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Lost in Translation: Internship in Cambodia

Posted by Shannon Morton '17

December 15, 2016

Category: Student Blogs

mortonshannon.jpgCatawba senior Shannon Morton of Millington, Md. is a double major in Economics & Finance and Accounting.  An honors student, she is working on a thesis on microfinance and economic development with Dr. Eric Hake, professor of economics and chair of the Department of Business, serving as the chair for her thesis committee, along with Drs. Norris Feeney (professor of politics) and Buster Smith (professor of sociology). In the summer, Shannon mentioned to Dr. Hake that she wanted to pursue international travel associated with her honors thesis in order to do research.  She researched, found, and applied for a program entitled UBELONG on her own.  The Ketner School of Business and Honors program provided her with some financial support and her international experience in Cambodia began on December 4 and will continue through January 14.

Following is Shannon’s first blog installment about her experience.

Hello all, I am two weeks into my trip to Cambodia and it has flown by! I have had the opportunity to travel around a bit, the only downside to that being very unreliable wifi. I am staying at a volunteer house in Phnom Penh with several other international volunteers all working on different volunteer projects. The organization I am working with is an NGO called FLD that provides training, offers microfinance services, and runs a small chip company to connect rural farmers with the market ( However, they are in the process of legally separating the microfinance side to pursue a profitable model, which is interesting because it aligns with the trend I have seen for my thesis. I get to telecommute to work and only actually go into the office two days a week, which works out because it is a $10 tuk-tuk ride. Usually that means going to a coffee house down the street so we have some good wifi. Literally everything is different and I could go on for hours, but here are a few pictures of some of the shocks I encountered my first week.

Weekend in Battambang
The first weekend I went to Battambang, the second largest city in Cambodia about 200 miles north of Phnom Penh. It was a six hour bus ride to get there, but it took closer to five hours to get back since the bus driver was driving like a madman. The shocks system on the buses and not ideal and we spend more time on the left side of the road passing people than the right. I traveled with another American girl, Tracy, and we stayed at a cheap hostel (cheap as in $9 for two nights). Saturday was a busy day doing all the activities they have for tourists. In the morning, we walked around to the temples that were in the city. Then we rented a tuktuk driver for the afternoon to take us to the bamboo train, the only winery in Cambodia, two more temples, and the bat cave. I don’t have any good pictures from the bat cave because it was dark, but about 3,500 flew out of a cave in the mountain as sunset. Then, Sunday morning we took a traditional Khmer cooking class, which included a trip to the market to buy our ingredients.

The toilets in more rural areas take some getting used to, to say the least- toilet paper not provided.

Most local travel is done by tuk-tuk, a cart attached to a motorbike. Few intersections have lights and the traffic is horrendous.

This is considered desert (not quite the chocolate cake I was hoping for). It is made from rice powder and then flavored with a leaf, which is what gives it the green color. It actually tastes just like rice in coconut milk, but the texture is like slimy worms. 

Temple in the City
It was set up like a little community for the monks. 

Bamboo Train
A little motor attached to the back got us going at about 20 mph. Then when two trains would cross paths, they would just take one off the track so the other could pass. 

Banan Winery
This was actually the only glass that even resembled wine and it was terrible. We were also given brandy and something in two shot glasses. I really think the first shot glass was just juice and I have no idea what the second one was but I couldn’t finish it. 




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