FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

We accept volunteers from all over the world, but as we are an English language centre, we prefer native speakers or those with a native level command of the language. We teach conversational English only and look for volunteers that demonstrate a passion for education and development.
Whilst we don’t insist that native speakers have a  TEFL/TESOL/CELTA or tertiary teaching qualifications the majority of our volunteers do.  There are internationally recognised TEFL and CELTA providers in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam if you would like to study before you arrive.
Non-native speakers do require English teaching experience and/or qualifications, or English certification equivalent to First Certificate of English; IELTS (4.5+); TOEIC (400+); TOEFL (80+); VEC (9+); or CEFR (B2). Non-native speaking applicants who possess high fluency, but lack certification are encouraged to apply, but will need to demonstrate written and verbal fluency during the application process.
Unfortunately, Cambodia has very strict Business visa requirements for citizens of many African and Middle Eastern nations. We urge anyone from these countries to consult a visa specialist to see if you are eligible for a Cambodian E-Type business visa before applying.

 

We accept adult volunteers of all ages, however the minimum age to join our program is 18. We frequently host volunteers in their 50s and 60s, who are just as welcome and valuable as our younger teachers!
For health safety reasons, applicants aged 70+ will be considered on a case by case basis.

 

No.Our students range from 13 to 60. We are not an orphanage, nor are we a shelter, a refuge, or rehabilitation centre. Many volunteer organisations offer a feel-good experience where you can visit an orphanage and play and teach young children for a short time, and often at a very high price. We feel these kinds of ‘opportunities’ are not beneficial for either volunteer or the children involved. Friends International highlighted the growing problem of orphanage voluntourism in their recent campaign Children Are Not Tourist Attractions, encouraging people to apply the same privacy and protection standards they would expect at home, and think before visiting orphanages.Our students are a mix of high school and university students, professionals, tuk tuk drivers, public servants, stay at home parents, and even retirees, wanting to share their culture, learn about yours, and improve their spoken English. We offer a fun, informal environment and a low student enrolment fee to enable this cultural exchange and provide a valuable and lasting experience for both student and volunteer.

 

We aim to process all applications and be able to confirm applicants within 1 month of receiving a completed application, including questionnaire. Please ensure you inform your referees to expect a reference request, and that you enter all contact details correctly.We are a small, but dedicated team, and during peak times we often are unable to respond as quickly as we’d like. If you have applied but have not received a response (aside from our application form’s confirmation of receipt email), please contact us.

 

Cambodia as a whole, and Phnom Penh in particular is no more dangerous than any other capital city. A common sense approach to your activities and behavior that you would apply at home will just be as effective in ensuring your safety in Phnom Penh. There are obviously things and places that we recommend that you would avoid, and we will provide you with plenty of information about how to avoid dangers during our orientation program.

 

Phnom Penh has a number of international standard clinics with a high standard of medical facilities. There are numerous internationally staffed clinics in the city, such as MW Medical,Tropical & Travellers Medical ClinicNAGA Clinic and the AEA International SOS. Phnom Penh also has several high quality dental clinics such as Roomchang, and several major hospitals including Royal Rattanak Hospital, part of the Bangkok Hospital group. During the orientation, you will be shown where these facilities are.All volunteers should be aware of health risks while travelling. The WHO has a comprehensive booklet to keep you well informed here.If you suffer from any serious pre-existing medical conditions, please consult your doctor prior to travel.

 

We strongly encourage all volunteers to purchase medical and personal effects insurance. While its everyones hope that it would be unnecessary, the expense of emergency medical attention, or potentially evacuation, would be high.

World Nomads offers a comprehensive policy for around US$200, it’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.

 

We recommend you consult your doctor well before departure to ensure you are prepared to come to Cambodia. Common recommendations include MMR, DPT, Hepatitis A & B, Japanese Encephalitis and Typhoid. The US Government Center for Disease Control offers useful health information for travellers.Malaria is present in Cambodia, but Phnom Penh, around the Tonle Sap lake, and Siem Reap/Angkor Complex are considered Malaria-free.Dengue Fever is present in Cambodia. There are no vaccines or drugs available to prevent Dengue, so caution should be taken to avoid bites from mosquitoes during the day.Effective insect repellents:

  • DEET (chemical name: N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide or N,N-diethyl-3-methyl-benzamide). Products containing DEET include, but are not limited to, Off!, Cutter, Sawyer, and Ultrathon.
  • Picaridin (KBR 3023 [Bayrepel] and icaridin outside the United States; chemical name: 2-(2-hydroxyethyl)-1-piperidinecarboxylic acid 1-methylpropyl ester). Products containing picaridin include, but are not limited to, Cutter Advanced, Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus, and Autan (outside the United States).
  • Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or PMD (chemical name: para-menthane-3,8-diol), the synthesized version of OLE. Products containing OLE and PMD include, but are not limited to, Repel. This recommendation refers to EPA-registered repellent products containing the active ingredient OLE (or PMD). “Pure” oil of lemon eucalyptus (essential oil) is not the same product; it has not undergone similar, validated testing for safety and efficacy, is not registered with EPA as an insect repellent, and is not covered by this recommendation.
  • IR3535 (chemical name: 3-[N-butyl-N-acetyl]-aminopropionic acid, ethyl ester). Products containing IR3535 include, but are not limited to, Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Expedition.

