Jan Hudson - Foreign Volunteer from June to July, 2018
From magnificent sunsets, to adventurous bike rides down winding dirt roads, to working with students so eager and excited to learn, to eating with strangers and taking cool bucket showers at the end of a long day –many events have shaped my time in Cambodia and with JGG.
Most memorable for me was watching the JGG Student Volunteers grow into their role as teachers. At the beginning many students seemed quite mechanical in their teaching style and interactions with their students, but slowly I watched them grow confident in their ability to lead and take control of their classes.
I would encourage future foreign volunteers to come to Cambodia with an open mind. The kindness of the students and locals you meet, the sheer beauty of the country, and the little things you are bound to encounter in your daily life will make for an unforgettable experience.
A Day in the Life of a JGG Foreign Volunteer
6:30 a.m.: Wake Up
The mornings are the coolest and least humid time of the day. It’s a good time to take a quick trip to the market and buy some seasonal fruits or if I’m feeling motivated I may do a quick workout. Other times I’ll try to sleep in a little and have a quick breakfast and shower and make my way to school.
8:00 a.m.: Arrive at JGG Learning Center / High School
Not all commutes are created equal. Some of my favorite times are riding my bike to and from school (depending if you’re in Bakchienchien or Romlech the one-way journey can be 2 to 7 km long). The views are breathtaking and watching the locals go about their daily life is fascinating (working in the rice fields, herding cows).
8:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.: Work on Lesson Plans/Office Work
JGG Student Volunteers are full-time public school students too, so their days are quite busy with regular classes (Khmer, Physics, Math, Social Sciences, etc.). Accordingly, my teaching schedule is based on when JGG Students have some time off between their regular classes. Oftentimes they are occupied in the morning and I will work on my own lesson plans and assist JGG program assistants and the Director in organizational/administrative tasks (review curriculums, draft reports, etc.).
11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.: Break for Lunch
For lunch, I head back to the guest family house. Rice is the absolute staple of the Khmer diet. Don’t be surprised to have rice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Rice will generally be accompanied by some meat or fish and a few vegetables (as stir-fry or soup). Occasionally, some unique local fruits will be available too.
After eating, I’ll either take a quick nap, or I may catch-up on some laundry (washing by hand of course).
1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.: Teaching/Office Work
Monday through Friday I normally teach JGG Student Volunteers about 2 to 3 hours throughout the day. During the weekend that may increase to about 4 to 5 hours. For the most part, lesson plans and activities are based on the needs of students. If I notice they are have trouble differentiating between adjectives and adverbs, the next lesson will cover that topic. Aside from practical grammatical lessons, the bulk of my teaching activities focus on improving the students’ pronunciation, vocabulary, and conversational and writing skills (in addition to life skills, interviewing, etc.). Students are always welcome to stop by the office to talk to me, seek clarification on word pronunciation and to review their lesson plans, or simply to hang out and get to know each other.
6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.: Free Time
After school is finished, I’ll occasionally play football with the local high-school students, or I’ll go for a quick bike ride and find a good spot to watch the sunset by the river or overlooking the rice fields. The sun starts setting by 6:45 p.m.
Wherever you go, you will always run into local villagers that want to strike-up a conversation, offer you food or get to know you.
5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.: Student Volunteer English Outreach Program
This is the time when the JGG Student Volunteers become teachers themselves as they teach a clearly defined English curriculum to state school students. During this time I visit the classes and closely observe their teaching; checking for pronunciation, teaching style, demeanor, etc. I later meet with the Student Volunteers individually to give them feedback. The feedback serves to acknowledge their strengths, but also motivate them to focus on areas of improvement.
7:30 p.m.: Dinner and Bedtime
Dinner is often shared with the family or the JGG Director. This is a good time to debrief the day and discuss the needs of the students. After dinner, I like to wind down on the porch reading and enjoying the cool evening breeze before heading to bed around 9:00 p.m.