Vacation is almost over. For some students, this means settling into a whole new university and for others it means continuing their collegiate journey. While most students have at least a vague idea of where they want to be after graduation, many will change their minds about their future before graduation day. Deciding what to study and what direction you want to head in can be an overwhelming choice, but Lift is here to tell you that it’s never too late to change your course and everything will be ok.
Feeling it out during your foundation year
Kim Samoudum, a 17-year-old who recently graduated from American Intercon School in Phnom Penh, will begin his studies at the University of Health and Sciences this year, but, like many Cambodian students, the decision was only partially his. He wasn’t sure what he was interested in, so he followed his father’s advice. “However, before I made my decision, I thought that I will change immediately if I figure out what I want to do,” he said.
Fortunately for Kim Samoudum and many other fresh entrants into Cambodia’s universities, the first year at university can be used as a testing ground before moving on to more serious studies. The first year of university in the Kingdom is known as a the foundation year, and the Ministry of Education demands that universities teach a broad range of courses covering various subjects in order to give students a chance to figure out where they want to focus their academic attention.
André Struve, faculty coordinator of Limkokwing University, said that the foundation year is useful to allow students a chance to orient themselves upon arriving at university and, with the help of counselling, make the best choice for future studies.
Although they do not provide the same career and college counselling services that Limkokwing offers, PonnChhay, vice-rector of Royal University of Phnom Penh, agreed that the foundation year can shape the ideas of RUPP students trying to figure out what they want to do.
The ability of students to switch their major after finishing their foundation year depends on their school, major and scholarship status. Generally, students who switch majors have to complete additional courses to catch up with their classmates. While it might make your academic life more complicated in the short term, changing majors might make your university experience much better.
It would be great if everyone made the right choice for their major and loved what they studied, but oftentimes this is not the case. So, what if you made the wrong choice? Should you go back?
Keo Sokethya, a sophomore of Royal University of Law and Economics, decided to give up his studies in economics after she passed the entrance exam to study media and communications at RUPP. “It’s a waste of time doing what I don’t like to do because that choice was forced from my mom before,” he said. “I saw that there were more chances for jobs and, in addition to my interests, I would not regret quitting this major, even after two years of studying, just to reach my life goal.”
Ly Oudom, 25, a junior at Western International University, made his decision to shift from a marketing major to finance and banking because he felt that Cambodia’s banks were being well-developed, so there were more chances for employment. “Spending 2 or 3 years more in academia is not a big deal compared to a lifetime,” he said. “However, in order to shift I have to transfer my credit and repeat one more year.”
While some students have the financial luxury of spending extra time and money on their collegiate careers, many students must stick it out, simply so they can get a degree. Lim Ay Song , a senior at RULE, chose to go on with her major even though she didn’t like it. “The courses were not what I expected,” she said. “I thought of changing my major, however, I cannot, so the only answer was to focus more,” she said. She looked around her and found a way to make her education more interesting and important to today’s job market by enrolling in additional courses in English. “It’s not too late for me to strengthen myself,” she said.
Making postgraduate moves
While it is preferable to know what job you want before you graduate, some students will only come to this realisation upon entering the work force, but there are things you can do while in school to prepare yourself for whatever job you end up doing.
“It is important to give consideration to what interests you. If you are going to spend 3 to 4 years studying a subject, then choose something that you will enjoy,” said Susanna Coghlan, director of training at AAA Cambodia. But she added that there is a big gap between studying a subject and its practical application in the workplace, where deadlines, tight resources, and interpersonal relationships must also be considered. She said that many people don’t find there calling until they enter a professional setting.
“Many people only discover what they enjoy most when they start working and are exposed to different roles and projects,” she said. “If at this point you find you have a passion for a particular field, which will require further training or study, then you can go back to university with the benefit of practical experience and the knowledge of how this role is performed in the workplace.”
While many people will change their field of work at least once during their career span, it’s good to think about the direction you want to move in after university, such as which industries interest you and where you see a chance for future growth, said Coghlan.
Whatever you do, gather as much internship, volunteer and work experience as possible along the way and remember, wherever you end up, you can always find a way to make a change and improve your life.