QUEENSBURY -- Cambodia 101 is the course on University at Albany junior Ben Cramer’s schedule this semester.
Cramer, of Queensbury, was scheduled to leave Friday on a nearly daylong flight for Cambodia, where he will be helping to teach English with the Global Service Corps until December.
Cramer, a graduate of Glens Falls High School, said he first became interested in traveling abroad for a service project when a friend, also a student at UAlbany, traveled to Tanzania.
“I was looking for an experience like that. I’ve always kind of been interested in volunteerism,” he said.
He initially thought about going to an African country.
“I did not know a thing about Cambodia and that’s kind of what made we want to do that. I wanted to throw myself off the deep end and make myself a little bit uncomfortable,” he said.
Cramer will be teaching English in different places, including the Wat Opot Community, which houses 53 children and 10 adults including many who have HIV and AIDS, according to its website.
He has experience working with children, including work as a camp counselor and at the YMCA.
“I figured why not get to work with kids and enjoy the world,” he said.
Cramer will teach English in rural communities and at a Buddhist monastery. He said native speakers of English are in high demand as teachers.
Cramer is majoring in global relations at UAlbany and will receive college credit for his time overseas, during which he will study the changes in Cambodia since the Vietnam War. The country still has a lot of land minds leftover from the conflict.
Global Service Corps has had a relationship with UAlbany for about 15 years, according to Rick Lathrop, its founder and executive director.
“We were founded 20 years ago to do two things: One was to provide life-changing cultural immersion, service learning experiences for our participants and the other thing was to provide appropriate sustainable service in communities where we work,” Lathrop said.
The organization also runs programs in Tanzania and Thailand. Lathrop is starting a new one in Vietnam.
Students will do coursework led by professor Susan Hagadorn of the Paññasastra University of Cambodia, who did her doctoral dissertation on the effects of the Khmer Rouge genocide on children as seen through art in Cambodia.
UAlbany has been working with Global Service Corps since the early 2000s on shorter excursions for students, but this is the second year the school has sent students abroad for an entire semester, according to James Pasquill, director of study abroad and exchanges.
Students will receive instruction in the local language, culture and history for the first few weeks, according to Pasquill.
“They’re also getting leadership development work, how to get things done, how to lead an organization,” he said.
Students are accepted into the program based on academic records and references, according to Pasquill.
They pay roughly the same amount in tuition as if they were taking classes at UAlbany and living on campus — about $11,000, according to Pasquill.
“Right now, we have more spaces available than we have students applying,” he said.
Cramer’s mother, Kathryn Cramer, said she is excited and nervous at the same time about her son’s trip.
“It’s not like here, where we have the freedom you take for granted,” she said. “Over there, he has been told that he cannot get off the beaten path because there are millions of landmines still there.”
Cramer hopes the experience will help him someday get a job working for the United Nations Security Council or for a nongovernmental organization overseas.
“I’m pretty ready for this. I think it’s going to be exciting to go to a Third World country and see everything we have [in America]. I think it will give me a new outlook on life,” he said.