Study Abroad in Cambodia
by Sarah Hodge, Nursing Student


Today (Sun 5/25) was a great day! We attended church at Phnom Penh Church of Christ.  The church is filled with the most beautiful of souls.  People are so welcoming and inviting.  The service was filled with spirited worship, a baptism, and communion.  I was extra relieved to see Pheap, a friend of Dr. Taplin, who I have formed a friendship with.

We then ventured down to the river that runs through the city to a restaurant known as FCC, a traditional place for foreigners to come and meet.  It was fancier than where we have gone to eat.  The food lived up to the high prices!  It was exceptional.  Comparably, the view over the river and the palace was fantastic.  We were welcomed with a breeze to cool us off

After lunch, we walked to a boutique where many people bought things.  Some then split off to head to the Russian Market, a group favorite.  I finished up buying gifts for my family so I was pretty excited.

Dinner was on our own as we are preparing for a long first day of clinics tomorrow.  Myself and a couple others went to a restaurant down the road from our hotel where we ended the day laughing and chatting together.

Teaching at Asia Institute of Sciences School of Nursing

Erin Cantrell

Study Abroad in Cambodia
by Erin Cantrell, Nursing Student



Today (Sat 5/23) we were warmly welcomed to the Asia Institute of Sciences in order to teach other nursing students:

erin pic 4

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We were each split up into groups and taught the following topics: SBAR (a communication tool for nurses at shift change), physical assessment, vital signs, hand hygiene, signs/symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as physical therapy techniques.  There were several classrooms full of students eager to learn our topics.  As we finished each presentation, we went to the next classroom to meet more smiling faces.  The students were great in that they had many questions to ask which kept us on our toes.  It was nice to work alongside my classmates and even more fun to work with Jenni Massie, who is currently in the Masters program:

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Jenni wants to be an educator and it was wonderful to see her thrive in her element.  You could easily see the joy in her face when a student had a question and she was able to help them understand our topic.

Luckily, we were provided with translators for each group to use in the classroom.  Our translator (which I feel awful because I can’t remember her name) was amazing.  It was great having her there with us because not only did she help us convey our information but she gave us affirmation that we were doing a good job.  It was definitely challenging to teach to students who are not fluent in English, but we made it work.  One thing to take away from today is that these nursing students want to learn and value their education – which is something I think we take for granted sometimes in America.

After we finished teaching, we all gathered outside the school and took pictures with the staff and students.  I have never seen so many people want a picture with me or the group.  For a tiny moment in my life I kind of felt like a celebrity, which is pretty comical when you really think about it.  Because here we are, a bunch of sweaty American girls and people want to take a picture with us.  Not quite the glamour shot we may have hoped for but it still felt nice that people found us so interesting.

erin pic 1

For lunch, some of the school staff went with us out to eat at a place called The Spoon.  There was a huge buffet available to us compliments of the college which was so nice of them.  After we finished lunch we took a van back to the hotel for an afternoon of free time.  Some of us took much needed naps, while others went to the Russian Market or Tabitha’s (a boutique whose proceeds go to an organization that helps women in the community).  Today was a really great day; it was just the right amount of work and play along with meeting some really great people.

Sonja Kill Hospital & Travel Back to Phnom Penh

Sarah Hintz

Study Abroad in Cambodia
by Sarah Hintz, Nursing Student


Today (Tue 5/19) was our second and last day at Sonja Kill Hospital. Many of us woke up to the sun’s rays peering through the “mountains of Kampot”; however, less than 12 hours before the break of dawn, we stood under the covering of the star-filled sky.  Certainly, the most star-lit sky I have seen in my entire 21 years of existences.  During our time here we have experienced, that from the moment when we wake up to the moment when we fall asleep, we are surrounded by Beauty.  It is a beauty that goes beyond the word itself because it carries much more meaning than that.  It carries comfort, peace, and humility.  Surrounded by such beauty we are humbled to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.  Just by simply being on the hospital grounds we are in awe of the Creator of the Universe and feel a part of His continued work with humanity.  We have the opportunity to partner with God’s heart, what He is doing, and what He has planned for Hope International (the organization that supports Sonja Kill Hospital).

One thing I found most difficult is that being surrounded by such granular Beauty, it can often cause me to lose susceptibility to search for the Beauty in the simple things.  However, our group as a whole did not.  In simple conversation, I have seen our group grow in unity through encouragement and positivity.  I am so encouraged and honored to be a part of a group that reminds me to see the Beauty of the simple things; through each individual noticing something I may have not noticed or experienced.  As we begin our morning walking from our town homes to the “library” or classroom, the gentle breeze reminds us of Beauty grace.  That Grace is found in the comfort of a small breeze, in the midst of the heat of the day.  One of the members of our team helped me see that through a simple praise “Doesn’t that breeze feel wonderful!”

