Central grad chooses Cambodia for summer trip
Rachel Krauss poses for a photo with one of the children she met while in Cambodia. | Photo courtesy of Rachel Krauss
Name: Rachel Krauss
School activities: president of Hinsdale Central Peer Leadership group, managing editor of 2012 Hinsdale Central yearbook
College: Elon University, Elon, N.C.
Updated: August 27, 2012 6:09AM
HINSDALE — Rachel Krauss certainly isn’t the only 2012 Hinsdale Central graduate whose parents paid for a summer trip as a gift to commemorate finishing high school.
But it’s very likely that Krauss is the only one who opted to use that trip to spend 10 days in a Third World country. Instead of beaches and glamour, she chose Cambodia.
“At first, I thought about Fiji or Costa Rica, but I decided I really wanted to go to a Third World country and help,” Krauss said. “I’ve traveled a lot with my family — we’ve been to Norway, Israel, England, Italy — but I had never traveled by myself before.”
While her parents allowed her to choose where she wanted to go, there were some minor restrictions on travel, Krauss said.
“They wouldn’t let me go to Africa,” she said. “My dad’s friend adopted a kid from Cambodia a while ago, so we were able to get some information from them, and that helped my parents feel a lot more comfortable about me going there.”
Krauss signed up for a Floating Village Service program that is part of Rustic Pathways, an organization that has a variety of global community service programs among its travel offerings.
The Floating Village Service program included some historical sightseeing along with the opportunity to live in the homes among the people of rural Cambodia.
“They live in extreme poverty,” Krauss said. “I wanted to go into it open minded, but I couldn’t relate to it. It was very surreal to me. I felt like I was looking at Google images of poverty.”
Among Krauss’ experiences while living in Cambodia were taking a bucket shower, sleeping inside of a mosquito net and sleeping next to crocodiles.
“They have the crocodiles there because they sell them,” she said. “I also had the chance to help paint a school, and I taught kids English. I really enjoyed being able to help at the school.”
Krauss left for Cambodia July 3 and returned home July 13, with about two full days being used for travel. While her actual stay in Cambodia was barely more than a week, she was able to form a strong opinion of the people who live there.
“The people are so selfless and genuine,” she said. “I saw how they seem to have almost nothing, but still can be very happy. You don’t need things to be happy, and you really learn to appreciate what you do have when you see and meet people like this.”
Krauss said she also learned quite a bit about herself while on the trip.
“I learned how independent I am,” she said. “I went because I love to help people, and I wanted to do something drastic. Now that I’ve gone, I want to do this again.”
It’s not surprising to hear the career she plans to pursue after finishing college.
“I want to be a teacher,” she said.