Children in Cambodia: Understanding PreK-12 Opportunities (Embedded Program)
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Carly Danielson

Major: Psychology (Life Sciences Option), Linguistics
Minor: Chinese
Hometown: New Castle, PA

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I took Psych 212 in the Spring of 2016 with Dr. Cathleen Hunt. I loved the class and often had discussions with Dr. Hunt about current research in the field. At the end of the semester, I applied to be an Undergraduate Teaching Assistant and got the position. At the time I took the class and applied to be a TA, this program was still in the works, so I didn't know about it for a while. I continued to be a TA for the course from that fall (2016) into Spring 2017, when the embedded course was announced during a class period as an option for those interested, and I immediately knew I had to go. I had never been outside of the United States previously (other than a trip to Canada), and so travel wasn't a normal thing for me. But I've had a large interest in learning about world cultures and languages for as long as I can remember. Again, my experience with other cultures was basically nonexistent, and I had never really thought about going abroad before. But something in me knew that this was a wonderful opportunity that I had to take, especially because I knew the leaders and professors of the program so well.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

The experience was beyond incredible because I never in my life had even considered the idea that I'd go to Cambodia, but once the possibility was presented to me, I immediately became determined to find a way to go. While I was only in Cambodia for a week, I 100% would say it was the greatest decision I've ever made. I know it's hard to express that something was gained from such a short time of being there, but going to a culture drastically different from the non-diverse one I grew up in made me realize that while cultures differ in many ways, in other ways cultures are the same. The trip was beautifully designed in that the goal wasn't to attempt to change anything about the society we were meeting, but rather to observe and learn about how a different society functions. Cambodia is a very unique country, one which has faced many hardships through the years; I was so glad to find that the professors understood the importance of valuing their culture/education system and paying it due respect. We were there to learn rather than to teach. I think often when one goes abroad, especially to a country they may feel is "lesser" than that of their own, they may feel inclined to "change" or "help" in ways that are not  necessary or relevant.

We were there to learn rather than to teach.

How did this experience impact you academically?

Academically, this embedded course was worth a credit. So while it didn't do much overall to my academic status, it was perhaps the most worthwhile credit I've ever earned. We earned an entire credit for just a week-long trip. As part of the course, we were asked to complete a project after returning home. I wrote a paper on the history and current structure of education in Cambodia, and I found it felt less like doing work and more like expanding my interests. The workload was by no means overwhelming, and many of the assignments were based on personal reflection, which I also found very rewarding.

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

I hope to study abroad for a semester in China in the fall of 2019. Along with that, I hope to complete my education at Penn State with majors in Psychology and Linguistics, as well as a minor in Chinese. Then I hope to attend a graduate school (preferably in New York) and attain a PhD in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in Development (Child Psychology). This program served as the gateway for my appreciation for the world and the constantly-changing cultures within it. Had I not taken part in this opportunity, I would've never decided to study abroad for a semester and most likely would've never understood how much language and culture, and learning about those things, means to me.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

Absolutely, I would recommend this program to any other Liberal Arts student who takes this course for many reasons. To begin, this is a 200-level course, not a 400-level, which embedded courses usually are. This is a wonderful opportunity for a student (who perhaps isn't even a Psychology major or minor) to go abroad to a very different, less-typical place for a short period of time. It's a perfect taste of what it's like to go abroad in a very immersive setting. There was never a time when I felt disconnected from what was going on or like I had an artificial experience. The majority of the trip consisted of spending time with the locals; learning from them and getting a general view of what daily life is like for some of them, at least for those living in the more populated city regions.

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