The number of Cambodian students studying at US colleges and universities in 2020-21 increased by 14.3 per cent over the previous year despite the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a recent US government report.
The 2021 Open Doors report on International Educational Exchange showed that 848 Cambodian students studied higher education in the US – an increase from 742 students in 2019-20 – continuing a positive trend over the past seven years.
US ambassador to Cambodia Patrick Murphy said in the report that he was proud to see Cambodian students choosing to study in the US. He said that from his own experiences he knew that studying abroad can be enriching and life-changing.
“It is gratifying to see how much Cambodian students value American higher education as an important means to acquire new skills, knowledge, and experience to bring back for further advancements in the Kingdom’s development,” he said.
He noted that the US embassy had promoted American educational opportunities for Cambodians through its Education USA Centres and American Spaces in Phnom Penh and the provinces of Siem Reap, Battambang and Kampong Cham.
“This includes the AmCam Exchange at the Exchange Square mall in Phnom Penh,” he said.
Ngin Lyda, who currently head of E-Commerce for an online business, received a scholarship to study in the US from 2017-2021.
She told The Post that studying in the US had given her a lot of knowledge and experience that helped with her personal and professional development.
During her four years of study in the US she earned two graduate degrees – an MA in Public Relations and Development Studies and an MA in Public Administration.
She said that her first scholarship was awarded by the Open Society Foundation and the second by the University of Ohio.
She added that what motivated her to study in the US was that she had already had a great experience in the country in 2016 through the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative founded by former president Barack Obama.
She said that in addition to being one of the most developed countries, the US is culturally rich and very free and that it has excellent education programmes. She said that she acquired a lot of knowledge inside and outside of the classroom in her time there.
“I have learned about American culture, traditions, politics, working environment and communications. I saw many beautiful and wonderful landscapes in the US. I also experienced a lot of advanced technology and met a lot of great people there,” she said.
As a Cambodian who studied in a developed country and earned degrees there, Lida said that she can bring knowledge and experience to help develop Cambodia in areas such as innovation, education, work experience, communications and especially in the relatively new concept of social entrepreneurship.
“Entrepreneurship has completely changed my goals and future direction and it is where I will go with my career path because I believe that – in addition to education – entrepreneurship will be the key to sustainably enhancing the economy and livelihoods of Cambodians,” Lida added.
The Open Doors Report said that the US is the number one destination in the world for international students with 914,095 of them enrolled in US schools in 2020-21.
“The pandemic contributed to an overall 15 per cent drop from 2019-20 numbers, but the number of Cambodian students studying in the US has increased again,” the report added.