Gold-spired temples. Motorbikes zipping by. Colorful monks collecting alms. Hip coffee shops serving fusion cuisine. Study in Phnom Penh, a unique study abroad destination that doesn’t disappoint. From rickshaw rides through lively, modern streets to devastating sites like the Khmer Rouge “Killing Fields,” study abroad programs in Phnom Penh push students to ask big questions and embrace the paradoxes that are part of life in this city. Take advantage of the opportunity to study in the Cambodian capital!
Popular Ways to Study in Phnom Penh
Students of everything from agricultural science to Asian studies will find an interesting perspective in Phnom Penh, so let your intellectual curiosity lead the way when choosing study abroad programs in Phnom Penh.
Do-gooders rejoice, because after you study in Phnom Penh, you will actually be the change you want to see in the world. Popular subjects to study range from human rights and conflict studies, to religious studies, and public health. Learn first-hand how the Cambodian population has sought justice and reconciliation in the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge, and apply this experience to modern conflicts worldwide. Explore the 2,000 year old roots of Thearavada Buddhism as you roam the glimmering temples around every corner the city. For aspiring doctors, nurses, and humanitarians, studying public health in Phnom Penh and lending a hand to local organizations will teach you all aspects of health and medicine.
Study abroad programs in Phnom Penh take place year-round, but coincide with the summer, fall, and spring academic terms. It’s safe to say that you’ll always be left wanting more. If you choose to do a short-term summer program (perfect if you have a packed schedule), you’ll wish you had time to spend a full semester roaming around Phnom Penh and SE Asia. This is the one instance where less doesn’t always mean more.
Choosing to direct-enroll at a university, embarking on an adventure through your own home institution, or branching out and go through a separate program when you study in Phnom Penh, is up to you. Identify your goals and needs and find a program and institution that best suits them. Most study abroad programs in Phnom Penh – even at local universities – are conducted in English. Some students elect to study Khmer, but this is not a requirement of most programs in Cambodia. Courses follow a Western-style curriculum and format, infused with local site visits and guest speakers.
Student Life in Phnom Penh
So, let’s talk deets. What’s it’s like? Where do the cool kids hang? No matter how you slice it, study abroad programs in Phnom Penh are pure phun.
The city vibrates with towering malls and tantalizing market scents. With motorbikes constantly whizzing in all directions, walking down the street can feel like taking your life in your hands. It’s worth the risk for Cambodian delicacies like fish amok and lok lak. For particularly adventurous diners, balut (fertilized duck embryo), a favorite among locals, presents an exotic challenge.
When you study in Phnom Penh, you’ll see first-hand the destruction wrought on Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge at well-preserved historic sites like the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the notorious “Killing Fields.” But, life in modern Phnom Penh isn’t all dark. Some nights, you may find yourself on a riverboat, enjoying the sunset at the convergence of the Tonle Sap, Mekong, and Bassac rivers or savoring a cocktail at one of the city’s rooftop bars. On a long weekend, make your way up to the temple complex of Angkor Wat, a UNESCO World Heritage site and Cambodia’s most famous attraction for good reason.
Finding a kre (bed) in Phnom Penh is kmean banhhea (no problem). With a host of homestays, hotels, hostels, and shared apartments, students have a fine selection of places to rest their heads. Whether you want to live like a pasha in a plush condo or scrape by in more humble accommodations, Phnom Penh welcomes students with open doors.
GoAbroad Insider Tips
When you study in Phnom Penh, take the opportunity to appreciate the balance of learning in and outside of the classroom by chatting with your host family, getting involved in a local club, or volunteering with underserved communities. These experiences are powerful learning opportunities in their own right that leave an indelible mark on your life.
Getting the proper vaccines prior to departure helps to guard students against illness (and hopefully keep you out of Cambodian hospitals), but it’s nonetheless difficult to see others suffer. Consider volunteering at a local hospital or public health NGO to give back and help improve the quality of life for all in this beautiful country while connecting on a more personal level with the local community. This way, you can leave Phnom Penh better than when you found it.
One last bit of good news for penny pinchers— you won’t need to drop many riel to live it up while you study in Phnom Penh. Cambodia sees significantly less tourism than neighboring Vietnam and Thailand, so students here are much more likely to have the place to themselves than their peers in Bangkok or Hanoi. Bonus: so many opportunities to practice your Khmer!
Still wondering if you should take the plunge and sign up for study abroad programs in Phnom Penh? This funky city lures newcomers with exotic architecture and foods, but holds them with warmth and hospitality. Pack your bags and get ready to have a phenom(phen)al time!
Read our comprehensive guide on studying in Cambodia.