Blog 2: Near Cambodia's Temple Ruins, a Devotion to Learning, Deborah Faircloth
This article, by Thomas Fuller, tells the story of a small town in Cambodia that could have turned into a ghost town. But instead, Siem Reap, Cambodia is a thriving tourist village where millions of people come to see the ancient temples of Angkor Wat. The number of tourists last year was close to three and a half million. With all those tourists, a town needs hotels and other amenities which, of course, means employment for the locals. The difference here is that these local tour guides, servers, and hotel employees are also pursuing their college degrees at the same time. This once tiny village of Siem Reap is only second to Phnom Penh for being the largest area for higher education in Cambodia. Siem Reap houses five universities. These universities were started and continue because of the dreams and intense desires of the young students to have better lives. Even though they work long hours during the day, they persist in taking college classes at night. The results have been positive because when these students receive their degree, most of them move into managerial roles. The students speak of receiving a degree as being "transformative".
The young students of Siem Reap are setting a great example for the rest of the world, although I am sure that they are not aware of it. The great devotion to learning that they dedicate their lives to is something we Americans could use. It is certainly true that many Americans work full-time and are full-time college students but I feel that these Cambodian students would be an inspiration to them as well as the rest of us. We take so much for granted here. The Cambodian people have fairly recently came out from under the power of Khmer Rouge where there was much suffering.To them, higher education is a privilege and an honor. In the words of a local tour guide/student, "I never imagined that I could go to university". Education - a privilege and an honor for all.