In June, 24 students from the Human Trafficking in Southeast Asia module (PS3880E), which is taught as part of the NUS OdySEA/FASSTrack Asia programme, embarked on a journey of self-discovery to various parts of Cambodia.
The class, which spanned five weeks, included a ten-day field trip component in which students travelled to Siem Reap, Poipet, Battambang, and Phnom Penh, to examine human trafficking as well as learn about different historical and cultural aspects of Cambodian life.
Dr Kevin McGahan, assisted by Mindy Tadai and Seow Siew Hwee, led the class. The students received an extraordinary opportunity to study an incredibly timely and important social issue in both Singapore and Cambodia.
During class sessions at NUS, students were able to interact with local and regional activists who addressed various dimensions of human trafficking. Ms Shermaine Singh, a Singaporean who recently graduated from Rochester University in New York, for example, gave a passionate overview of her work with International Justice Mission in Chennai, India. In addition, Ms Ruici Tio, formerly of MTV Exit in Bangkok, and Mr Jeff Wu, a regional manager at Facebook, discussed the role of the media and technology in tackling seemingly intractable problems such as human trafficking and exploitation.
Students also held interactive meetings, throughout Cambodia, with numerous community leaders, including a village chief, and NGOs, such as Friends International, Damnok Toek, and Sala Bai, and even government officials at the US Embassy.
Moreover, students were treated to local food, some of which was prepared by former street children now being trained in culinary skills. The menu included Cambodian delights such as fried red ants and lime-flavored tarantulas.
Unlike previous years, this recent cohort of students involved eight international students from partner universities, including University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of British Columbia, and Australian National University. Both local and foreign students came from various disciplines, ranging from engineering and life sciences to global studies and political science. Students not only travelled to Cambodia to experience a different culture and history, but they also shared their own diverse experiences to learn more about each other.
During the trip, students also got an eye-opening experience touring the majestic Angkor Wat complex in Siem Reap, taking the bamboo train ride in Battambang, and visiting the Khmer Rouge Tribunal Court as well as the Killing Fields outside Phnom Penh.