My name is Kimhean Hok (Kim), and I am twenty-one years old and from Cambodia. I am interning with ATMA SEVA for seven weeks in Chiang Mai, Thailand. My main responsibilities are to live and teach conversational English at Wat Doi Saket to monks as well as to learn about ATMA SEVA’s various projects. My main goal is to help connect ATMA SEVA with Middlebury once I get back to Middlebury College. Teaching and interacting with people of all socio-economic backgrounds are truly my passions. Over the course of my times in Cambodia and abroad (Norway and the US), I have taken part in many different social works, community services and humanitarian projects. In the summer of 2011, I participated in a volunteer program to help my teacher teach English to prisoners in my hometown. In the same summer, I spent twenty days working with the UWS (United Word Schools) project to help build schools and organize curriculum for indigenous children from remote villages and disadvantaged tribes.
As a liberal art student, what I expect from this internship are the unique sets of experience and knowledge that can empower and prepare myself to deal with complexity and diversity in my future career and other endeavors. Sure, this knowledge and experience will be achieved because, over the course of interning with ATMA SEVA, I will be encouraged to learn to cope with differences in real life situations by listening and appreciating others’ opinions, and by looking at issues from different perspectives. An internship which deals with education and community development requires interns to be highly flexible, cooperative, creative, and disciplined. Therefore, I will be compelled to be critical of communication methods and analytical and problem-solving skills in dealing with almost every aspect of my activities.
It has been almost one week since I arrived and touched the Thai soil on a practical basis for the first time. I was picked up by the director of ATMA SEVA at the train station; and on the way from the train station to Wat Doi Saket, my mind was full of worries and excitements simultaneously. Day one in Chiang Mai was full of welcoming gestures and words, greetings and hospitality from my Thai co-workers and the ATMA SEVA team as a whole. Being exposed to experience the heavenly beauty of Chiang Mai and the enriched Thai culture; and to be warmly welcomed by everyone, was quite a day full of happiness. At the end of the day, though I was extremely exhausted after having been on buses, taxis and a train, I lied in my bed feeling assured that ‘the next seven weeks in Chiang Mai will be such a positive adventure; and that I have every earthly reason to be excited for it.’
For the first few days upon my arrival, I set a goal to get to know my way around Wat Doi Saket; and to make friends with people at the Wat and in town. Up till now, though I have to admit that my Thai is not good enough for a long and proper conversation yet, I do not hesitate to witness the culture of friendliness and respect of the people of Doi Saket. I remember my struggle in day two when I was trying to introduce myself to a group of people in one noodle soup restaurant in town. We did not seem to understand each other much in verbal language, but the languages of ‘smiling’, ‘greeting’ and ‘respecting’ each other are universal. For a sizable amount of time I was there, I used these languages to communicate with them. Improvised by my few broken Thai sentences and their broken English, we were all entertained and so much rendered comfortable with each other. With regard to teaching students at Wat Doi Saket, so far I really have enjoyed it so much. Students are so smart and committed to learn. Though we still have some difficulties with communicating with each other, there is no doubt that this will improve quicker than I may realize it.
Kimhean Hok, on-site intern