Although I have by no means seen and done everything there is to see and do in and around Europe, I am very excited to shift my gaze to Asia. For my J-term I will be traveling around Cambodia for a Paideia 450 course called War, Peace and Reconciliation.
It is important to note that this is not a vacation, but if you looked at my itinerary you might think otherwise. We will be doing some amazing things like visiting an elephant sanctuary as well as a few other wildlife reserves. Along with building a house for a family in need, we will also be taking a boat ride to the floating village in the flooded forest and taking a sunset cruise. These things will be beautiful and an eye opening experience to a new culture but they are surrounded by a brutal history.
For the past couple weeks I have been doing my assigned reading for this course (like a good Luther student) and it has really changed my perspective on the world. I’ve done a lot of traveling during my time at Luther, but I know that this trip will be far different. I’m going to a place where people have suffered many hardships and more importantly have come through those hardships! Three weeks ago I didn’t know anything about the Cambodian genocide, Khmer Rouge, or the role the United States played in it all. It is not a pretty history to read about and I definitely shed a few tears in a few coffee shops, but it is an important history none the less!
I don’t plan on going to this country to spread my newfound knowledge or to walk around feeling sorry for these people. My goal is to go there and talk to them, learn from them, help where I am needed and see some amazing people and places. I have learned a lot in the last three weeks and I will learn even more in the next three.
This is what I love about studying abroad at Luther College. Reading a book is not enough for me anymore; it can only take you so far, and I’m an all or nothing kind of girl! So although this trip will be laced with some tears and heartache, I know that it will be filled with memories and lessons to take with me forever!