Global Service Scholar: Kayli Savage
Country: Cambodia

We stay at one of the many guesthouses here in the heavily touristed city of Siem Reap. The guesthouses are accommodating and simple, but different than home. What I like most about them is that on each floor there’s a little balcony that looks over the crowding neighboring buildings or, if it’s high enough, over the trees and structures. There’s always a hammock tied to the post on the poles on each balcony, and it’s a peaceful way to begin or end a long day.

My day usually starts around 6 a.m. or 7 a.m., depending if I wake up in time or want breakfast. They serve breakfast at the guesthouse we stay at, but sometimes my roommate and I would rather get the extra sleep, so instead we just go down when it’s time to leave for work at 7:30 a.m.

We arrive at the school where we work, Treak Community Centre, and respectively divide up into our different groups to work on our projects. There are three areas of focus we are aiming to improve and further develop for the students: Testing, Hygiene, and General Studies. I’m a part of the group doing General Studies. This is further divided into the three subjects of Geography, Science, and Arts and Crafts.

Initially I managed the Arts and Crafts category, where the goal was to provide additional ways for students to express themselves and develop their imagination and creativity. Their artwork is a way of showcasing student work for its own sake and to be accessible for future learning. Through online resources, I collected more ideas and materials and put together documents that explained the benefit, materials needed, instruction, and illustration. My goal was to come up with projects that increased the students’ range of skills and interests, and that could be possibly be paired with other subject lessons.

However, after meetings with the teachers and hearing feedback from the other UCI students in my group, I shifted my focus to phonics. We noticed that although the students at the school were being taught the alphabet and words in English, they lacked the ability to read, relying instead on memorization.

I decided to do some research in the foundation of teaching young students, and students of another language, the basics of phonics, and how to build up to reading and comprehension. I believed this would prove more valuable as a skill. Through meticulous searching and compiling, I began to put together and conclusively develop a reading curriculum that could be used to teach the students the fundamentals of sound, the different rules that are necessitated by it, and the understanding of the role of phonics in both speaking and reading. Through it, I hoped that they would learn the sounds of each letter, the difference and use of vowels and consonants, blending sounds, digraphs, and letter sound relationships. Ultimately, this will give them the ability to read and comprehend for themselves.

Our days are split into two sections. In the morning we work on our projects, and in the afternoons after our lunch break, we work in the classes. I teach and help assist in K1, which they call the nursery class. There are about 25 little children in this class all averaging 4 to 5 years old. This is one of my favorite parts of the day. As soon as I walk in I’m greeted by a chorus of little voices all shouting, “Teacher Kayli” in excited little smiles and giggles. Some try to quickly run out of their seats and give me a hug or high five before getting caught and being told to sit back down.

By the second week I had learned all their unique Cambodian names, and they would proudly smile at me when I called them by it. Between one other girl and myself, we would switch off teaching the lesson for day, and reviewing their English vocabulary. We also would come up with an arts and crafts for the day, and then allow them a little time for play time.

After work, we head back to the guesthouse and rest an hour or two before dinner. My group of friends and I generally eat at the same three spots, since their cuisine and cheap prices have become our favorites. Some nights we walk the streets of Siem Reap and head to either some night market or Pub Street.

There is always something new to see, to do, or try. There are plentiful massage places, bars, shops, and food stands that sell anything from fried ice cream rolls to fried bugs. It is always a good and enjoyable time with lots of laughs. I thoroughly enjoy all their company and the nights never end without good memories being made.