Having left for Cambodia straight from campus without a chance to go home first, it was a relief to finally head home. But at the same time, before I even got on the return flight, I knew I’d be missing this experience. I already miss experiencing so many new things each day, along with the friends I made on this trip.

Sunrise at Angkor Wat

   Throughout the trip, we learned and saw a lot related to Buddhism. As explained by another one of our guides, Mahesh, one key pillar of the religion is the idea that “nothing is permanent.” I think this is such an interesting way of looking at the world, when in my experience, so much of what we do is intended to be permanent. What Buddhists mean is that the objects we see are made up of matter, and that at some point that matter will lose its form and break down into a pile of atoms, to be formed as something else again. At the end of the day (or the world in this case), everything returns to a pile of atoms. The concrete that we pour breaks up into smaller and smaller rocks. Our bodies decompose. This may seem morbid or pessimistic, but in a way, it can be freeing. If nothing is permanent, the issues and subjects we face in our lives don’t seem like such a big deal as they used to. Learning of this worldview triggered a small switch in my thinking and is something I intend to apply a little more in my life.

Waterfall in Phnom Kulen National Park

   For anyone considering joining a program like this, my advice would be to start preparing early. Some vaccines for example, take a couple weeks for them to be effective, and making sure you have a visa or any other required documents in time is very important. Otherwise, value the short time you have to experience another part of the world and get out of your hotel whenever you have free time. Most days may feel long, but the weeks will feel like they flew right by.

Phimeanakas Temple (late 10th century) in Angkor Thom