Nowdays, more and more Cambodian students are studying in foreign countries around the world. Those students usually bring different knowledge and experiences to the nation in which they study. Phou Sothearoth is one student who has had the opportunity to receive scholarship to study abroad in Japan.
Sothearoth, 19, is an interior design student at BUNKA Institute of Language (BIL) in Japan. BIL features a specialised training program that allows students to spend three years getting an undergraduate certificate. As Sothearoth has just completed her first year. She will be there for an additional two.
Regarding her experience studying in Japan since April, Sothearoth said: “This year I am focusing on Japanese language because I will be studying my major, interior design, in Japanese next year.”
Sothearoth added that studying in Japan and in Cambodia is quite similar. As a previous student of Royal University of Law and Economics (RULE) and the Center for Japanese Law (CJL), her school system follows Japanese style and it also teaches Japanese language and Japanese law, so she doesn’t have much concern with this in her studies.
However, the majors she has studied in each country are certainly different. It wasn’t a huge obstacle when she changed her major because she is just at the starting point anyway. She hasn’t started any interior design courses in Japan yet because she is still taking only language courses.
Sothearoth claimed, “Because I had only just started studying law in Cambodia I thought if I choose law as my major in Japan, I can only learn Japanese law without having any preconceptions based on Khmer law. But it might become a problem when I finish it and come back to Cambodia not knowing my own country’s laws. That’s why I decided to choose interior design as my major.”
Actually, Sothearoth’s life now is different from her life in Cambodia. Although it might not be much of a challenge for her, Sothearoth needs to adapt to a new culture and environment in Japan. Meanwhile, she claimed, “Mannerisms are quite different between Cambodians and Japanese. For example, Japanese people have to say certain words before and after meals.”
Sothearoth noted that most Japanese people are very friendly, especially the elderly. Often she speaks Japanese with them. She also speaks Japanese at school. But outside school she speaks English because many other students are also international and it is easiest to understand each other in English.
After studying in a developed country, Phou Sothearoth wants to become a professional interior designer in her home country. Meanwhile, she will use her skills to develop Khmer decorating styles and techniques inside houses. Once she gains those skills, she hopes to open her own interior design company in Cambodia.