Traditionally, when a Cambodian law student opts to pursue their studies abroad, they have turned towards France – which passed many of its legal systems onto the Kingdom as a result of the French protectorate era – or perhaps the US or Australia.

Meng Siekliv opted for another path, deciding on China. She has already envisioned two opportunities to put her knowledge to practical use upon her return to the Kingdom.

Siekliv is a native of Kandal province’s Koh Thom district, and graduated from Hun Sen Koh Thom high school in 2021.

She took her first step towards achieving her dream of becoming a lawyer when she enrolled at the Royal University of Law and Economics (RULE) in 2023.

After just one year at RULE, she learned about possible scholarships to Yunnan University in Kunming, China through the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport.

Encouraged by her uncle and seeing various unique opportunities, Siekliv applied and was accepted, even though she did not yet speak a single word of Mandarin.

She told The Post that, as a requirement for entry, most applicants must hold a certificate of Chinese Proficiency Test commonly known as an HSK. While she did not hold an HSK, she had an excellent grade point average (GPA) while in high school, which she believed was certainly a factor in her acceptance to the programme.

At the beginning of this year, she entered Yunnan University and began learning Chinese, as part of her four-year course. After just six months, Siekliv can communicate naturally in Chinese.

“I am the only Cambodian at this university who studies law,” she said.

“Other students study business or economics. I have a strong interest in law, so I continued to study it,” she added.

Currently, there are eight Cambodians studying at the university. Some of them have almost completed their studies, while others, like Siekliv, have just begun their first year.

"Becoming a lawyer is my dream, and my family supports my pursuit of this dream,” she said.

When asked why she chose to study in China over the many other possible destinations, Siekliv explained that initially, she was only interested in moving abroad to gain more knowledge about the subjects she had learned in Cambodia.

However, she identified additional opportunities: the combination of Chinese language and the demand for legal services, especially as the number of Chinese investors in Cambodia increases.

“I believe a command of Mandarin is important. In Cambodia, if we can speak Mandarin, we will find it easier to find employment. I have observed that in the legal field, services in Chinese are still limited. So, I think this will give me more opportunities,” she said.

"Some of my friends have asked me why I chose to go to law school in China, but I think it is an excellent opportunity. If we are committed to learning, no matter where we go, we can learn,” she added.

Yunnan University is one of the largest universities in China, with a history of over 100 years.