A country emerging from its history of genocide
Eight students joined two faculty members for a three-week trip to Cambodia in the summer of 2017. The group visited four areas of the country. They began in and around the city of Siem Reap, where they learned about education, social justice, and youth empowerment initiatives by NGOs, and explored Angkor Wat (a temple complex in Cambodiaand the largest religious monument in the world). From Siem Reap, the group travelled to Phnom Penh, the capital, to study the history of the Khmer Rouge and Cambodian history and development after the fall of the regime.
The next week was devoted to home-stays on a languorous island situated in the middle of the Bassac River, Koah Ksach Tonlea. According to trip leader, Mr. Jacobsen, "For many students, the highlight of our time in Cambodia was the chance to experience village life first-hand in home-stays." While with their host families, students worked side-by-side with their hosts performing daily chores, such as harvesting sugarcane and washing cows. 
Finally, the Thacher group explored mangrove ecosystems and sustainability efforts at an eco-resort in Kep. 


  • Rod Jacobsen, English teacher, Marvin Shagam Program for Ethics & Global Citizenship coordinator
  • Donald Okpalugo, former History teacher

Why did you choose Cambodia?

First, I had been before and knew that our partners at Where There Be Dragons has a strong program there. Second, it is a Buddhist country, and many students are interested in Buddhism. Third, it is a country emerging from its history of genocide, which needs to be understood. Fourth, it is a country where youth social entrepreneurship is booming, and our students would probably be inspired by these efforts. Fifth: Angkor Wat .
Mr. Jacobsen

What did you hope to accomplish with this trip?

Deep cultural understanding; team-building and leadership; an understanding of the role of genocide in the country's history and how the youth are transforming the country.
Mr. Jacobsen

Student impressions

One experience I loved from our trip to Cambodia was meeting with "DC-Cam" - a group working to produce digitized history regarding Cambodia in the forms of documentaries, similar small films, art, etc. When visiting their workspace, we watched a documentary on Cambodia's lost rock and roll scene - who knew! Overall, it was so inspiring to see the many ways in which Cambodians were moving on from a history so haunting, one so easy to get "stuck" in.
Davon '19, TIburon, California
One of my favorite moments was visiting the temples at Angkor Wat at sunrise. Our entire group woke up around 4 o’clock in the morning and shuttled over to the temples in a couple of tuk-tuks, which are like little motorcycle drawn rickshaws. After completing the necessary steps to enter the temple, we arrived at Angkor Wat just in time to see the sun rising behind the temple. We were absolutely mesmerized; just seeing the beautifully carved temples in the awe of the sunrise is something I will never forget. Visiting the temples at sunrise felt so special, and I knew how lucky we were to have experienced it. To me, international travel is not about visiting some place new just to take photos and share them on social media, it is about gaining a deeper understanding of our global community and, perhaps, even a deeper understanding of yourself. Thacher truly emphasizes this value, whether it is by playing on the sports field or going on extra-day trips, but I think the Marvin Shagam international travel programs are an especially unique example of the importance of deep and meaningful experiences. Each moment throughout the Cambodia trip offered me a new perspective and worldview, which is something I will always carry with me.
Anna-Liisa '19, San Francisco, California

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