Here, men are so shy. There’s no doubt that I have probably noticed this more since I am a woman. On my first day at the Wat Thmei language school none of the men were comfortable talking with me! We attended three different classes across three days and they all started out the same. In the beginning you really had to initiate the conversations but it was really great to see these same individuals become more comfortable with speaking English. The students really enjoyed working on their pronunciation, so much of my time spent here was going over how to make some of the simple sounds we native speakers can make so easily. One sound in particular was the t- and th- sound. Many of the students would say “three” and “tree” as the same word and they were so happy when they actually learned how to say the two differently. I’m sure I looked pretty goofy standing at the front of the class demonstrating where their tongue should land when they say these words but it was tons of fun and so rewarding to share in their excitement.

I will never forget how eager the women in the class were to ask if I had a boyfriend. When I answered yes they were that much more excited about it. The series of questions often went as such: Do you have a boyfriend? Are you married? Do you have children? Why don’t you have children? This may not be considered a great conversation starter back home in the US but it was often a great one here and led to some neat conversations with these students. I’d say just about everyone asked us this.

Overall my experience here at Wat Thmei was amazing. I enjoyed getting to know the students along with the Khmer teachers. In the end I even gained a pen pal! Her name is Ek Chakriya (surname, first name) and I really look forward to keeping in touch over email.

Lynda Villagomez

Loyola Marymount University student

Los Angeles, CA