The pride I felt six years ago when I was awarded the prestigious nationwide ASEAN Scholarship to pursue my high school education in Singapore is forever imprinted on my mind. As a 15 year-old, I had the opportunity to study at one of the world’s most well-established centres for education and, as I expected then, my life was changed forever.
Regardless of age or background, adapting to a new place is a mammoth challenge for students studying abroad. As a high school student coming from Cambodia, I not only had to excel in my studies, which were significantly harder than what I was used to, but also engage in extra-curricular activities ranging from sports to community service projects. Despite facing such a rigorous daily schedule, I considered myself blessed to face adversity that I knew would help me move closer to reaching my potential. I learned to be more independent, work under pressure, open my mind to new ideas and learn from my mistakes and move forward.
Being away from home taught me another valuable lesson: the importance of being humble. I saw smart and arrogant students treated badly in class while smarter students who remained humble were well liked by their peers. My interpersonal skills developed greatly over the past few years, thanks in large part to the lessons I learned from my classmates. I remember being rather shy and introverted when I was in Cambodia, but I was thrown into a situation where I could either isolate myself or learn to engage with the people around me. I knocked down my communication barriers to become an outspoken person who could easily integrate into any society.
Studying abroad will change a person, and it is best to embrace these changes as they will often be useful down the road. You will need a high IQ and a high EQ to be successful in a global job market.
Six years after I first came to Singapore I am still here, majoring in civil engineering with a minor in business management at the National University of Singapore. Being accepted into such a prestigious university was a huge honour for me and my family. But I have never forgotten my background and I will come back and use my knowledge to contribute to our country in any way I can. It is essential to give back to the society that raised us.
There are many scholarships available to motivated students in the Kingdom. While I strongly recommend a Singaporean education, studying in any developed country will benefit students who dare to step out of their comfort zone and make a difference.
I want to leave you with two short thoughts that, if internalised, can make a world of difference. The first – “If you fail to plan, you will plan to fail” – conveys the importance of setting goals and developing a plan to reach them.
The second bit of wisdom draws on research on the physics of the bumblebee. Its body is too heavy and its wingspan too small for it to fly, but the bumblebee stays aloft. In the same way, when you ignore your limitations you are likely to go out and surprise yourself. The only limitations holding you back are those that are self-imposed. Be like a bumblebee and fly for your future, fellow Cambodians!