It has been my dream to study abroad since 2009 when I injured my wrist. I became convinced that I could not get the education I wanted in Cambodia after I was experienced as a student for two years in one of the university in Battambang. Also, I began to see that I would need to experience life outside the nest Phare had offered me as I had been working at the circus for almost half of my life. By 2014 the time for change was here and I started looking for programs and sponsors but couldn’t find one. However, early 2014 I found a sponsor who promised to help me achieve my college education dream.
In November 2015, after touring in the US with the circus and checking around with my sponsor and the school in Madison, Wisconsin, I resigned from the Phare Circus where I had been working for 3 years. It was hard to say goodbye to the team with which I had been working for more than 10 years. It was a huge decision to walk away from the only job I ever had in my life, a job that transformed my life. Even harder for me was to part from my family, my friends and my beloved country. The hardest of all was leaving my boyfriend whom I dearly love, who always believes in me and encourages me to go for my dream. Nevertheless, I reasoned that I needed to follow up on this unique opportunity to reach my dream.
In April 2016, I used up my savings to buy the airplane ticket to the USA. I arrived in Madison, Wisconsin and settled down with my sponsor and his wife. In order to get ready for my college degrees, I studied English intensively at MESLS (Madison English as a Secondary Language School) for 4 months.
After I finished the English language program, I was accepted and was about to start the courses at the community college in Madison, Wisconsin, when my sponsor had a change of heart. Because we could not reach understanding on several issues, he could no longer support me and wanted me to return to Cambodia. Thankfully, I was able to find sponsors among my friends in Boston and Washington DC. Edmond and Kunthary Degaiffier offered me board and lodging in their DC home- Lauren Shaw, Paul Feinberg and friends offered to contribute towards my tuition and my health insurance. Their contributions are not sufficient to cover all my education expenses. So, these sponsors agreed to help me raise the remaining funds so I can complete college. We successfully raised a total of $52,500 to pay for my education and transportation expenses, and that thankfully to all my friends and donors, without them, I would have not made it this far. Kindly note that I have been contributing 50% of my work study earnings for a total of $19,567.
I spent a total of 9 semesters at MC starting from ESL to Honors courses and I was admitted to the MC Renaissance scholar program which opened a door for me to new opportunities including a generous scholarship at Smith College to complete a bachelor degree. On May 22, 2020, I graduated from MC as an Honors Student, and I am looking forward to fall 2020 to start a new education journey at Smith.
I’m interested in working at the community level in my country to help people exercise their democratic rights and broaden children’s access to the arts. Because I was a child who grew up in poverty, I know how it feels to be poor. It breaks my heart to see the problems faced by my family and my country. I want to be part of the solution to the cycle of poverty by focusing my efforts on education and the arts which helped me become the person I am today.
I believe that the United States is the best country for me to get my education and to prepare me to become an effective leader in the future. I keep on reminding myself to dream big and to go for it no matter how hard the road is. I also believe that Cambodia needs educated young people to shape its future and I know I am one of them.
Thanks to my host family, friends and sponsors for their endless supports. Thanks to all of you for believing in me.