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Archer Abroad Cambodia Trip: Students experience culture thousands of miles from home

Madison Tyler '19, Angelica Gonzalez '20 and Megan Escobar '19 pose with Cambodian school children. 13 students traveled to Cambodia  through the latest Archer Abroad trip.

Madison Tyler '19, Angelica Gonzalez '20 and Megan Escobar '19 pose with Cambodian school children. 13 students traveled to Cambodia through the latest Archer Abroad trip.

Madison Tyler '19, Angelica Gonzalez '20 and Megan Escobar '19 pose with Cambodian school children. 13 students traveled to Cambodia through the latest Archer Abroad trip.

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As 13 Archer students and faculty, Stefanie Daehler and Steven Jacobson, arrived in Cambodia, they were greeted by smiling faces welcoming them into a new place filled with unknown experiences to come.

From Nov. 12 to 22, the group traveled through Cambodia with Peace Works Travel. The trip included a focus on filmmaking. Archer Abroad programs previously traveled to India and Guatemala — among others.

This year, the Archer group began their journey in Phnom Penh, then traveled to Siem Reap. Throughout the trip, they kept an Archer Abroad Blogspot page to document their travels.

According to Daehler’s post on the blog, as soon as the group arrived in Cambodia they “spent a spectacular day exploring Phnom Penh and enjoying extraordinary meals.”

The trip was the first time all Archer participants have been to Cambodia. According to the students, this experience allowed them to become more aware of the the diversity of cultures within Asia.

“I’ve always been fascinated [with] Asian culture,” Sarah Traenkle ’19 said. “In Japan, everything is kind of neat and tidy. I had the same notion going to Cambodia. When I got there, everything was not in place…like I thought it would be. It was just a normal big city.”

While the students learned about Cambodian culture through various activities, it also allowed them to reflect on American culture and how different the societies are.

Photo by Bea Freeman
The Archer Abroad group poses with students from Cambodia Living Arts. The photo was taken after their performance, which included various types of dance.

“A big thing that stood out to me was the friendliness and how welcoming everyone was,” Traenkle said. “I remember on our first day, Megan Escobar [’19] and I were looking out the windows. Everyone was making eye-contact with us, smiling and waving. It was such a friendly environment compared to here in LA, where if you look out your window you will probably see someone looking at their phone or staring down.”

Julia Hallin-Russo ’18 said the environment caused Archer girls to think about their lives at home and reflect on the differences they had experienced.

“Especially growing up in Los Angeles and going to Archer in Brentwood, I think there is a very different perception of wealth and what is considered normal,” Hallin-Russo said. “Going to Cambodia made my perception change about what’s valued more in life — what we have versus what we need. The amount of happiness that was there, like Sarah said. Everyone was so friendly. They spoke to you and looked you in the eye when they spoke to you.”

From 1957-1959, Cambodia faced a genocide, which killed an estimated 1.5 to 3 million Cambodians.

Photo by Sarah Traenkle
Archer Students Ruby Colby ’19, Rachael Boehm ’18 , Megan Escobar ’19 and Bea Freeman ’19 pose with a Cambodian driving a tuk-tuk. The photo was taken in Phnom Penh.

The Archer group visited S-21: The Killing Fields Museum and spoke to genocide survivors while in Phnom Penh. Students learn about the “horrific” yet “impactful” history of Cambodia.

“I think my biggest struggle was being face to face with what connects [Cambodia] to its history,” Hallin-Russo said. “[Before visiting the museum] it was easier to separate yourself from it. But being able to go there, see it, listen to it and meet people who were apart of it and whose lives were changed because of it made me face these realities in a way I’ve never had to face them before.”

According to the students, the experience of being face to face with history was difficult, yet it made them stronger and allowed them to understand the culture more thoroughly.

“Although Cambodia was greatly impacted by the horrific effects of the genocide, the people have channeled their pain into making Cambodia and the world a better place,” Hallin-Russo said.

After spending a week in Phnom Penh, the group journeyed to Siem Reap. According to students, they visited a “captivating” Night Market on their first night in Siem Reap.

“Closing my eyes, I can still smell and hear the bustle of the street,” Bea Freeman ’19 wrote in an Archer Abroad Blogspot page post. “And while so different to what lays in my comfort level, I am drawn to the beautiful differences in which I have been immersed.” 

On their two week journey through a new culture, meeting many new people and trying new things, students also learned about themselves, according to students.

“In our society today, we dwell on the little things,” Traenkle said. “One little thing can make us so sad and want to completely eliminate that from our lives…We have to look at the bigger picture and realize that one little thing can’t affect us in a major way. We have to be more resilient in our lives.”

Correction (Dec. 15, 2017 6:32 p.m.: The original version of this article stated that the trip was organized in conjunction with Where There Be Dragons. This was incorrect and this article has been corrected to state that it was organized in conjunction with Peace Works Travel. Archer has partnered with Where There Be Dragons on past trips however.

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About the Writer
Nicki Rosenberg, Managing Editor
Nicki Rosenberg joined the Oracle in 2017 and is excited to continue writing. She serves as a member on the Eastern Star Gallery board and is also a member of Peer Support. She is excited to continue co-leading the Heartbeats club while working with the Violence Intervention Program and is a member of their teen board. In...
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