Ordinary students finish their bachelor’s degree when they are around 22 years old. Cambodian high achiever Svay Angkeara, however, has already finished his master’s degree at the age of 23 and is currently studying hard to finish his PhD in civil engineering at one of France’s most prestigious universities, the École polytechnique in Paris. As one of the grande écoles (higher education institutions established outside the main framework of the French university system that selects students based on national rankings in competitive written and oral exams) the school prepares the country’s workforce elite for their future positions in the French government and in top industry companies.
Besides France’s finest 400 students in the field of technology, the school grants spaces to 100 talented foreign students, giving Angkeara the chance to meet interesting young people from Brazil, Spain, Singapore, Portugal, China and many other countries.
Before Angkeara could start his outstanding academic career in France he studied for two years at the Institute of Technology of Cambodia, where he showed great potential and was selected for the École polytechniche scholarship.
About his studies in France Angkeara said that “there are many advantages to being an École polytechnique student”. Because the academic approach is so broad, Angkeara had a chance to extend his knowledge beyond civil engineering. “In my first and second years I had to study subjects such as economics, applied mathematics, statistics, physics, quantum physics, mechanics and information technology.”
Before going to France, Angkeara was worried about the workload.
It turned out he had good reason to be worried: Angkeara found the speed he had to study at to be quite challenging. He explained that while single modules were taught within months at other institutions, the polytechniche gave students only a few weeks or sometimes even days to pick up on complex scientific concepts. But Angkeara has excelled and is proud of his university. “Professors here are real geniuses, and all of them write their own books, so after class I need to read all of them – but I have no problem understanding anything.”
Thanks to his intelligence, Angkeara he had no difficulty finding an internship at a French research laboratory and enterprise during a break between semesters. Through this practical experience Angkeara realised that he wants to become a scientific researcher after graduating.
He not only wants to do research in civil engineering but, he wants to do real-world civil engineering too.
After he graduates, Angkeara would like to return to his home country and choose a career that also allows him to teach, because he wants to contribute to Cambodia’s development and to share his knowledge.