The Minerva Fellowship carries with it a sense of prestige in the Union community. Expectations follow suit, and at first, they align with that prestige. International human service work is romanticized in a similar manner. Reality seldom adheres to these anticipations.
Challenges arise. And the prestige of the Fellowship melts away as we succumb to communication barriers, cultural disagreements, bike issues, food poisoning, BUGS, and the overall difficulties of up-and-moving to a developing country, and working with underprivileged communities. This is a humbling transition, the one from expectation to reality. This “job” took passion, persistence, and a lot of flexibility. I never knew what my job would be walking into work each day. My hats varied from teacher, to mentor, to friend, to social worker, and most often, and most unexpected, to student.
But the rawness of the reality far outweighed the idealist illustrations of my expectations.
I was right about one expectation: “The Minerva Fellowship is an extension of everything that Union has ever been to me: novel, learning, challenge, love, family.”
Tonight is my last night in Siem Reap, and I can’t find words to express how it feels.
Thank you to the students of TGC, who have taught me more in 9 months than I’ve learned in my entire life. These kids are truly unbelievable. Intelligent, resilient, thoughtful, and above all, kind. As I told them on our final day together, it will be people like them who change the world. A million thank yous will never suffice, my friends.
To the staff of TGC, your dedication to creating change is astounding. You do thankless work day after day, but please be assured, it does not go unnoticed.
To Tom and Hal. What can I say? You have created something so unexplainably beautiful. So many lives have been changed because of you. Thank you for your wisdom, gently guiding us along this journey.
To Chet and Karen, thank you for the opportunity of a lifetime.
To my friends, across town and across oceans, for keeping me sane.
To my bike, for carrying me on life’s greatest adventure, and to its bell, for saving my life on multiple occasions.
To Fellows10. Wouldn’t have made it without you.
To my parents. For everything.
Orkun Jaran, Kampuchea.
Khnhom Sralanh Anak