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Email from abroad

Hello everyone, I miss you so much! I miss life in Cambodia, miss people and miss everything there. My life belongs to Cambodia!

The United States is a place that I have always dreamed about and recently I committed myself to studying here. As a kid, I thought America was heaven. I wanted to see how people here live, how they treat each other, how they develop their country, and moreover, how they are educated.

In July this year, my last semester at the Royal University of Law and Economics (RULE), I was accepted into an exchange programme at Bard College in New York State. It isn’t a masters program, but I wasn’t going to let a chance to spend a year in the US slip by. I left for the States on August 22 knowing that I would, at least, learn a lot in the next year.

I used to think that I knew English, but since I started classes I realised that my English isn’t that great. I am only taking three courses this semester, but I never have a weekend off. I am having a difficult time with the reading and even though I spend almost all my time reading, I still can’t finish everything.

Participating in class has been a challenge as well, although it is getting easier. Some students, who are native speakers, don’t really care that there are international students in class. They speak very fast with low voices and they use sophisticated vocabulary that I haven’t heard before. I had to tell them to speak clearly just to catch up with the conversation. Now they speak very clearly in my classes and they even explain some difficult terms for me. See what speaking up can get you! After two months here, I can now comfortably converse with my American classmates and professors.

What I like the most about American college life is the attitude “work hard, play hard”. All the students work so hard during the weekday, but they are very wild during weekends and breaks. There are parties every single week. There is always something going on; movies, music, dance or just gathering to talk. You will never be bored here if you don’t want to be. I like dancing, but I never had a chance to take a class in Cambodia because they are expensive and uncommon. I went to dance class for free here and learned how to swing dance.

I also like the way faculty members here are so supportive. All professors have office hours every week for students to come in and talk about things they don’t understand, or anything else. They will even talk about what we need to understand for the upcoming exam or paper. Each student has an academic advisor to discuss their courses, future career, higher education or even family and love matters. They are always there for us. I love this very much. I think Cambodia should have this kind of system. It is very helpful for students.

Some of you may want to know what my typical day is like. I will tell you now, I have become a lazy student out here. I never wake up at 6am like when I was in Cambodia. I usually wake up at 9am and than get ready for class and take the shuttle to the cafeteria for breakfast. The choices for breakfast are like a buffet where we can eat whatever and as much as we want. I usually eat cereal and fruit salad and drink a glass of fresh orange juice and a cup of coffee. After that I walk to the library to read or do some unfinished work. At 12:30pm, I go to the cafeteria again for lunch and than head to class at 1:30pm. I leave class around 4:30pm and return to the library until about 6pm, when it’’s time to eat again. Than I either go to the library or my room, but regardless of the location I will read for hours. I never go to bed before 2am. I know it’s a bad habit, but because of the workload I stay up until 6am sometimes.   

Luckily, I only have class from Monday to Wednesday, so I have Thursday to Sunday off. I usually use this time to read, but I also give myself a break by volunteering as a tutor for immigrant students in a nearby town, watching movies (there is a free cinema at my school), dancing, hanging out with friends and going to parties.

I enjoy life here so much; however, I never forget my country. Every time that I laugh, I always feel hurt deeply.  A question that always comes to my mind is “why can’t Cambodians have this good life as well?” It reminds me that I really have to do something to help raise my country to a better level.

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