Last memories in Cambodia

What did you like most about the SFS experience?
“What did you like most” is the most common and the hardest question that we often asked each other during RAP (reflection, announcement, and physical activity/game) time, especially about our field trips. Normally none of us can pick our favorites, because every single moment during the semester abroad with SFS was uniquely phenomenal. Each SFS field trip has taught us to think critically about not only the environmental problems in the cultural context of Cambodia, but also the people.

Soaking my feet on a rice paddy field, planting mangroves at the coastal line, and staying for a week on a floating village in the Prek Toal core area for Directed Research, have made me immerse myself into the Khmer culture and the warm welcome from hospitable and sedulous people who possess admirable resilience and courage. These experiences, of course, cannot be marvelous without three amazing professors, Dr. Chouly Ou, Dr. Lisa Arensen, and Dr. Georgie Lloyd, who are not only experts in the field but also incredibly knowledgeable about Khmer cultures and tradition.

My favorite faculty & staff (Missing Dave, our Director)

You’ve been in the country for a full semester – tell us your impressions of it now.
I love the peaceful atmosphere no matter where we visited in Cambodia. I am impressed by the Khmer people who are down to earth, hospitable, and kindhearted. The majestic metropolis of Angkor, the breathtaking sight of mangrove forests in Kampot, Phnom Kulen mountain with the carvings at Kbal Speal, Prek Toal core area, famous for the largest endangered waterbird colonies in Southeast Asia, and the Mekong River, inhabited freshwater dolphin Irrawaddy… these are just a few examples of the amazing places I’ve been able to explore this semester.

Pelicans in Prek Toal core area, Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve

What is life at the field station really like? What are the best and the most challenging parts of living at a remote field station?
The field station is a home that we can spend time in to regain our energy after every field trip. We have a balcony to study, sleep, stretch after class, and listen to all the sounds of the life at the outskirts of Siem Reap. All of the students often have movie nights, studying nights, and ice-cream/snack parties in the lounge, which is a great space for relaxing or having a break. The station is very close to downtown Siem Reap, so we often take a tuk-tuk to town to get a change of atmosphere.

What ended up being your biggest challenge this semester both academically and culturally?
Time management is vital in this program, because the intensive schedule requires students to push themselves. However, it is fortunate that SFS Cambodia has a group of supportive professors and staff who always try their best to help everyone.

What is the best memory you have from the semester? Give some highlights.
Hiking to Bokor mountain, a beautiful mountain with high biodiversity in Kampot province where massive economic plan threatens to eradicate everything, was a depressing but important experience. Visiting Cat Tien National Park in my home country of Vietnam to learn about the conservation management and the rights of indigenous communities living inside the park also gave me so much to think critically about. Being in Cambodia during two important national holidays, Pchum Ben and Water Festival, also allowed me to learn more about the culture of this beautiful country. Last but not least, our community engagement experiences in which we taught environmental lessons at the HUSK community school was one of the most meaningful SFS activities for me.

One of our two teams teaching the students to make jumping ropes from plastic bags

Give three adjectives that best describes how you are feeling right now.
Grateful, Empowered, and Dazzled.

Two rangers helping us to gather fish data for Directed Research in Prek Toal core area.


First impression of my abroad semester in Cambodia

Why did you choose to study abroad with SFS?
I was so lucky to learn about the study abroad program with SFS very early through my Environmental Science department at Hollins University. When I saw there was a program in Cambodia/Vietnam, the idea of conducting a research about the region where I was born and grew up made me excited to attend this SFS program. Additionally, directly hearing about the experiences of SFS alum, Kayla Deur, who is also studying at Hollins, is another factor that brought me to Cambodia with SFS.

What are your first impressions of the country?
The beautiful architecture of Siem Reap International Airport, which resembles Buddhist temples, blew me away after a long, never-ending flight. The hot tropical air and humidity made me sweaty in only five minutes after landing off the airplane. It is a good sweat, notifying me that I am actually coming back to the tropics and starting an appealing semester in Cambodia. I thought I was coming back home when I saw more motor scooters and bicycles than cars and more local markets than giant grocery stores in Siem Reap. This city possesses a mixture of various communities: from the dynamic zones of the downtown to placid roads of small villages around our Center. What strikes me most is the splendid appearance of the Angkor temples and the brilliance of ancient Khmer society.

