An internship with VVOB Cambodia will not only give you international experience teaching in a primary school, but you will also support VVOB activities by developing teaching and learning materials, helping with workshop preparations and you get to know the people and culture of this beautiful country.
Read the experience of the last group of interns and you will be convinced that you’ll have an experience you will carry with you forever.
Before you arrived, what did you set out to gain during this internship?
"Before I arrived, I didn’t know what to expect. I was just really excited about how the educational system works in Cambodia, how the students would be, how they behave.
Before I arrived, my main goal was to learn about the system and to add more knowledge about worldwide education, so this will influence my deeds in the future. I want to pass this knowledge on to Belgian people who are involved with education. Later, I want to have an influence in the curriculum of education, I want to make a difference. Now I’ve got a view on education in a developing country. And for sure to make the kids happy, to give knowledge from our country to the students here and to learn from them."
What was the funniest experience during your internship that made you laugh?
"As my Cambodian co-teacher Mister Sopheak told me: “You should always smile to people, because it’s our culture”. There is a lot that made me laugh during my internship, but my funniest experience, as well as my first experience, took place on the 14th of February 2018 at 7 o’clock in the morning. I was supposed to teach English and Sports in grade 3. I was going to teach without any experience, nor expectations. This first lesson was meant to be an introduction lesson. I prepared to go outside the classroom with the children and do a lot of different exercises; a trust exercise in pairs was one of them. At first, when the 73 children were sitting in the classroom, it was a big class but it felt doable, because they were ordered from small to tall with mostly 3 students at one desk so you had a good overview.
But then, when this same class of 73 children came outside the classroom, I had no idea anymore. They were so many. This would never happen in Belgium, it was almost one school. This was quite impressive for me and during my internship I think this was also one of my biggest challenges. How do you manage a class of 73 children? It’s called classroom management. At first you think it’s impossible, then you start observing the Cambodian (student) teachers and learn so much from them; but at the end you still cannot grasp it properly and that’s why it remains so interesting."
How different is an internship in Cambodia from an internship back home?
"There are some differences between an internship in Belgium and one in Cambodia. The language barrier is the biggest one we had to face during our internship. Especially the fact that you can’t communicate with the pupils or teacher directly in your class was something we had to get used to. You still try other methods, such as gestures or drawing what you mean. The textbooks are also written in Khmer so you always have to count on your fellow student teachers to translate. But you learn and evolve in this matter as the time goes on.
Other differences are the more obvious ones: the classes are not that highly developed as in Belgium (no smartboard, not every student has scissors, a ruler, a drafting compass, a calculator) and the classroom is much smaller for a bigger number of pupils. The lessons are composed on another way (each lesson is only 40 minutes while it is 50 minutes in Belgium) but you learn to use this ‘new lesson plan’ quite easily.
Teachers are very respected by the children and parents in Cambodia, it’s part of their culture. It is one of the most beautiful jobs you can practice."
What achievement are you most proud of during this internship?
"When I taught in the 3rd grade, there were some boys who didn’t pay attention during the lessons. They didn’t listen and didn’t make their exercises. I noticed it was really hard for them to sit on their chair and stay concentrated the whole morning. I had the feeling that they didn’t learn a lot from sitting there. But when I gave my first STEM-lesson (science, technology, engineering and math) they totally changed. In that lesson, they were almost my best students and they were so enthusiastic. They loved to work with their hands and make something. I had the feeling that they really learned something by experimenting in this lesson. This is why the further development of STEM is so important in the education system. This gives all students the opportunity to learn. Seeing these boys having fun while learning was definitely the achievement I’m most proud of."