Source

 

Volunteers should arrive no later than the set starting dates for each semester. If you arrive on the set date, you will be picked up from the airport by program staff and taken directly to the Volunteer House (or your arranged accommodation if you are living independently).Those travelling in Cambodia or surrounding countries prior to the beginning of their semester should keep us well informed of their expected arrival date and entry method. We always do our best to ensure each volunteer is greeted and assisted from the very first day they arrive in Phnom Penh.Volunteers not arriving by air should ensure they are in Phnom Penh before the start date, and contact us when they arrive. All important contact information is included in application correspondence.

 

We initially accept volunteers for three months (one semester) only, but you are welcome to stay longer if everything is going well. We have hosted volunteers for as many as 3 consecutive semesters (9 months)!

 

The program usually has around 20 volunteers – sourced from direct applicants, and through partner volunteer recruiters – but numbers always vary. We have a mixture of volunteers living in the house and living independently.

 

A vegetarian option is prepared for each meal. We often have more vegetarians than not! Our vegetarian dishes are usually just the non-vegetarian dish, cooked and served without meat. Tofu, eggs, and lentils are often used as a protein substitute.Those with allergies should inform us during the application process so that we can establish whether we can cater for your allergy. Common allergies such as nuts or dairy are easily accommodated.Mono Sodium Glutamate (MSG) is used widely throughout Cambodia. Those allergic to MSG should be aware that it will be difficult to avoid when eating outside of the house. We do not use MSG at the volunteer house, but we cannot guarantee all ingredients we use are 100% MSG free.

 

Absolutely – travel begins during the orientation, when there is an opportunity to join a three-day trip to meet CRDT in Kratie province and then on to one of two project sites to see the work you and the school support.There is also a long holiday, sometimes a week in the middle of the semester which could be used to visit Siem Reap/Angkor Wat and Battambang, and typically at least one long-weekend which could be used to travel to the beach at Sihanoukville or the limestone caves, Bokor Hill Station and sea at Kampot and Kep.Aside from the trip to CRDT, there won’t be time to travel before or during the orientation if you are arriving on the group starting date. If you’d like to travel before the orientation program, please let us know so we can give you advice on the good places to go and please arrange to arrive in Phnom Penh on the starting date.

 

  • December – March Groups: Christmas/New Year (December/January), and Chinese New Year (around January/February)
  • March – June Groups: Khmer New Year (April)
  • June – September Groups: Midterm school holiday only (July)
  • September – December Groups: Pchum Benh Festival (September/October)

Each semester also has other single day public holidays such as Coronation Day, Royal Plowing Day, and King’s Mother’s Birthday.

 

We are happy to recommend other worthwhile volunteer opportunities concerned with the development of Cambodia, and other projects around the world. The opportunities listed here are provided in good faith. We are not affiliated with these organisations, nor do we receive financial compensation for listing them here.AboutAsia Schools supports the education of children in rural Siem Reap. Volunteering in Siem Reap, with AboutAsia Schools makes a real impact on the future of the poorest Cambodian children.Visitors to Battambang in Cambodia’s east can contact Kun at My Battambang Homestay. Kun has a wealth of experience and knowledge of NGO and volunteer work and can help find and organise volunteer projects in the area.For volunteer opportunities in India, visit Friends of Kolkata and Northeast Monologues.

Free Volunteering Abroad: Free and low cost volunteering opportunities around the world.

 

Yes, but please note that the postal service in Cambodia is not 100% reliable.Our school mailing address is:Conversations With Foreigners (CWF)
No. 247C, Street 271 (Blvd Yothapol Khermarak Phoum)
Sangkat Toul Tum Poung II, 12311
Khan Chamcarmon
Phnom Penh
CambodiaYou can use this address to receive mail while you are volunteering, or if you stay on in Phnom Penh.

To send mail or parcels back home, we recommend using a courier. We can get good rates through Aramex, and there are also Fedex and DHL offices in Phnom Penh.

 

We’ve hosted over 300 volunteers from all over the world over the past 6 years. Most of our volunteers are Australian, North American and British, but we welcome anyone with a passion for learning, teaching, sharing, and contributing to a positive future, and who meet the eligibility criteria.We have hosted volunteers from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Croatia, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Holland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Scotland, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Philippines, The USA, Wales, and Zambia.

 

Please contact us if you would like to contact past volunteers directly. We can provide email addresses for those who have given us permission to release contact details, and we may be able to arrange for you to meet with volunteers who have returned home.

 

At the volunteer house we provide an 2MB fiber connection, a desktop PC to share with your house mates, and a secure WIFI connection if you bring your laptop/tablet/smartphone. The internet connection is not super fast!Phnom Penh also has many cheap internet cafés, with several about two minutes walk from the house. Here you can also make reasonably priced overseas calls.Mobile access and 3G wireless internet is booming in Cambodia, so if you have a smart phone we can help you find a great deal on pre-paid phone/data packages. Local mobile providers include Cellcard, Metfone, and Smart.For those interested in independent living, local ISP Digi offers no-contract fiber connections from $12/month.

