Students travel to Cambodia through embedded course in developmental psychology

Jessica Lawson
April 05, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The College of the Liberal Arts offers many embedded courses to Penn State students. Embedded courses are semester-long classes that include an optional short-term international experience related to the course content.

Students in the course PSYCH 212 Introduction to Developmental Psychology went to Siem Reap, Cambodia over spring break. This is the third consecutive year professors Cathleen Hunt and Bo Cleveland led the embedded program, which allows Penn State students to visit local schools all over the city with students of all ages. There, they had the chance to lead educational activities that Hunt helped them plan with local staff and teachers. Many students refer to these experiences as some of the most memorable of the trip.

“The best part of this experience was interacting and doing hands-on activities with the Khmer children,” said Jalani Cook, a psychology student who went on the trip. “Because this experience was part of a child development class, we were able to experience how these children adapt to obstacles, challenges and new tasks. Being able to interact with the children was heart-warming because they were so happy and energetic.”

This course works specifically with nonprofit, non-governmental, charitable organizations, such as Caring for Cambodia, Ponheary Li Foundation, and the PEPY Empowering Youth organization. Taking part in events with these organizations helped students learn about both the opportunities and the obstacles facing Cambodian students. Additionally, a new part of the embedded course this year was that, prior to the trip, participating students had the opportunity to take part in dialogues facilitated by Penn State’s World in Conversation initiative with Cambodian college students who they would meet with on the trip to discuss each other’s experiences with educational goals and barriers.

In addition to visiting with the youth of the nation, students also spent time visiting local cultural sites, such as Angkor Wat. They got a sense for Cambodia's art, music and literature, as well as having a better knowledge of its history.

“I also learned about Buddhism and the significance of the many temples throughout Cambodia," said Cook. "This experience also broadened my perspective of other countries, their resources, and way of life.”

Many students, including Cook, say that their embedded course experience will impact their future goals and plans. After her trip, Cook is determined to help children who have a desire to learn, despite the current educational opportunities they may have.

“Being in Cambodia and learning about their developing educational system helped me realize that education is not equally valued across the world. For my career, I want to work with youth who have not had the opportunity to be educated due to socioeconomic or family reasons,” said Cook.

Embedded courses are available in many different departments and on various topics. To learn more about Liberal Arts embedded courses and see more programs, visit

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Last Updated April 05, 2019