Have you ever hopped onto a motorbike with a couple of friends to share a sunrise view of ancient architecture dotted with wild monkeys? I didn’t think so — but that is going to become something you won’t think twice about while studying in Siem Reap, Cambodia as you get to know the ins and outs of living in the heart of the historical Angkor region. Take a walk through the markets, bike out to the countryside that leads to Tonle Sap Lake, and explore the many temples nearby. Studying abroad in Siem Reap will open your eyes to a magical world — one that trumps Tomb Raider every. single. time.
What you need to know to study in Siem Reap
Even if you have read textbooks or watched documentaries about Cambodia, there is nothing like having first hand experiences here. Though the genocide of the 1970s is still scarring the nation, the peace you feel upon entering is undeniable. Khmer Rouge or not, this country is making strides to enter the 21st century on a brighter note — an interesting and complex transition for you to unpack as a study abroad student in Cambodia. Today, you can witness how it has affected the population and how the people strive to make their country a happier place.
But we digress! Here’s what you need to know before you study abroad in Cambodia.
Popular subjects to study. Many students opt to focus their studies on Buddhism and social entrepreneurship while studying in Cambodia. If you're a tree hugger, you'll also find tons of environmental studies programs here in Cambodia. Every program, no matter what your course load, will enjoy healthy doses of cultural engagement and steaming plates of amok.
Short term and summer programs vs. long term programs. Summertime is a popular option for busy students to pursue study abroad in Cambodia. Short term programs, like faculty-led programs that run for a few weeks or less, are also a good fit for students studying specific subjects in-depth or those that can't part from home for too long. On the flipside, long term programs have a slew of benefits. Though admittedly harder, they will give you plenty of time to get to know the Cambodian culture and overdose on mango shakes. If you want to learn Khmer or dive deep into Buddhism, consider semester or year long programs.
Attending universities vs. other programs. It is more common to connect through a program rather than attend a university directly while studying abroad in Siem Reap. You could find programs for study abroad at the University of South East Asia or Angkor University, most foreign students choose to attend programs run by their universities or by other organizations.
Student Life in Siem Reap
Siem Reap has become a hub for both tourists and expats. The population of just over 200,000 makes it feel quaint, but with plenty to offer for those who choose to live in the heart of the city. There are over two million visitors per year due to the UNESCO heritage site of Angkor. Not only are there days worth of temples to explore, but the largest religious building in the world, Angkor Wat, still stands there. It takes up about 500 acres! While trying to wrap your mind around that, just book that ticket and see it yourself.
The city center includes “Pub Street” which has a variety of restaurants, bars, and cafes. On a budget? No need to worry, as the cost of living is low and you can always find your daily needs for much less than in a western country. Grab a meal at a street cart for a couple of bucks while chatting with the local vendor. Relax and enjoy that $5 foot massage. Hop on a tuk-tuk taxi for as little as $1. Not only will you have the opportunity to study here, but you will be able to try new things that wouldn’t take place in your typical day – such as the Bugs Cafe (beware, it’s crunchy!).
GoAbroad’s Inside Scoop for study abroad students in Siem Reap
Although you can get a visa online, it will save you up to $100 to obtain it at the airport or land crossing. A tourist visa lasts for a month but can be renewed. The Cambodian Riel is the currency; however, almost all places accept American dollars. Be sure to keep small bills on you as not all places can make change for anything over $10. Negotiating in the markets is completely acceptable.
Beware of the cultural norms. Ninety-seven percent of Cambodians consider themselves to be Buddhist with the highest percentage in the world! It is very important to remember that you are a guest in Cambodia. As such, make sure to brush up on cultural etiquette.
Not only will you expand your knowledge of the Khmer culture and lifestyle, but you will learn to live in a world very unlike your own. Learn to unwind. Take this time in Siem Reap to learn to meditate, make close friends, and pick up a hobby that you thought you never would have time for. Student life in Siem Reap can feel slow-paced. So kick-back, relax, and enjoy the Cambodian life.
For more information read our comprehensive guide on studying in Cambodia.