What are your first impressions of the field station?
It is incredible to have a chance to stay and study with other students, faculty, and staff in the guesthouse equipped with an enjoyable lounge, an amazing opening-air terrace with a ping pong table, and a small, but beautifully diverse, garden. This small station has become a minimized version of my school campus: cozy, convenient, and full of amazing people. However, the field station is only a few minutes away from the downtown of Siem Reap, which allows us to explore the vibrant aspects of this small city. Last but not least, I am feeling like living in a heaven full of delicious meals of authentic Cambodian food, which satisfies my craving for seafood and tropical fruits.

What do you think the biggest challenge will be for you this semester both academically and culturally?
SFS program has an intensive schedule that requires students to push forward every day. I see myself having some struggles with time management in order to fulfill the academic requirements, get exposed to new places with my schoolmates, and have time to recharge.

What are you looking forward to the most about the semester?
I am really excited for our monthlong field trip along Mekong River to the southeast of Vietnam, which I haven’t had a chance to visit before. It will be challenging but thrilling for all of us to learn and study in these different regions. All the field trips will be the most intriguing and valuable learning experiences for the students.

Give three words that best describe how you are feeling right now.
Sweaty, vigorous, and restless.


The conservation gains from TNC-corporation collaboration have provided an incentive to promote corporate sustainability and future partnerships between conservation NGOs and the private sector. The two examples elaborated on in this blog illustrate the movement of big businesses towards corporate sustainability. Critics against TNC claimed that TNC ignored and silently supported its partners in unsustainable projects like oil drilling in Texas in 2003. The disparagement from other environmental groups like Greenpeace correctly pointed out the drawbacks in management at TNC, but it did not negate the positive benefits that corporate relationships bring to the environment and businesses. Their innovative strategy of utilizing market-based conservation potentially faces the risk of creating a free-rider problem where business partners can acquire credits to pollute the environment in other places.

However, TNC has promoted the value of nature in business decision-making processes, a valuable asset to conservation movements of the 21st century. A non-confrontational, market-based conservation approach is an innovative solution of environmentalism that can create both conservation gains and negative effects on nature. TNC has reformed its governance and tightened up its corporate partnerships to maintain its mission of working with businesses to value nature. Accounting the benefits of natural resources into business decision-making processes can result in a win-win outcome for both nature and business, as long as all the parties uphold social responsibility.

TNC and The Coca-Cola partnership

When The Coca-Cola Company began to envision potential long-term impacts of water scarcity and poor quality on their production in 2004, its executives revised their business strategy for sustainable growth by taking into account water stewardship.[1]   In an interview on June 19, 2012 with Jeff Seabright, a former Vice President of Coca Cola’s Environment and Water Resources Division, he emphasized Coca-Cola’s 2007 commitment to sustainability as a key to balance short-term and long-term management.[2] The leaders of Coca-Cola acknowledged the vital role of collaboration with other stakeholders, including communities, institutions, governments, and organizations in achieving their goals of sustainable water use and conservation. Among those partnerships, Coca-Cola started working with TNC in 2007 to gain a better understanding of the positive impacts and effectiveness of water conservation activities. By quantifying the benefits of Coca-Cola’s investment in community watershed partnership (CWP) projects, TNC helped the company design and develop future conservation projects.

The Conservancy assisted Coca-Cola in measuring the amount of water coming from water conservation projects in which Coca-Cola participated. In addition, experts from TNC evaluated water-related risks and vulnerabilities of their current and future business interests. Since Coca-Cola realized increasing water scarcity could impact production costs, involvement in conservation became a profit motive for the company. TNC’s technical tools offered Coca-Cola a better understanding of the health of the watersheds that Coca-Cola relied on and their cooperation with suppliers, governments, and stakeholders.8

In return, Coca-Cola contributed financial support to TNC’s watershed restoration activities. The company donated approximately two million dollars for at least nine freshwater replenishment projects that TNC was developing.[3] These projects took place from 2009 to 2012 in many large watersheds across many states, including the Etowah and Flint Rivers in Georgia, Michigan’s Paw Paw River, the Trinity and Brazoes River Watersheds in Texas, the Everglades Headwaters in Florida, and the Sacramento River Watershed in California.10 The partnership with Coca-Cola enhanced TNC’s efforts in informing policy initiatives and working with farmers and landowners on the best watershed management practices.

[1] “The Water Stewardship and Replenish Report”. The Nature Conservancy and The Coca-Cola Company. January 2011.

[2] “Importance of Corporate Sustainability – The Coca-Cola Company.” The Nature Conservancy.  Accessed by March 6, 2016.

[3] Limno Tech. “Quantifying Watershed Restoration Benefits in Community Water Partnership Projects”. January 25, 2010: