternoon the youth actively helped in restoration work led by Waseda University of Japan.

Day 14 | Sambor District – Siem Reap

The students traveled to Siem Reap via Spaen Praptos, a stone bridge from the Angkor era. They visited Being Melea, once part of the ancient kingdom of Angkor.

Day 15 | Siem Reap

This day focused on the Tonle Sap Lake and all its different aspects. The group interacted with the local community and entered the flooded forest for bird watching.

Day 16 | Siem Reap

In collaboration with the Ecole d’Hotellerie et du Tourisme Paul Dubrule, the American youth was introduced to Cambodian food. They went shopping at a local market, prepared their own Cambodian lunch, and learned how to serve this food. The afternoon was at leisure and in the evening dinner was served by Sala Bai Hotel and Restaurant School.

Day 17 | Siem Reap

When in Siem Reap, a visit to the temples of Angkor should be included. The group explored various temple sites and saw a sunset at Angkor Wat.

Day 18 | Siem Reap – departure

In the early morning a bus was ready to bring the group back to Bangkok for their onward flight.

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For more information on this student group or other educational travel options, please contact sales.cambodia@khiri.com.