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Preparing for Engagement

Director Shares Thoughts on Visit to Cambodia for Service-Learning Institute

By Jeanie Kim-Han

Jeannie Kim-Han

It's Sunday morning and everything is very quiet.

We are staying here at Dr. Anita Pattnaik’s house for two weeks to save on hotel costs. Dr. Pattnaik, dean of sciences at Paññāsāstra University of Cambodia, and her family have been extremely generous and we are very grateful for their warm hospitality. I love staying here because I feel like I am a part of their family with all of the kids calling me auntie!

Dawn Macy, associate director of Cal State Fullerton's Center for Internships & Community Engagement, and I have been in Cambodia for a week now. This is my fifth visit here in six years. Phnom Penh has changed a great deal since my first visit in 2003. There are more cars, many new buildings, shopping centers and franchises, including Pizza Company, and Kentucky Fried Chicken. No “official” Starbucks yet.

The school systems seem to have improved tremendously. There are more universities and more students than before. Paññāsāstra had a little fewer than 2,000 students in 2003 and now has more than 16,000. Undergrads make up 6,000. The others are English language learners. PUC has one of the best ESL programs in the country.

The campus also has expanded to two other locations -- one in Siem Riep and the other in Battambang Province. A team from Battambang and a staff member from Siem Riep will join us for the Service-Learning Institute which is just a week away.

Dawn and I have been busy getting all of the logistics for the Institute together. We visited a couple of university presidents and their staff to give personalized invitations, encouraging them to attend. There is some competition between the universities here and hosting the Institute at PUC seems to be highly politically charged.

We met with the president of the University of Cambodia, his Excellency Kao Kim Hourn, who also is the Secretary of State of Cambodia. We were very honored to have him make time in his busy schedule to see us and delighted that he had already reviewed the Institute materials and even conducted a bit of research into what service-learning was and had already decided to send a team to the Institute.

With all the 100 participants from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia identified, the Minister of Education, His Excellency Im Sethy and the U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia, Carol A. Rodley confirmed as speakers for the event, supplies ordered and conference food and locations confirmed, Dawn and I now need to get all of the training materials together; all of which is coming over email from the other six U.S. trainers who are beginning to arrive.

We have a busy week ahead of us but I’m sure we will get it all done. Till next time. Aw khun and chum riep leah (thank you and good-bye).

Jeannie Kim-Han is director of the Cal State Fullerton’s Center for Internships & Community Engagement.

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