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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Keo Chanthy shares her experiences of living in the United States through the Diversity Immigrant Visa program

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Keo Chanthy shares her experiences of living in the United States through the Diversity Immigrant Visa program

Keo Chanthy, 26, who is now living in the United States through the Diversity Immigrant Visa (DV) program, shares her experiences and the benefits she receives.

At this point Chanty and her husband, 31-year-old An Sopoly, have been living in the US for three years.

Chanty says that she applied for the program from 2007 until 2010 when she got a phone call and email from the Lottery Program telling she had won a DV.

Then she had to complete forms and provide evidence supporting her background, such as birth certificates, identity cards, her resident book, passport, a medical examination, marriage certificate and study certificates.

“I was single when I applied but at the time when I won the Diversity Visa Lottery in 2010, I had just married my husband. So I had to submit proof from the court and some evidence of the relationship to show the ambassador that it is a real marriage,” she said.

“I had to have a direct interview a couple of times at the US embassy. Then I passed the interview so the embassy gave the visa to us,” she said.

The Diversity Immigrant Visa program allows winners to live legally in the US.

Chanthy spoke of the benefits she had received from the program.

“The benefits I have received are being able to live the United States legally as a DV immigrant for up to 10 years, I am eligible to work in US, I have the chance to become a US citizen after five years, and I got some benefits from US government services, such as medical care and student aid, where the government pays for school,” she said.

Chanty is now a full-time student, a pre-school teacher as her part time job after school, and she works as an operator for a big airplane component supplier on the weekend.

“The most disappointing thing to me is that my background in education is not accepted or recognised over here so I have to start over my life in education again,” Chanthy said.

There are also common challenges that immigrants, including Chanthy, have to deal with as they confront the difficulties of living abroad.

“The most difficult one is the language barrier and culture. English is my second language so I had a hard and uncomfortable time understanding what was said in native American [English] the first time, but it is a lot better now,” she says.

“Everything is different from Cambodia so I have to learn everything such as culture, how to eat, what to wear, using credit cards, filling up gas, drinking Bud [Budweiser] and a lot more in daily life,” she added.

“Besides that, the weather is also a problem for me because I grew up in a warm country but I moved here to live the cold state and the food is different. It’s hard for me to find Asian food in most restaurants so I have to cook by myself every day,” she said.

Though she has gone through difficulties in the US, she still appreciates the positives points of the country.

“I can say that it is harder for me to live here that when I lived in Cambodia, but I have to admit that living here can have more benefits than living in Cambodia such as good Medicare, good education, safety, not much corruption, people respect each other, human rights, living standards, high wages and the government cares about people and others.”

Chanthy does hope that Cambodia can become developed and a real democratic country soon. To engage in the development process, she expects to run some businesses such as owning a school, printing company and farm that can make a lot of jobs for Cambodians and could help Cambodia’s economic growth. And she hopes to share her education and many other things that she has learned from the US with Cambodia.

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