Aidan Iacobucci '25


Major: History
Internship site: Cambodian Organization for Living and Temporary-care (COLT), Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Tell us a little about your IIP, any fun projects you are engaging with, and what has been rewarding? COLT is an organization in southern Phnom Penh, Cambodia, that centers around providing community based care for children and adolescents in the Khan Dangkor district of the municipality. Opened in 2005, the organization functioned as a facility that provided temporary and long-term care for children who could no longer live at home. Since then, it has evolved into a community center that offers a myriad of other opportunities, including supplementary English classes, sports recreation, and social services. At COLT, I am an English teacher for the Preschool 1 class that serves children ages 4 to 8. I absolutely love it! I have been teaching them the alphabet and letter recognition in order to establish a scaffold for their progression into upper-level English classes. While perhaps a lofty goal for only 9 weeks of teaching, my students have shown their determination to learn the letter sounds and I have seen amazing progress in the last 4 weeks.
My students are positively the light of my life here in Cambodia; they step into class with laughter and smiles and so much enthusiasm towards learning! This happiness has been what is so rewarding for me. Cambodia is often called the “land of the laugh and the tear” due to its friendly, helpful, and ever-smiling population. What makes this description so empowering is the genocide that afflicted the Cambodian population just 40 years ago. Under the Khmer Rouge, over 2 million people (out of a population of 7 million) were killed. As a result, there is a widespread lack of educational, medical, and social resources. Seeing my students, many of whom come from severely underserved backgrounds, be as full of unadulterated joy as they are is incredibly delightful! At COLT I have participated in projects in addition to my teaching. I have painted flowers on the wall of the center’s perimeter and I have helped clean up and organize the library. I have also spent time interacting with the residents of COLT and playing games with them before and after class (football in the rain was my favorite). I have also taken the time to explore Phnom Penh and other parts of Cambodia like Siem Reap and Koh Rong Island. I think this has covered much of the central contents of my internship and I hope you guys consider applying — you won’t regret it. លាហើយ​ពេលនេះ! (leahaey​ pelnih - Bye for now!) 
Do you have tips for future interns? One tip is to allow your body and mind to acclimate to the change in culture and setting. For many Princeton students, Phnom Penh will be a much different environment than they’re used to — full of different sights, sounds, smells, and tastes. Give yourself a few days to transition to the change-of-pace and you will learn to love it (I don’t want to leave!). Another, perhaps more important, tip is to bring your enthusiasm! These children, especially my preschool class, are full of energy and in order to keep them engaged you are going to have to move around, change inflection in your voice, do a lot of active games, and remain smiling and cheerful. Be prepared to give lots of hugs, high fives, and STICKERS. The more enthusiastic you are, the more your students will enjoy their time in class.
Any wise words for our IIP interns? Sometimes, as Princeton students, we put too much pressure on ourselves to be the best-of-the-best. While ambition is important, neglecting self-care and not allowing yourself some time for leisure in your life is damaging. Seeing my preschoolers start every day with a smile on their face and playfulness in their hearts has reiterated the importance of this sentiment to me. Some days, we need to draw with crayons to appease our inner-child and that is beautiful.