Winning a scholarship to study abroad is never easy. However, with good preparation and a strong commitment, one young Cambodian became a successful candidate.
Kim Minea visited the Department of Scholarships at the Ministry of Youth, Education and Sports (MoYES) twice a month looking for information on scholarships.
After successfully taking the scholarship examination in mathematics and English organised by MoEYS, he submitted a scholarship application to the Chinese embassy in Phnom Penh and was then given an interview with Chinese officials.
After being interviewed by Chinese officials, he was awarded a full Chinese government scholarship for a five-year undergraduate course in Tianjin University, majoring in business administration.
The scholarship included tuition fees, a living allowance, accommodation, health insurance and study materials.
“At the beginning, I felt the food was salty and oily. However, there are different cuisines in China like Guangdong, northeastern, Sichuan and Xingjian,” he said. “Sichuan is my favourite.
“The weather is the city I was living in while studying at Tianjin University can change dramatically. It is really cold in the winter – -10° C to -15° C – and 40° C in the summer,” Minea added.
“We had a really short autumn and spring, which was about three weeks per year. The weather in autumn and spring is really pleasant.”
After arriving in China, his views of the country changed a lot.
“China, in most Cambodian people’s view at that time, was of a communist, developing country. But it happened to be very modern with developed infrastructure, high security and social freedom.”
However, most foreigners find it difficult living in China at first due to the language barrier, a different climate and strange food. Luckily for Minea, he was given a warm welcome at the university and had support from senior Cambodians in the town who helped him adapt to his new life in China, he added.
“After improving my Chinese language ability, I could enjoy and understand more about China, which is a very diversified country and officially has 56 ethnic groups with a variety of culture, tradition and cuisine,” he added.
“From a learning point of view, my university was equipped with a large campus, it had well-trained instructors, a wonderful library and a modern internet system – all things that are very pleasant for scholars.”
Minea explained that since China has inter-nationally recognised prestigious universities, there are hundreds of in-ternational students coming from more than 50 countries to study there, which makes for a multinational platform to learn and build friendships from.
“As a freshman at college, I experienced a lot of difficulty since my Chinese language skills were far below that of my classmates, which led to a less than satisfactory performance in the first year.
“This barrier could not make me to give up my dream,” Minea added. “As a representative of Cambodia, I had to overcome this barrier by setting higher targets for myself and become more active with my instructors and classmates.
“In the past three years, I received several academic and extracurricular awards for my outstanding performance.”
Despite academic work, there are also a lot of opportunities such as internships for international students in China to strengthen their professional capacity before entering the labour market.
“I earned my total credits in three years, so I had time to work as an intern for the SINOTRUK Company and the UNDP Cambodia. After graduating, I now serve as a Social Protection Research Coordinator at the Social Protection Coordination Unit of the Council for Agricultural and Rural Development in Cambodia,” he said.
“China is a very good country for travelling. China’s National Day, the second longest holiday after the Chinese Lunar New Year, is one of my favourite holidays for the Chinese and people living in China.
“They would spend these seven days off visiting family, travelling to different places in China or abroad.
“We always met Khmer people in the same city during weekends, while gathering with Cambodian students from other cities would be on special occasions such as Cambodia’s Independent Day, Khmer New Year and other Chinese holidays.”
One of Minea’s most memorable journeys was on China’s National Day holiday in 2010 when he spent one week in Shanghai visiting the Shanghai World Expo.
“On this special occasion of China’s National Day, I wish Chinese people here and people living in China a happy one-week holiday,” Minea said.
Since the 1990s, as a part of its support for human capital development in Cambodia, China has an-nually provided scholarships to more than 10 Cambodian students to pursue a higher education in China.