A Cambodian Internship – Sam Darby’s Experience

A Cambodian Internship –
Sam Darby’s Experience

In 2016 Sam Darby (then a university student), traveled to Cambodia where he spent time working alongside Asian Outreach staff (both kiwis and Cambodians) as an intern. We asked him a few questions about the experience and it turns out he had an awesome time and would recommend it to other young kiwis looking for a missions-oriented adventure. Have a read below and if you think you’d be up for something similar, then consider applying to become our AONZ 2018 intern in Cambodia. Click here for more details

What sort of study and work experience did you have prior to heading to Cambodia?

When I left for Cambodia I was halfway through an Arts degree at Auckland Uni, studying Politics and Sociology. I’d worked in a number of different jobs since leaving school, including two years of building, which was a real asset during my time in Cambodia.

What were the main projects and activities you spent your time on in Cambodia?

My main focus while in Stung Treng was on business development, researching how we could best utilise the 6ha business farm and looking at how we could make the training farm more self sustainable financially. Although this was my core focus, every week looked different. Some weeks I’d spend a couple of days helping install bio-sand filters, working on construction projects back at the farm and helping with one of the many ACTS (Assisting Children to School) projects.

Did you feel you were able to positively make a difference there? How so?

Yes, I do think that my time there made a positive difference. Most significantly for me was working with and mentoring the local staff at Asian Outreach Cambodia and helping them to grow into being better leaders – this can contribute to a lifelong impact for their communities as they continue to do amazing work long after I’ve gone. 

How was your experience connecting with and learning from the team of AO staff in Cambodia?

The AO staff are amazing and were always keen to learn new things whether it be new English words, new practical skills or better ways to do their job. It was really enlightening to learn about Khmer culture from them and experience a different approach to life

What did you gain from the experience that has benefited your character and/or skill-set?

Understanding and existing in a totally different culture was definitely character-developing and taught me a lot about how to approach conflicts and problem solving. Rushing in with “this is how we do it at home” was not always the right path and required me to think how Khmer culture played a part in challenges we faced.

What sort of impact did the trip have on your Christian faith?

Because there were no English churches within a 6 hour drive, a Sunday church service would mean sitting in 30 degree heat listening to a sermon preached in a language I only understood every fifth word of (on a good day) Needless to say my enthusiasm for attending these services quickly waned and I was forced to find my own space to spend time meditating on and growing my faith.

Do you think the experience you gained, improved your career prospects upon coming home to NZ? How so?

Yes I definitely think the experience has improved my career prospects back in NZ. Employers are always looking for qualities that distinguish one candidate from the rest. Spending a year in a foreign country shows that someone is adaptable and teachable. To work in such an environment requires life skills that can’t be generally taught in a classroom. Time spent travelling generally leads to people having a better understanding of who they are and what they want to achieve in life which means they will have a purpose to their work.

What was most challenging about your time in Cambodia?

Language is always challenging and isolating in foreign cultures. Not being able to communicate with people can be immensely frustrating but is also a great motivating factor for learning and pursuing time with the staff. Also the isolation of Stung Treng was a real personal challenge for me as I discovered just how much I’d come accustomed to having friends and family being a support structure in my life


Did the trip leave you with any lasting desires or intentions to return to working in a missions environment at some point in the future?

I have always had and will always have a desire to be involved in work helping developing nations. Whether this is in a missions environment or professional capacity, my goal is always to look at how my skills and passions can best serve those in need.

Why would you recommend doing an internship in Cambodia with AO to other young people? 

I think an internship like this presents people an amazing opportunity to develop themselves both personally and professionally while allowing them to make a positive impact on a country very much in need of people who are passionate about building a better future.