Martina Fraternali is supporting our learning center in Siem Reap, Cambodia as BOOKBRIDGE fellow. In this blog post she describes her first month at the learning center.
Hello! My name is Martina and I am the new fellow at the BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center Siem Reap, Cambodia. I began my fellowship exactly one month ago and this is the first blogpost I write. I would like to describe a bit myself and my first month living in Siem Reap and working in the Learning Center.
I come from Italy, however for the past 4 years I have been living and working in various countries both Europe and Asia. As a matter of fact, I love traveling and exploring new cultures while dedicating my time working or volunteering for projects that help the local population to be empowered and to contribute to positive impact in their country and the world as a whole.
This is exactly the reason why I decided to become a fellow for BOOKBRIDGE. Their values and mission are very closely aligned to mine, especially in their focus on equal education and social entrepreneurship in the generation of sustainable development. With the term education I do not mean solely the formal education imparted and received at school, but also a more informal one – called experiential learning – that takes places outside the classrooms and it grows thanks to the social interaction and real-life situations which the young generation is confronted with.
The library and the English classrooms at BOOKBRIDGE Learning Centre Siem Reap are the perfect laboratories for this sort of unconventional education and I, together with the Community Hero Sanith, am trying my best to apply to our daily work here.
Living in Siem Reap
I had already traveled in Cambodia, however this is my first time living here and frankly I love it! Siem Reap is a fairly big city which is the house of not solely Cambodians, but of many Western and non-expats that work and have businesses here as well as in other cities in Cambodia. The city is very much alive and oriented towards the tourism that populates Angkor Wat and the few natural attractions situated around Siem Reap city, like the lake Tonle Sap. Therefore are many the people that speak good English and have a higher education.
Khmer culture and language
On the other hand however, it is hard perhaps to find the real and authentic Khmer culture that is very much alive in the villages and smaller cities of Cambodia. Despite it, I consider myself very lucky because thanks to a staff that is entirely Khmer I can truly exchange opinions and ask questions to Sokhan, Sanha and Sanith who are giving me an invaluable insight into their ancient and rich culture. Spending time with them at work and outside is a true blessing.
Additionally, I am making an effort to learn the local language Khmer thanks to a great teacher Sanith! We dedicate one hour per day, from Tuesday to Friday to it and my skills have noticeably improved since the first class. I can now speak few sentences and my vocabulary allows me to go to a grocery shop. I am looking forward to the moment when I could have a proper conversation with some local stranger!
My role at the Learning Center Siem Reap entails many different and interesting tasks and I sincerely appreciate the opportunity I was given to co-teach English classes because what I would like to students to experience in the English lessons is not solely English grammar and scattered topics, but to incorporate real-life and essential topics such as environmental protection, cultural exchange, etc.. within it in order to not only improve their vocabulary, but to sensitize them towards issues that are perhaps overlooked at school and that can turn them into citizens of a bright future.
After a month of work I can happily say I love my job and the Learning Center that gives me space to experiment and learn a lot of new skills. Cambodia is a country with amazingly smiley and kind people and I cannot wait to learn more from its history, culture and ordinary life.