Once we arrived at the classroom, many of us began to teaching other nursing students there at the hospital.  Another group walked around the hospital to have the opportunity to see or be a part of the Healthcare team at the hospital.  They allowed us to be in the Emergency room, Maternity unit, Pediatric ward, and witness surgical procedures; this in itself could make traveling 27 hours worth it.  I was beginning to see the Beauty of acceptance.  We were strangers and they welcomed us in.  However, being here not only allowed me to see the beauty of being accepted, but to also be able to see the beauty in receiving others, right where they were at.  While walking through the pathways, several Cambodians were sitting on benches waiting for their names to be called to begin their care; their eyes would follow our group because we were like a line of little ducklings following mommy duck, Dr. Taplin.  I smiled to them as we walked by.  As I was coming closer to an older man, who showed the many years of stress and labor, I again smiled, but this time attempted my Khmer and said, “Hello” in his language.  His face lit up with surprise and he responded with a Hello in Khmer in return.  His response sounded like a burst of joy had been forgotten about and in his response he was reminded again.  I saw the simple beauty of being accepted and accepting.

I and other students returned to the teaching classroom where Tiffany asked me to assist her with her teaching topic of Head-to-toe assessment.  Again, all I can conclude is that I am a part of an amazing team. I taught alongside of Tiffany and she showed me the Beauty of inspiring the Love of Learning.  With a continuous smile and constant encouragement to the nursing students in Kampot, she inspired everyone in the room to grab hold of knowledge and not let go.  I watched the nursing students take what they learned from her and apply it.  They felt comfortable with asking her questions and walking through critical thinking application.  Even though there was a slight language and cultural barrier it did not hinder the simple Beauty of Learning.  Two other members of my team taught SBAR, a nursing tool for communication, and I saw the Beauty of Growth.  I had courses with both of these young ladies, Erin and Cassie, and I saw the simply Beauty of Growth in both of them.  They both stepped into leadership roles that led the nursing students into more confidence of their own abilities.  Sarah, our only social work student, showed me the simple Beauty of Listening.  She had the opportunity to interview a family to learn more about their situation.


With much unrecognized patience, she captured parts of the vision behind the hospital and was able to utilize it for a resource for the hospital.  She showed that with the Beauty of Listening, you can hear the heart behind the person.  Aly showed me the simple Beauty of Stillness.  She throughout the day took pictures and documented the events of the day.


The pictures here are some of the ones she took:


They say that one picture speaks a thousand words.  But, during our bus ride back home, I looked over at one of the pictures she took and it had to speak more than just a thousand words.  Because, it spoke of concepts of life, the beauty of stillness, and taking a moment to just remember.  The picture I stared at happened to be a picture from the family that Sarah interviewed.

Throughout the day, I was reminded of the simple Beauty of Community.  In less than two days we were a part of a community that impacted us and we impacted.  Community is not built by time, but by the Beauty of Love.  For we have fallen in Love with the People of Cambodia and feel Loved by them.  We said our goodbyes around 2pm and climbed on our bus with a comfort knowing that this was not that end of relationships built here, but the beginning.  On our bus ride home we just enjoyed each other laughing, singing, and most of us drinking our iced coffee.  While on our bus ride, Dr. Taplin reminded us to look outside our window.  I saw the simple Beauty of the Land.  We arrived back to our main base, Golden Gate Hotel, and had dinner at the wonderful restaurant across the street.  We again were in our group and able to share with each other our experiences of the last couple days.

Even though we left the beautiful Kampot, we will not stop encountering beauty, because God is doing a work in us each day, changing us, and transforming us.  So our lives reflect the simple Beauty of Christ in us.  He just so happens to use the people around us to do so.

Sonja Kill Hospital

Rachel Finn

Study Abroad in Cambodia
by Rachel Finn, Nursing Student


Today (Mon 5/18) marks the end of the vacation part of our trip, and the beginning of the true work we set out for!  Today is our first day at Sonja Kill Memorial Hospital, which is located in Kampot, Cambodia!

Sonja Kill Entrance

They are a charity hospital whose goal is to give affordable healthcare to patients in need.  Payment of services is strictly based upon the patient’s ability to pay; the poor get treated for free while the ones who can afford it pay a fee.  It is staffed mostly by Cambodians; however, many doctors and nurses come from abroad to work and help train the staff.  Our, us Belmont people’s, main mission for this stop is to help further educate the doctors and nurses here, treat some patients, and help in anyway the hospital needs.

