Global Programs Blog

International Field Placement:
Marializa Kelly (JD '15), Vishnu Law Group, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Cambodia architectual detail

Adjusting to the City -- Exploring Phnom Penh's Past & Present

This is my first time traveling to Asia and even though it is an incredible experience, it is taking me some time to adjust. Only three weeks passed between the day I found out about the opportunity and the day I hopped on the plane. I did not have much time to prepare or for that matter second-guess myself.

Adjusting to a new city takes some time. It took me a week to find an apartment. I wanted somewhere I felt comfortable but had to be realistic about my expectations. I ended up picking a shared house about 10 minutes away from my office. The other people staying here are from Belgium, France, United Kingdom, and New York. Phnom Penh has a large expat community. Most are here for a few months to a year for an internship or job assignment. I would recommend a shared housing because there is always someone to join you for dinner, exploring the city, or to hangout around the house.

I spend most of my time working, but I squeezed in some exploring here and there. This past weekend my roommate and I went to the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum. The museum was a former high school used by the Khmer Rouge as an internment and prison camp. There are no words to explain the horrors that occurred there. The buildings are preserved almost exactly as it was left when the Khmer Rouge were driven out in the late 1970s. At the end there is a monument where you can provide an offering or pause for reflection. It was a very somber visit, but I would encourage anyone visiting Phnom Penh to take the audio tour. Visiting the museum really gives insight on how the city is still recovering and rebuilding.

I am still getting my bearings traveling around the city and am trying to avoid looking like a complete tourist. So far I have not been successful. I was walking around one of the markets this past weekend and two men on a moped tried to snatch my bag, but they were unsuccessful. Across-the-body bags and small backpacks are highly recommended for traveling! Other than that incident I feel safe walking around and I look forward to exploring more of the city next weekend!

cambodia-architecture

The architecture here is incredible. A lot is damaged but what remains is beautiful.

cambodia-terrace

View from ​the terrace at my house.

cambodia-mari-coconut

Safe ​& sound -- and hydrated with fresh coconut.