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My Experience as a Health Science Student in Cambodia

By Abby Smith


In November of 2019, I had the opportunity to take part in the Cambodia Health Promotion Challenge with Challenges Abroad! As I am a Bachelor of Health Science student, I was very interested in Health Promotion and gaining experience in helping others to improve their health, especially those who need it most. 



Prior to departure, I was regularly in contact with the team at Challenges Abroad they were extremely helpful and made booking and payments simple! They provided advice on passports, visa paperwork, and how to complete a working with children check so that I was prepared early and on time. I also made sure that I was up to date with all required vaccinations and researched what vaccinations and medication may be required to travel to Cambodia. Although it was not mandatory, I did take the antimalarial medication with me.  

Having never been to Cambodia or completing a challenge with Challenges Abroad, I didn’t know what to expect! However, I was keen to learn about a new culture and gain an understanding of another healthcare system. Being in my first year of university at the time, I was still unsure of potential career paths and saw this trip as an opportunity to see if health promotion could be a career option for me!  



The challenge took place over two weeks in Battambang, Cambodia, located almost three hours from the main city of Siem Reap. The first few days consisted of site visits to health centres and hospitals where we were able to ask questions and see just about everything- from the waiting room to the trauma centre and the maternity ward. The site visits were truly an eye opening experience for everyone. We got to know our way around Battambang, take language classes and see the centres in which we would be conducting classes and meet the kids that we would teach. They were super enthusiastic and excited to learn. On most days we would go to two centres each day and teach a new topic. Throughout the week we got to know the kids at both centres and taught them about hygiene, hand washing, how to brush their teeth, water sanitation and simple first aid. As we got into the swing of things, the second week absolutely flew by! We conducted classes on nutrition and healthy eating, teaching the kids to eat the rainbow, the importance of fruit and vegetables in the diet and physical activity and mindfulness. By the second week the kids, had everything down pat and enjoyed being interactive in the class activities. We even taught them how to play cricket when learning about physical activity!  



Although our schedule was jam packed, we did find some time to go to some local spots in Battambang such as Café Eden and La Cassa, we made sure to go for a walk around town every now and then to familiarise ourselves with the area. As a group, we would choose a night to go for dinner or sightseeing, we even got to see a local circus performance! On the weekend we travelled to Siem Reap where we were able to go to Angkor Wat and tour around the various other temples. We had one tuk-tuk driver all day who took us where we needed to go and chose the best spots to view temples. During the nighttime, we would go to Pub St where there were markets and so many places to eat! We went to the Red Piano Bar and enjoyed a great meal before heading to Miss Wong’s Cocktail bar and had some incredible cocktails, would most definitely recommend both!  



The health promotion challenge taught me so much about the culture, lifestyle, and health care system in Cambodia. I got to witness exactly how the healthcare system works and how the culture impacts the system and health outcomes. I also learned how to interact and present important information that is clear and simple to those who speak an entirely different language. I also gained a greater appreciation for the need and importance of health promotion.