Students on this program learn about the complexity and fundamental importance of the Mekong River to the region’s ecosystems, livelihoods, and development. Through coursework, field excursions, and Directed Research, students focus on conservation, environmental ethics, and rural development.
Students study the interface between livelihoods and the environment, assess aquatic biodiversity and ecology, and gain an understanding of natural resource use and governance. The greater Siem Reap region provides countless riverine and terrestrial habitats to explore. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Angkor serves as a backdrop for understanding Cambodian culture and religious pluralism, blending Buddhist, animist, and Hindu beliefs. Buddhism in Cambodia is not only a religion, but also a way of life that reflects the cultural beliefs of the community. Students explore the potential Buddhism has to direct societal norms and principles regarding environmental protection.
Students follow the Mekong River during a month of travel across rural and urban Cambodia. While on the road, students visit key conservation sites along the Mekong, gain appreciation for Cambodia’s recent history in Phnom Penh, and discover coastal ecosystems and development pressures in Kampot Province.
The program then travels overland to the Mekong Delta in Vietnam, where students experience a contrasting political, social, and economic system from Cambodia. Students explore the environmental issues in the Mekong Delta including climate change, water resource use, and agricultural development.
- Spend almost a month traveling within Cambodia and Vietnam, studying the diverse habitats and livelihoods that are supported by the Mekong River system
- Evaluate opportunities and challenges in tourism development while exploring the resplendent Khmer temple complex of Angkor, one of the most important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia
- Participate in baseline biodiversity surveys in the Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve, and investigate the status of migratory bird species
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You will receive credit for all academic courses taken at this institution, and all of your grades from abroad will count toward your Penn State cumulative GPA. You may not take any courses overseas on a Pass/Fail basis. Students may not take sport or physical activity courses (e.g. sailing, bowling, yoga, etc.) abroad. These courses will not be credited at Penn State.
Courses offered on this program include:
To see what kind of credit students in past semesters have received for courses taken on this program, visit the SFS: Cambodia Course Equivalency List. You will need to complete the course equivalency process once you have been accepted to your program and after you have completed your registration abroad. To obtain specific instructions on this process visit our Course Equivalencies page. To learn how the courses on this program can work into your individual degree audit, meet with your academic adviser.
- SFS 3820 Environmental Ethics and Development (4 credits)
- SFS 3800 Conservation Science and Practice (4 credits)
- SFS 3810 Ecosystems and Livelihoods (4 credits)
- SFS 4910 Directed Research (4 credits)
- SFS 2080 Language and Culture of Cambodia (2 credits)
One semester of college-level ecology, biology or environmental studies/science is required and one semester of college must be completed before the start of the program.
Students need to be at least 18 years old to complete the program.
Flexibility is essential as students will be traveling throughout Cambodia and Vietnam for a significant portion of this program. Also, please note that SFS programs usually operate 6 days a week with Sundays off. However, Sundays may be dedicated to group activities or travel so please be prepared for limited down time.
Due to the humidity and temperatures, SFS has noted that chronic health problems often flare up, even if they are under control in the U.S. Students should discuss such conditions seriously with their family doctor and the SFS Admissions Counselor to see if this SFS program will be right for you.
Students in the College of Agricultural Sciences should speak with the Study Abroad Coordinator within the College of Agricultural Sciences Office of International Programs when preparing to study abroad.
Housing and Meals
The SFS Center for Mekong Studies is a private compound on a small side street, just 10 minutes by tuk tuk from downtown Siem Reap. The Center’s amenities include a large, two-story dormitory with shared bedrooms and bathrooms, wireless internet, a spacious common area with a loft, an open-air dining room, an in-ground swimming pool, a garden, and a yard that surrounds the Center for sports, fitness, or relaxing.
Students will stay at various accommodations during excursions through the Mekong Basin. In Vietnam, students will be housed in the international dormitory at Can Tho University.
Vegetarians, vegans, and students with food allergies may struggle in this program, especially during times the group is away from the field station. Please talk to your SFS Admissions Counselor and the SFS Safety staff if you have questions about maintaining a specific diet while abroad in Cambodia and Vietnam as there are some needs that may be impossible to accommodate.
For example, strict vegetarian and vegan diets are very hard to accommodate. Strict vegetarians and vegan students may need to adjust their diet by adding fish, dairy, and/or eggs. Gluten-free and lactose-free diets can be accommodated. Most food will be prepared at the field station where SFS is able to control (to a certain extent) what ingredients are involved, but since there is a fair amount of traveling involved in this program, there will be many situations in which the preparation is out of SFS's control. Fish and oyster sauce, snail oil and shrimp paste are widely used in Cambodia, and fish sauce is a staple in Vietnamese cuisine. Animal fats, fish sauce, or meat-based broths are often used in preparation even if a dish does not include pieces of meat.
For more information on program costs, please be sure to review the fall budget sheet and spring budget sheet. These budget sheets include information on costs that are billable to the bursar bill, as well as estimated additional costs. Costs vary by program, so it is important to review this information carefully.
Please note that tuition rates may vary depending on major and class standing.
Financial Aid & Scholarships
Penn State students studying through Education Abroad can use most components of their existing financial aid packages toward the cost of study abroad. This may include federal and state grants, VA educational benefits, federal student loans, and University scholarships and grants. Notable exceptions include work-study awards and some athletic scholarships.
The University Office of Global Programs also administers a number of grants and scholarships. Eligibility is based on academic excellence and/or financial need. There is also funding available for study abroad programs in diverse locations and for students from diverse backgrounds. In most cases, applicants should have a current year FAFSA on file with the Office of Student Aid. Funding opportunities may also be available through Penn State academic departments. For detailed information on financial aid and scholarship opportunities and application procedures, please visit the Funding Study Abroad section of the Global Penn State website.
For More Information
For more information about programs and education abroad at Penn State, we encourage you to meet with or contact our Peer Advisers. These study abroad returnees can explain program options, give an overview of the education abroad process, as well as provide information about his/her program. If you are not at University Park, contact your Campus Global Representative.
To learn more about the specifics of each program, schedule an appointment with the education abroad adviser for this program.
For the inside scoop on life in a foreign country, be sure to check out the Student Spotlights of Penn State students currently studying abroad.
How to Apply
If you would like to participate on this study abroad program, you will need to apply to Penn State Education Abroad by clicking the "Apply Now" button on this page.
You must complete the following materials in your application:
Visit the How to Apply section of our website for more information.
- Education Abroad Questionnaire
- One academic recommendation
- Signature Documents
Studying Abroad with a Disability
Many students with disabilities successfully study abroad each year. Please note that other cultures may have different attitudes and available accommodations regarding disabilities. While we cannot guarantee the accessibility of all program sites and locations, specific accommodations may be arranged in consultation with our office, the Student Disability Resources office, and our partners abroad. To prepare for success, students are strongly encouraged to research the country and program location to consider if and how they will manage their disabilities abroad in advance of selecting a program. Students with disabilities and other diverse backgrounds can begin their research on our Diversity Awareness Abroad page.
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