 

Clothing that covers your shoulders and knees is preferred in Cambodia, as it reflects local customs and modesty. Light, natural fibres are recommended to help with the heat.In the classroom, smart casual clothing that covers your shoulders and knees is required. No need for ties, just have a professional appearance and your students will respect you for making the effort.
Please read our teaching Dress Code for examples of what is and isn’t appropriate.

 

You can buy almost anything in Phnom Penh, but if you have them, the following might be useful:

  • laptop, tablet, or smartphone
  • USB flash drive/memory stick
  • bicycle and/or motorbike helmet (about US$15 in Phnom Penh, but low quality)
  • basic first-aid kit, including needle kit if traveling to rural areas
  • books, magazines, DVDs, games for the volunteer house
  • extra teaching materials including dictionaries/photo dictionaries, maps, pictures and posters for the school
  • Five spare passport photos for visa extensions, immigration, and school reporting requirements.

 

Unlike many programs who charge considerable fees to join or participate, we do not. However, all costs associated with coming to Cambodia such as airfares, visas, insurance, and living costs such as meals, accommodation, entertainment, sightseeing, and transport must be covered by the volunteer.We run a large house capable of accommodating 12 volunteers in twin-share fan rooms, with 3 meals per day, internet, PC, cable TV, support staff, and use of our bicycles for US$725. This covers the cost of renting, staffing, and managing the house, including electricity, water and gas bills, food, drinking water and services such as internet. Please see our accommodation optionsfor more details.Those who are comfortable with the challenges of living independently in a developing country are also welcome to apply, and we can provide assistance to secure suitable accommodation and help you get accustomed to the neighbourhood around CWF.

 

No. If you wish to work and volunteer, our program is not for you.Our teaching and backup schedule is designed to ensure that if volunteers are sick or unable to teach, we can still provide classes to our students. We do not allow volunteers to undertake paid work while volunteering with us, as paid work obliges the volunteer to give preference to that work.Our program is intensive and living in a new culture and environment like Phnom Penh can be exhausting and stressful for many. The stress this puts on volunteers can ruin their enjoyment of our program, and the experience of living in Cambodia.We can make exceptions for expatriates already living in Phnom Penh, as those who have adjusted to life in Cambodia already are better able to manage a busy schedule that working and volunteering creates.

 

As Robert Burns wrote, “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men Gang aft agley”. For those who don’t speak Scottish, Burns says that despite all planning and efforts, sometimes things just go wrong.Cambodia is a place that requires an open mind, the willingness to breath deeply and accept things. Tourists, travellers, long-term expats alike all suffer the same frustrations, misunderstandings, and inconveniences, and while we make every effort to ensure things run smoothly, we cannot guarantee we can please everyone.Having hosted more than 350 volunteers, we plan and prepare as much as possible to ensure our volunteers are well equipped to deal with the challenge of living in Phnom Penh and delivering great classes to our students, but if you have special needs or expectations, it’s best to discuss these with us prior to your arrival.

 

Yes. Independent volunteers are welcome to visit the house to use teaching facilities such as our teaching library and internet/wifi/printer, and just to socialise. Independent volunteers are also welcome to join the house for meals.
Independent living is inherently more complicated than the volunteer house, with shopping, cooking and cleaning all necessary on top of teaching, so we are happy to allow independent volunteers to eat at the house, at a cost of $2 per meal. This helps maintain social interaction, and reduced the pressure on independent volunteers throughout the semester.

 

Yes. We recruit volunteers only for CWF, our English language center, not for any other projects or organisations, so a couple would live and work together with us here in Phnom Penh.
We’ve hosted a number of couples, the majority of whom have lived independently, but if there is availability in our volunteer house for your preferred semester then couples are very welcome to share a room.

 

Cambodia primarily uses Type A and Type C outlets, though Type G can also be found, and most extension boards accept all types of plugs. Adapters are US$1-2 at local markets.Cambodia’s domestic electricity supply is 230V 50Hz.

 

Yes! Our program is perfect for TEFL/TESOL and CELTA graduates to gain practical teaching experience in a fun, relaxed setting. Upon completion of our program our volunteers have approximately 180 hours under their teaching belt, so it’s perfect for your teaching CV. Our students can already read and write English, but need a skilled instructor to help inspire and build confidence, improve listening skills, and develop crucial pronunciation skills.For those currently studying, CWF can provide observation and sign off on course requirements such as lesson plans, teaching specific skills (a grammar point, or a multimedia lesson for example). Please get in touch with us to discuss your course requirements.

 

Unfortunately we do not currently have shorter programs. Our teaching semester is 11 weeks long, so we require volunteers to be able to commit to the entire semester.

 

Got a question?

Many of our commonly asked questions are answered above, but if you have any other query about our program, our students, volunteer eligibility or living in Cambodia, please ask a question below!
Please note that questions submitted through this form will be published here, but your email address will not be published. If you have a question you would like to ask privately, please contact us using our contact form.
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