“There is more in you than you think you are.” is one of my most favourite quotes of all time from Kurt Hahn, who is a founder of United World College (UWC). I have never proved it to be right until the first time I arrived at Li Po Chun United World College of Hong Kong (LPC UWC) two years ago.
What is the United World College? And what makes it different ?
One of the most important missions of UWC is : “UWC makes education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future.”
LPC UWC is one of the 13 UWCs around the world that offer a unique experience: studying at an international boarding school that offers an International Baccalaureate program for two years. UWC is different from other IB schools, as 200 to 300 students of various nationalities are required to live together on campus for two years with their teachers, some staff members and even a principal as a small world community. For instance, at LPC UWC there are only about 250 students, but they are from more than 90 countries. We live, learn and share our unique experience together.
I have passed the selection process and received full scholarship to study at this school since the time I graduated from Preah Sisowath high school in Cambodia in 2009. I was one of the five other Cambodian students who have received this scholarship after competing with hundreds of other students from almost every part of Cambodia. I decided to leave my beloved family, friends and country to come here and accept a new challenge.
How could I prove that “there is more in you than you think you are” ?
I still remember the time I came here: the first challenge I faced was culture shock. The first day I arrived at this school, eight students came and spoke to me in English with different accents and I did not understand them at all. Fortunately, they were good enough to understand my English and help me settle down.
Academics here is a big challenge to me. Every student is required to take only six subjects from many other subjects and different levels. This is different from the Cambodian educational system, where students are required to take 10 to 12 subjects to study at high school. Here, I am taking physics, mathematics, economics and three different levels of language, which are Mandarin Chinese, English and world literature, which require me to study by myself.
To me personally, mathematics and other languages are not as hard as physics and economics subjects because I have a different background than other students as I studied in Cambodia where I learnt physics in different way.
I have never done any lab experiments before and only used to learn theories and calculation. I also struggled with economics as this is the first time I took it as a subject and having to learn it in a different language from my mother tongue. Every student has to deal with lots of assignments and many deadlines.
Studying at UWC is not only about academics but also involves students in many other activities and experiences. I am taking part in many Quan Cai activities (Creativity, Action, Service) after class and various sports. Not only that, but there are also many events and performances where I can take part in discussion with other students and sharing my own experience and cultures.
I have been traveling to some countries to do different school projects. During first year here I decided to come back to Cambodia with a group of students and teachers working with one NGO called AFESIP.
We were working with girls who were the victims of sexual slavery or had been sexually abused, for one week. We also travelled to China, where we had to do some serious physical activities such as mountain hiking, biking and kayaking and many others.
Last March, I visited Singapore to do other services for a fund-raising event called “The 24 hour race”. During the summer, I also participated in a UWC Youth Leadership Summer camp on the Mediterranean Sea in France with 29 other students from all over the world. This coming summer, I am going to attend a Peace Camp in Turkey as well as a MEZA cultural exchange program in India with many other UWC students.
All of these paths that I have been through prove that Kurt Hahn’s quote is true – because I never expected that I could do all of these achievements.
What have you gained after two years ?
After I left Cambodia for two years, I have learnt so many things in terms of life experience and academics – but that didn’t mean that I did not learn or achieve anything during the 17 years I have been living in Cambodia. I can tell you right away that I am not the most outstanding student in Cambodia and without the knowledge and experience that I have gained from public education and social activities in Cambodia -- regardless of its resources and technology -- I would not be able to achieve this scholarship experiences.
After I have graduated from LPC UWC of Hong Kong by the end of this May, I am going to continue further education at Luther College in the USA, as that college has already offered me a full scholarship to study computer science for four years.
On behalf of students from Cambodia, I would strongly recommend the UWC scholarship as well as other studying abroad scholarships -- but at the same time I advise students to keep working hard and never look down on public education in Cambodia because it is the most essential step for you to get a new experience and other achievements in your life.
No matter where you study or what you do to reach your goals in your life, you must have dreams, passion, motivation, to never give up the belief in yourself. I believe we all have equal rights to achieve our dreams and have responsibilities to take part in developing Cambodia, especially in terms of improvement in public education. We should follow what Shelby Davis, founder of the Shelby Davis Scholarship, said: “Learn, Earn and Return”.