A group of young Americans working at the Phnom Penh Post are doing so through a fellowship program called Princeton in Asia (PiA), and some of them staying in Cambodia after the program has run its course.
These Americans include Post deputy news editor James O’Toole, who was recently honoured with a regional-media SOPA award for his business reporting.Others at the Post in the PiA program are reporters Thomas Miller, Derek Stout and Kristin Lynch.
Lynch, who has been in Cambodia for about a month, graduated in 2005 with a degree in American history, writing her senior thesis on President Clinton’s impeachment ordeal.
Since then, she has worked in fund-raising in Colorado, but always yearned to get into journalism full-time.
“I had been writing for the Colorado Springs Gazette and I wanted to transition full-time into the industry and was interested in travel in Asia. The PiA program satisfied all of those passions,” Lynch says.
Originally from California with a Mexican mother and an Irish-American father, neither of whom had graduated from college, Lynch enjoyed challenges of her time at Princeton.
“It was an amazing experience. The people were unbelievable – super-dynamic and interesting – and the alumni network is really strong.
“Once you’ve graduated, there’s kind of a link between Princeton alums that goes really deep.”
PiA is a non-profit organisation designed to provide transformative, service-oriented experiences in Asia for bright, talented graduates from any university.
Princeton is one of the top-ranked universities in the United States and is steeped in American history.
Princeton’s first building, Nassau Hall, served as the temporary capitol building for the infant US and was the scene of battles during the revolutionary war.
Within Nassau Hall are two giant portraits: one of England’s King George and the other of George Washington, reminding all who visit that the historic building saw the passage of sovereignty from one to the other.
Princeton continues to be ranked one of the best universities in the world.
Forbes magazine’s 2008 rankings of America's best colleges placed Princeton first among all the colleges and universities in the United States.
The PiA program began in 1898 with a handful of Princeton University graduates who went to China to do relief work and teach English. Since then, the program has expanded considerably in both size and scope throughout Asia.
In 2010, the PiA program placed 165 fellows in 18 countries, including Timor-Leste, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Japan, Vietnam and Thailand.
Currently the program offers primarily teaching fellowships, but there are additional fellowships in the fields of journalism, international development and business.