The beginning of the day included our first round of peanut butter and honey sandwiches for breakfast, the staple food for the remainder of our days here, and a tour of this beautiful open hospital.  They have an outpatient (child and adult) department, inpatient (child and adult), maternity, surgery, women’s health, and an emergency department.  They have onsite housing, which is where we are staying, and a kitchen to feed patients and staff, where we had delicious curry and a variety of native fruit for lunch!

Our nurse practitioners helped in the women’s clinic.  Kate (our PT grad student) was all hands on deck, with their normal PT being off today, treating various patients.  Our undergrad students did a variety of work here.  Parts of the day some observed different wards of the hospital while others taught.  Today, in particular, we taught various skills such as CPR, how to take vital signs, head-to-toe assessment, hand washing and infectious control, SBAR (a type of communication between nurses, doctors, techs, and anyone else involved in patient care), and UTI prevention. Kampot TeachingIt was a busy day and people saw a lot of awesome things that will be lifetime stories.

At the end of the day, we ate dinner at a place called Victoria’s.  Fun fact, the first C-section performed at Sonja Kill was done for the owners of Victoria’s!  We are all exhausted but excited about the work we did today and even more excited for tomorrow!

Travel to Cambodia & Arrival

Aly Webb
Study Abroad in Cambodia
by Aly Webb, Nursing Student


I plopped down, out of breath and sweaty, in the front seat of a friend’s car. It was 5:45 am on the dot. I’m late. I look at my buddy Evan, my right hand man for this kind of stuff, as he turns on the car. It’s clear he knows me too well when he immediately recognizes my visible stress,  “Come on Aly Webb, I got this. I can get you to the airport in ten minutes. Tops. I give him a disbelieving raised eyebrow.

As he makes a right turn onto the interstate I freak out, “Dude! The airport’s that way!” He tries to not laugh at my obvious lack of confidence in his sense of direction. “Aly Webb I got this.

I, of course, am still not convinced and attempt to slyly look up directions to the airport.

Turns out he did know a short cut, and I made it to the airport with plenty of time to force Evan into giving me three over-dramatic hugs before heading off into the great unknown that was the next three weeks. I walk through the sliding doors and immediately recognized the sweet faces of our group. I set down my bags, and looked around the bustling airport. Our trip to Cambodia had finally begun

It was only a short thirty minute flight to our first layover in Atlanta where we then boarded our 15 hour flight to South Korea. If you have ever traveled with Korean Airlines, you can understand why we all walked down the aisles with wide eyes, distracted from our one job, finding our seats. Luckily, ready to help were the notoriously immaculate staff both perfectly sleek and stylish, and to our relief, bilingual.

The flight experience felt luxurious. A pillow, blanket, toothbrush and even slippers were all patiently waiting for us on our seats. The seat itself was the only reminder that I was actually in economy and not Beyonce traveling to Seoul, Korea to meet up with my hubby Jay-Z for a dinner date.

Like an Italian mother with company, we were never left hungry. From the moment the seatbelt light switched off, meals, snacks, and drinks were continuous, and I was not complaining. I had told myself I would get ahead on my studies during the flight, considering I had fifteen whole hours to kill, yet somehow I managed to watch three entire movies instead. Oops.

When we arrived at the South Korean airport we all immediately ran to the bathroom to brush our teeth, exchanging stories from the flight, all while trying to not spit toothpaste on each other. Our layover was short and before we knew it we were already boarding our final flight. Five hours later we arrived to our destination and promptly received our visas. Exiting the airport, we were greeted with the humidity we had heard so much about, ohh I get it now.

I didn’t know what time it was nor the temperature, but it was clear our adventure had officially begun. After almost thirty hours of traveling we had finally arrived to the Kingdom of Cambodia.

Aly Visa

Church and Traveling to Kampot

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Study Abroad in Cambodia
by Kate Withrow, Physical Therapy Student


This morning we attended church at the Phnom Penh Church of Christ. What an experience! As soon as we walked in the door we were greeted with open arms and friendly faces. We found our seats next to the English translator, which was key, and service shortly started thereafter. Let me just tell you, these people are on fire for the Lord. The music was full of energy and life and it truly felt like the God we were praising was in our midst.

kate church

The passion in that room brought me to tears. A phrase that stuck out to me from the sermon seemed so appropriate for the occasion; He said following Jesus allows us to fellowship as one body, regardless of nationality. How great is it that we are all gathered together, different cultures and nationalities, under one roof praising the same God:

After church, we had lunch at a French restaurant down the street from our hotel. The restaurant was outside, as seems to be a reoccurring trend in Cambodia, in a covered patio surrounded by lush tropical trees and shrubs. The heat was (almost) bearable in is such a pretty setting. ktae daniFollowing lunch we packed up our things and boarded a bus bound for Kampot, Cambodia. About 3 miles from our hotel our bus broke down, smelling strongly of gasoline. As we waited on the side of the road for a second less smelly bus, a girl in our group took out her guitar and we all sang songs campfire style. Nothing beats singing and bonding over Jason Mraz songs with the roar of tuk tuks in the background.

