I am writing down the results of the 1st round of interviews in the hallway.


Daily Report and Reflection


First brainstorm with Mr. Giraldi about the South East Asian Project.

Accomplishment: General framework of the project, being to recruit students from Cambodia to Summer School at first, then winter school from students over maybe all of Southeast Asia.

I was excited and kind of nervous, because this is the first time that I am doing anything of this scale. I never expected this to be approved by Mr. Giraldi, but thanks to his generosity, I am now able to continue with the idea. we came up with a general idea of the purpose of this project: to get Cambodian kids to Culver, and this time through the summer schools first.



Second Brainstorm: more specific planning on what to do while in Cambodia.

Accomplishments: established the need for an interview, its criteria, and its purpose. Also recognized the need for speeches to advertise to the students.

This time we focused on the details of what to do in Phnom Penh. We settled on kind of advertising the summer schools first to the children, and then the interview for those who are interested. I also asked Mr. Giraldi about what the most important aspect of the interview is, and he responded their English skills. This kind of saddens me because I cannot help those who truly do not have the ability to communicate in English, but perhaps in the future a more comprehensive program that may involve training in English can mitigate that problem.



Third Brainstorm: dates, speeches, and materials.

Accomplishment: received summer school promotional material for students, and final preparations before the trip to Cambodia.

This time we settled on what dates I would be there, and when Mr. Giraldi will come for a second interview from those I have selected. He is only available at the end of July, so I would have to come sometime before that. I also asked for some of the summer camp material to distribute to students, and what I should tell the students about the program. It is really nerve racking to think that I might be speaking soon to maybe 40-50 kids that might have barely any idea about America, let alone a summer camp there in Indiana.



In Phnom Penh, visited Chong Zheng Academy.

Accomplishments: successfully selected 21 students for Mr. Giraldi to further interview, while at the same time learning more about Cambodia.

Cambodia is really hot, and at this time of the year, still humid. I also realized just how unprepared I was for the situation- I never thought that the schools in Cambodia is so different from China or the States. The school I went to is solely responsible for education in Chinese, so it is not a guarantee everyone there knows English. But alas, with generous help from the principle, Mrs. Zhou, I pressed on. I was extremely nervous when speaking the first few times, but after about 3 classes, I feel a bit better. Still it is difficult to imagine that I am speaking in front of so many people.

Then it is time for the interview. About 50 kids from all over the school came (out of about 1500 for the afternoon rotation) that afternoon, some of them 12, and most of them 15 or 16 years old. Earlier I asked Mr. Giraldi what the ideal age for Culver summer school was, and most of the students were definitely older than the optimal range around 12-14 years old. Because of so many kids that I pretty much have to interview in one class period (45 minutes), I have to shorten all of the questions, and limit most of them to ones about English skills. I had them respond in English, and record score based on a system that I developed on the fly, since I forgot to ask for an official rubric (if there is one) from Mr. Giraldi. That afternoon was a really messy interview, but I got through it with about 10 people that have really good English skills and seem intelligent. Next morning I came in again to interview the morning rotation of students, and another 10 students selected for Mr. Giraldi’s second interview.

Interestingly, this is the first time that I experienced corruption (or asking favors) at work. So the leader of the local guild sponsors the school, and would like his son and his daughter to be selected, preferably directly to Culver. I put the daughter’s name down for Mr. Giraldi’s interview, since I promised them they would get the chance but not a guarantee.

Besides school, I also got to visit the Khmer Rouge museum, set in a former school turned prison (prison 21) and torture compound, complete with real artifacts the dead prisoners lived with. It remembers the horrors committed by Pol Pot and his followers during the Khmer Rouge, which is only Communist in name, and is in reality a genocide against Cambodians.

Overall the trip was kind of stressful being my first time in Cambodia, but also fun and memorable.



Contact and communicating with parents to set up second round of interviews with Mr. Giraldi; informing parents and students of the final decision

Accomplishments: finalize candidates, and set up interviews for Mr. Giraldi.

After I left, I began working with a teacher to communicate to the parents where the second round of interviews would take place. 21 kids with parents went to where Mr. Giraldi was living and were interviewed. They were asked more in depth questions regarding English, Personality, and Family Background. After the interviews, 3 kids were selected. I then contacted them for more information so I can communicate more easily.



Set up communication between parents and Culver; arranging for kids to obtain passport and visa.

Accomplishments: re-finalize candidates, and begin application.

In order to communicate more effectively, I set up a group chat between the teachers, the parents, and me. This is so we can start the application process, and more importantly, making sure the kids have passports and visas so they are able to come when they need to. However, here I learned that visas are very difficult for foreigners to get, and the kids need the school’s letter of reference to get one, while the parents have no chance of getting a visa, even if they understandably wanted to accompany the kids.

However, Mr. Giraldi shared with me a bad news. It seems summer schools is not willing to accept one of the students because she was 17, too old apparently. Telling her that news fell upon me. I meditated for weeks, trying to word this as best as possible to her, but it still felt terrible when I finally told her, and she was obviously frustrated.



Filling in the application for parents, with communication for information.

Accomplishments: Filing application.

Because the parents rarely know English, and are frequently busy, the task of filling the application fell on me. Within the group chat, I ask for identification and information from the parents, and then filling them out on the website. It usually takes a day to complete a conversation, because of not only the time difference between the two countries, but also the difficulty in conversing in English. Maybe next time we would work to have a translator to ensure easier communication.



Submitted application for students.

Finally, what a relief! I managed to get the applications in on time to ensure the two all got in, and now they will be able to acquire a visa with a letter from the school.



Begin to brainstorm air travel for kids and parents; communication with parents to ask for any input/request.

With the parent’s inability to go to America in mind, we began to plan a travel plan for the parents that would both satisfy the parents’ desire to accompany their kid for as much as possible, and also the kids so they arrive safely and on time.



Finalized plan for air travel

Accomplishment: successfully sent the kids to Culver while also not upsetting the parents.

Finally, we decided on having at least one parent take the kids from Cambodia to Beijing, and then a Chinese parent will take the kids to Culver. The parents are understandably bummed out, but because of the situation, they agreed to the plan. They took the kids on a tour around Beijing, and said goodbye to them at the airport, and then parted ways. Again, it was a sigh of relief from me as I see everything that has been done coming into fruition.



Culver Summer Schools

Accomplishment: completed the goal for this project.

While I was in another summer camp, the two kids finally arrived at Culver. It was a bit difficult, but being proficient in English, they soon blended into their respective cabins.



Revisited Chong Zheng Academy, attempted to interview for more but failed.

Accomplishments: preparation for next year, slight shift in focus for project.

It was kind of sad for me to be unable to redo the interviews, because this time I feel a lot more prepared. However, because of scheduling issues, the school is preparing for the final exam when I arrived, thus cutting my visit short. Hopefully, I can still re-invite the kids last year to come again, and during the upcoming summer redo the interview with the school’s schedule in mind.