Sopheak Chheng is a rising senior at Middlebury College majoring in philosophy. He was the first Cambodian to be awarded a United World College scholarship after graduating from high school in Cambodia and spent two years living in Norway.
When he graduated from Red Cross Nordic United World College in 2007 he received a full-scholarship to Middlebury while at the same time becoming very active in Khmer IT development work. He was connected to PEPY via a common friend from PC4Peace and has volunteered with PEPY’s IT team this summer. This is Sopheak‘s first time back in Cambodia in five years, but he plans to come back and work in his home country either after he graduates from Middlebury College or upon completion of a masters program!
I have been working with PEPY for month and I recently got a chance to go out to Chanleas Dai to do a presentation about UWC scholarship program.
I couldn’t sleep any longer. The excitement inside my body woke me up from my sleep. I tried to get ready as fast as I could in order to be able to get some breakfast before the taxi arrived. I got ready by 6:00 AM and went out from the house to wait for the taxi. I received a few phone calls from different taxi drivers about my trip to Kralanh. Unluckily, those taxi drivers couldn’t find enough people to drive and made me wait as I missed my breakfast. I managed to get to Chanleas Dai, but not on time. On the other hand, as soon as I got to the school I could clearly see the students’ expressions full of happiness as they warmly welcomed me.
I began the presentation by introducing myself and told them about my background.Just a minute after that, I started to give out the information paper about the scholarship to them. We read through it all together and some students asked me questions about what they did not understand. Moreover, I explained to them about what UWC (United World Colleges) stands for and UWC missions (Peace from Education and International Understanding). Apart from sharing the information about the UWC scholarship, I gave them some words of wisdom and advice to help them think about why education is one of the most important needs in our lives. I told them that “Before when I was your age, I loved to play and I didn’t value education the way I was supposed to, but after I got the scholarship by using my knowledge from school and out of school, then I came to realize that without my education I would never be able to get this scholarship”.
There are many other words that I used to motivate and to make those students think deeper about their future goals and passions. I asked them to respect others and their parents as much as they can. From my personal experiences it is the only attitude that keeps me happy and helps me meet good people everywhere. In addition, I told them that we must be aware of the past and current issues that are happening in our country and the outside world. It could be anything related to our society and daily lives and I reminded them to stay away from the political movements. I also stressed that it is important that we must know about our own national identity from arts and our society’s situation to our national symbols and history. In order to get a scholarship to study abroad it is required that the candidates be someone who can influence their schoolmates while they are studying abroad.
The presentation was supposed to be only two hours long, but it went throughout the entire morning session and that is four hours long. I spoke for two hours and the second two hours we did some Q & A along with some activities. The teacher from the class knows that I sing and she revealed that to the students and suddenly they clapped for me to sing a song for them. I sang a song and they kept asking for one more song until I made it three songs for them. Right after the singing session, Lida, the teacher, asked a few students to come up and express how they felt about my presentation and what they have learned today from me. Of course they were shy, but the girls volunteered before the men did. A girl came up and said, “I am extremely happy to be here and it is an honor to have Sopheak here speaking for us and sharing his experience to us all. What I found most interesting and well-spoken from him is be a good person and help others while they need us. I will take his words and convert it into my energy to study harder and seek a high education.” Right after the girl finished then here a boy came and he said, “I respect Sopheak as my brother and his words have a lot of meaning to me and the rest of us. I love his saying that we’re all capable of getting the scholarship, but it is up to us whether we want it or not. We must work hard both in and outside of school so that we will be able to reach the point where Sopheak is standing right now. Thank you Sopheak for being here and thank you for all of your energy today!”
These words totally made my day and it will be recorded in my brain forever, I am telling you. I enjoyed my time so much with those students and I strongly believe that one day there will be students from Chanleas Dai studying in a UWC school. I am going to do my best to keep in touch with them and inform them about the scholarship program.
Red Cross Nordic United World College Alum ‘07