Once we got our new bus we took off for Kampot. It took about 3 and a half hours to get to there. On one side of the road were future rice paddies that would soon fill up during the rainy season. On the other side of the roads were homes of all kinds, with dirt floors, tin roofs, or up on stilts to avoid the rise of the waters during the rains. It seemed that even in the countryside, motorbikes outnumbered the people 2 to 1. The countryside of Cambodia was beautiful with palm trees, rice paddies, and mountains in the distance.


We finally arrived in Kampot and had dinner on the water at a restaurant on a dock. We had traditional Cambodian food, family style. Maybe it was the long bus ride or the heat from the day, but that food was some of the best food I’ve ever had. The string lights and tap of the tide against the dock just added to the ambiance. It was wonderful to share food and stories with new friends in a picturesque setting:


After dinner we went to the Sonja Kill Memorial Hospital in Kampot, where we will be staying and working for the next two days. Though we were exhausted, per the usual, there was an eagerness to our group for the days to come. We will finally be getting to treat patients! We can’t wait to see how God works wonders through us for the people of Cambodia.

Killing Fields & Market


Study Abroad in Cambodia
by Sarah Hodge, Nursing Student


Our days are starting to run together although we have been here just a couple of days. Today, however, will be stuck in our minds for weeks and years to come. We had the opportunity to visit the Killing Fields.

The Killing Fields represent the massive genocide that happened between the years 1975 to 1979. Millions of innocent Cambodians were brutally murdered during this regime. The Killing Fields pay respect to the many that died. Graves and bones are on display, many which are in the monument that was constructed to house skulls and bones of the victims.

Before even stepping foot in Cambodia, we were instructed on the Khmer Rouge and were briefed on how to act and what the culture was like. To our amazement, Cambodians are very resilient. Surprisingly, no emotional toll is seen from the outside looking in.

Our day started with breakfast in our lobby. We had our daily devotion and listened to and mulled over the song, Oceans, a powerful song that had me personally praying over the country of Cambodia. I tried to predict how I would feel and what I would see, but nothing would prepare me for the emotions I would feel while walking through the audio lead tour.

We took our normal tuk tuk drivers (four in all), to the outskirts of Phnom Penh where the museum and actual site are located. We received headphones and our audio player and made our way around the walking tour. The place was eerily quiet as visitors from all over the world paid their respects to one of the most horrific genocides in this generation. As we listened to stories of rape, babies dying, and extreme torture; we were reminded of how real and utterly terrifying this place actually is. The audio tour lead us on a walking sites to many mass graves where fragments of bone and teeth still make their way to the surface after a big rain.

Everything seemed so real at during the walk. Speaking only for myself, it was almost like I could hear all the muffled noises that were barely audible because of the Khmer Rouge propaganda that was blasted throughout the execution camp.

After finishing with the tour, we visited the museum where weapons of choice and articles of victims clothing were on display. The Khmer Rouge did not use bullets to kill as they were too expensive. They resorted to the use of clubs, knives, and shovels to carry out the brutal actions.

After what seemed like a long tuk tuk ride back to our hotel, we ate lunch and split up into groups to either go to the market or go to a cobbler shop known as Beautiful Shoes. Our two instructors, Mrs. Morse and Dr. Taplin, are very fond of the manager that owns the shop. We had the opportunity to custom make shoes out of authentic leather for our loved ones and ourselves.

I had Birkenstock look-alikes made and am super excited to go back in 10 days and see what they came up with. After the shoe shop, some of us broke off of the group to head to the market. This was the first time we had the opportunity to roam the city by ourselves, a very liberating experience. The market is filled with everything you could ever think of; from Buddha statues to Nike shoes, everything is either imported from the United States or made in Asia.

We ended the day with a somber dinner at a restaurant down the street at the hotel. Tears were shed as we all shared our highs and lows of the day. We were supposed to go to a puppet show, but ended up heading back to the hotel.

