Cambodian Dormitories

The Harpswell Foundation has two dormitories in Phnom Penh that provide room, board and leadership training to up to 80 young women while they attend university. Our in-house curriculum includes critical thinking, analytical writing, debate, civic engagement, current events; and computer, English and French lessons. As of Fall 2020, 184 young women have graduated from Harpswell, and are making their mark in Cambodia or in their studies abroad.

Core Curriculum

Harpswell’s students participate in rigorous in-house classes while also attending university. Students attend twice-weekly English and French classes, as well as computer instruction for new students. Our in-house core curriculum includes critical thinking, analytical writing, debate, civic engagement, job skills, health and nutrition and genocide studies. The centerpiece of Harpswell’s curriculum are the twice-weekly CD discussions, in which teams of students research a recent news article which they then present to their fellow students, who together analyze and explore it for content, bias and relevance to other issues of the day. These regular discussions develop the students’ critical thinking abilities, as well as knowledge of current events and public speaking skills.

At least one Sunday each month, the students join together in the Great Hall of Women to welcome a Leadership Seminar speaker: an accomplished individual from the public or private sector who is invited to talk about their life and career. Past speakers have included Cambodian government ministers, US Ambassadors, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, rabbis, monks, scholars, NGO directors and staff, scientists, architects and journalists.

Dorm Life

The students live in quad rooms, and share chores, such as cooking, weekly food and supplies shopping, cleaning, academic management and organizing events. The students have a self-government system led by elected Team Leaders, who are responsible for many aspects of dorm management, including class participation, job rotation and budgeting.

Dorm life includes outings, cultural events, celebrations, volunteer activities, and music classes. Both dorms have space for watching movies, hanging out and relaxing. There is a student-run yoga class, Music Club, Sports Club, Book Club and an Auto-Cad Club (for the engineering students).


Harpswell is always on the lookout for highly intelligent high school seniors with ambition and leadership potential.  We seek smart, independent thinkers who have a vision for their future and want to help their society.

Each year, Harpswell travels throughout Cambodia to recruit top high school students who demonstrate intelligence, leadership potential and independent thinking.  In the spring, we ask high school principals and partner NGOs to nominate exceptional young women. Our staff tours the country to interview each nominated student, and asks them to complete an application and write an essay in English or Khmer. We make a shortlist of candidates based on this information, then make final selections in September, when we receive their National High School Examination results.  New students start in late October, in time to begin the new semester in early November.  Harpswell accepts less than 10% of qualified nominated students.

Click here to learn more about recruiting for Harpswell, or if you’d like to contact us to see if you are qualified to apply.


In July 2006, working with a Cambodian team, the Harpswell Foundation completed construction of a dormitory in Boeng Trabaek for Cambodian women attending college in Phnom Penh. In December 2009, Harpswell completed a second facility in the Teuk Thla area of Phnom Penh.

The two facilities are among the first dormitories for university students in Cambodia and the very first dormitories devoted exclusively to women. Both buildings include quad dorm rooms, computer rooms and libraries. The Boeng Trabaek dormitory houses 36 women, the Teuk Thla dormitory, 48.

Harpswell students attend 18 different universities in Phnom Penh and live in the dorms that are geographically closest to their respective universities.

“Harpswell taught me to be a leader, to be more open-minded since I live in a community with sisters from different backgrounds, to be more mature, and critical and positive thinking. I have learned a lot from the dorms, including little things like cleaning and cooking. The dorms taught me to be more responsible too. Thank you so much Harpswell. I am so proud to be a part of this big family.” – Harpswell student