This summer, Brittany Bates had the privilege of being the only student in the United States to travel to Cambodia as part of the Reach Out Volunteers program. Bates, a Department of Criminal Justice Sciences student, joined 10 other volunteers who gave of their time, knowledge, and strength during the June 29–July 15 trip.

For the first week of the trip, the volunteers taught English to children in Kro Bei Riel and worked on a house in the village. Volunteers would alternate between teaching for an hour and working on the house for an hour. The village was small and had no electricity or plumbing. “It was blistering hot, and the water was room temperature, but no one ever complained,” Bates said.

After work, Bates and the other volunteers would play with the children, go to dance classes, or play soccer. At the end of the first week of work, the volunteer group finished the house. The locals had a “thank you” party for the volunteers, where everyone danced the night away.

When the group would return to their hotel for the evening during the first portion of the trip, they had plenty of free time to explore. Nights were spent eating at restaurants, going to history lessons, visiting night markets, or taking long walks. “Everything in Kro Bei Riel was cheaper than we are used to, because the American dollar is very powerful in Cambodia,” Bates said.

Bates and her volunteer group had a chance to visit Angkor Wat, Cambodia’s biggest temple. This gave the group a chance to learn about Cambodia’s history, and their struggle with religion and freedom.

During the second week of the trip, the volunteers traveled 12 hours into the jungle. “I’m convinced it is the prettiest jungle in the world,” Bates said. “And, we woke up each morning to fresh fruit and crepes!” During the day, the group hiked into a part of the jungle where the elephants live. Bates and the other volunteers spent two days building a bamboo plantation and doing heavy garden work. The other days in the jungle were spent interacting with the elephants. The volunteers helped to feed them, bathe them, and teach them how to interact with humans again.

“This trip was the most amazing experience of my life and has definitely changed me,” said Bates. “I highly encourage anyone who is interested in traveling abroad to do it, but especially, do it to help out. Reach Out Volunteers was able to help me travel the world with a purpose. I will see Cambodia again.”

If you are interested in studying abroad, contact your departmental academic advisor.