My name is Michael Bartlett and I am currently studying a Bachelor of Occupation Therapy at the Australian Catholic University, Brisbane. Whilst in Cambodia I learned so much about myself but also about Cambodia and the differences between our two countries.
At the end of 2015, I spent two weeks in Battambang, Cambodia, volunteering and working with young children. Battambang is a small rural village situated about three hours south west of Siem Reap, also known as the rice bowl region. The challenge that I completed was to teach English to kindergarten and primary school children from families of low economic status. Interacting with these children and learning about their culture was a great experience.
Our daily routine involved 4 hours of teaching English, which was split up into 2 hours of teaching in the morning and 2 hours in the afternoon. In-between teaching we would spend time creating teaching resources for the schools to use after we left. To get to and from the classrooms we would take a tuk tuk (picture a motorbike pulling a carriage) through beautiful scenery, including temples and forests. In the afternoon, after teaching, we were able to relax back at the house or go bike riding around the town of Battambang.
I choose this challenge as I wanted to help make a positive difference to these children’s education and lifestyle. Also, I thought it would be an amazing experience to learn about lives and cultures so different from my own.
Challenges Abroad gave me the confidence and opportunity to do just that – to learn about another culture whilst helping and making a difference. Challenges such as these provide a great opportunity to place yourself outside your comfort zone, whilst being in a safe environment, where help is always around.
Being a global citizen and travelling overseas has shown me that even though we might all speak different languages and have different cultures, we still have many similarities. Additionally, this trip showed me how lucky we are to live in Australia, something that many people take for granted. Whilst in Cambodia, I learned and observed many differences between our two countries that has shaped my view of how I see the world.
While it’s hard to pick a favourite moment from my time in Cambodia, one thing that stands out is the happy smiling faces of the children we’d walk into a classroom. It’s definitely a good feeling. CAA gave me the opportunity to view and see Cambodia in a different light, whilst immersing myself in a foreign culture and trying to make a difference. I’d strongly recommend all students to join a CAA challenge, to make a difference in the lives of others, but also to discover something new about themselves and to help shape your own.