Market, Restaurant, & Birthday Celebration

Dani Cichon
Study Abroad in Cambodia
by Dani Cichon, Nursing Student


Our first experience with the “Russian Market” can only be described as… overwhelming. Overwhelming in the way of smells (some delicious, some too bad to even put into words), colors, shouts of “Miss, you want something? You want something?”, feelings of anxiety when struggling to bargain…just overwhelming. But the good, this-is-so-different-but-awesome kind of overwhelming! Plus, Dr. Taplin knew the places to go, and hooked us up with “the silk lady,” “the silver lady,” and “the gold lady.” It’s safe say that most of us had a lot less money and space in our carry-on bags afterwards. But who can resist a silk scarf being sold for $2? After a few hours there, we headed back to the hotel to prepare medical supplies that would be taken to Sonja Kill hospital in Kampot. AppleMark Later, we went to a Khmer restaurant and feasted on dishes such as fish amok, striped snakehead, and fried ice cream. With the sounds of Chapey music playing in the background (traditional Khmer dance/ceremony music) and the help of a makeshift crown and corsage made out of balloons, we also celebrated Sarah Hintz’s twenty-first birthday there.

The night finished with many group members receiving well-earned massages, and the rest getting what was probably our first full night of sleep since before the trip began.

Walking Tour & Tuol Sleng

Cassie Scott
Study Abroad in Cambodia
by Cassie Scott, Nursing Student


To begin this adventure, we started our day having Dr. Taplin and Mrs. Morse show us around Phnomh Penh which is where we will be living out of the majority of our trip. It also gave us our first dose of what the Cambodian heat would do to us. We got to see such sights such as the Royal Palace, the Tonle Sap river, and many of the surrounding stores. This was also our first dose of the Cambodian culture and interactions with the Khmer people. We happened to arrive during a national holiday, the King’s birthday which meant that most of the city was in celebration mode. We passed by the Prime Minister’s motor escort twice during our city tour. We took our first tuk tuk ride back from this walking tour which was an adventure. That was nerve wracking since Cambodian traffic has no rules and you feel as if everything is going to hit you, but overall a great experience. It’s a good way to watch the people interact in the city while getting a nice breeze to cool you off for a few minutes.

Another one of the big events we did our first day was visit Tuol Sleng prison. A little history about Tuol Sleng: this was one of the main torture prisons used by the Communist movement, the Khmer Rouge, to interrogate “suspicious” traitors through violent means. This was our first emotional hit for our group. Viewing the prison cells and various torture weapons was an eye opener. The biggest impact was seeing the faces of these poor souls as they were entered into the prison. These head shots portrayed many faces showing different emotions such as fear, terror and confusion. It is very hard to describe the feeling of looking at those many picture eyes staring back and imagining the horrors they suffered. We also had the honor of meeting one of the seven survivors of this prison, Chum Mey. He still lives today and advocates to keep Tuol Sleng a place of education and awareness of this history of the Khmer Rouge. Personally, this was the hardest part for me. His face lit up speaking to me and showing me the picture of him being liberated from Tuol Sleng. Looking into his eyes though, you could see age that came with enduring the cruelty of imprisonment by the Khmer Rouge. It was truly an eye opening visit creating an appreciation for what the Khmer people went through and humbling you to how lucky we are as Americans to have not seen such genocide in our own country.

I am excited to begin clinics and start bringing healthcare and love to these people who deserve so much of both. So far they have been a blessing and being in their country has been a great experience!

Mission to Cambodia: A bittersweet day

JessieCammuseSmallMission to Cambodia 2014
from Jessica Cammuse, Nursing student

Cambodia2014-41It’s our last day in Cambodia and it is bittersweet! I have enjoyed my time here but am also ready to get home.  Today started out going to church.  Church is fun but definitely longer than in the states.  Last Sunday we invited the family from our service project to church and they came.  This Sunday, they came back!  It was a happy moment when we all saw them this morning. God new what he was doing when he gave us that family this trip. I hope they continue to go to church even after we leave. After church we had a free afternoon.  For me, it was a relaxing afternoon and for others it was a shopping spree! Tonight we took an hour boat ride along the river.  As soon as we arrived to the boat it started storming.  Can’t say that I didn’t enjoy the rain because it made it feel amazing outside! It was extremely hot but the rain cooled it off.  We had finally escaped the heat for a little bit. Even though it stormed, it was a fun time to be with everyone one last night! I will miss Cambodia and all the loving, beautiful people. I will also miss our wonderful group that we have made into a family. It was a great experience and feel so blessed to have been able to come to this beautiful country.