In a clash between what they truly want to pursue as a passion and what seems to be more practical options, Cambodian students in higher education many a time choose the latter. As a result, they realise only too late that they do not resonate with what they had majored in at university. Post Supplement spoke with four young working professionals who had chosen university courses which fit societal and family expectations, and how they found it in themselves to take a leap of faith and work in completely different industries.
Meng Kimlong, 26, professional photographer and drone cinematographer
Since high school, I’ve always been interested in website coding, so I chose to pursue Information Technology (IT) in Limkokwing University. After a year, it dawned on me that I did not like the subject as much as I thought I did, so I ended up not completing the IT course. I quit, and started to pick up photography as a hobby with friends. My passion for photography started growing and I would trawl the internet for photography tutorials to pick up more skills. This led me to take up a photography internship and training in various arts institutions.
Regardless of whether I would get a good career in photography in the future, my love for it did not subside, and now I enjoy telling stories through my photos. In Cambodia, I know there are many people in their respective career industries who are working just to please their parents, but most don’t know what to do with their real passion. From what I saw, a few people do what they love but not many.
During my time pursuing higher education, IT was the popular choice for male students while female students normally opted for accounting. There is still a prevalent mindset among our parents’ generation that their children are better off becoming doctors and businessmen instead of having careers in photography or other “soft” skill sectors.
Nguon Samedy, 22, reporter at Sabay Digital Corp.
I’m currently studying business at CamEd Business School and completed a Bachelor of English Literature at Western University. Today, I am a full-time news reporter at Sabay Digital, and while this is only a small part from the skills I’ve learned, I’m satisfied with the job I have. Despite the many difficulties with my schedule, I believe I can manage my time.
For me, I love these skills of business and the media, but my family wanted me to take a medical route. However, I have tried to overcome what I want to do later in practice. I do not have expertise in media, but I’m trying to be more professional in the field. I can say that most of the people around me are working contrary to their skills training, due to market factors and the lives of individuals. While the health sector is popular in my generation, they go for it because they think that it will be more money for their family but some of them would drop out of school if they found out that they don’t want to pursue it. Last but not least, I want to see the next generation of our students have passionate goals and do what they want, regardless of what society dictates is better for them.
Leng Hywfi, 26, training coordinator at Chipmong Insse Cement Corporation
I work in the field of human resource development, which is different to what I studied at the University of Cambodia where I graduated in 2012. There, I majored in international relations (IR) – focusing on political, economic and social development. However, I was offered a job at my current workplace which works with various state institutions. The skills I learned in school were not utilised because the labour market for that field in Cambodia is still limited.
I’d initially decided to study IR mostly because I wanted to represent my country abroad in any way I could. Being born in a lower-income family, I have to choose anything to survive and get an income. IR is not yet a developed industry here, so I’m forced to apply a different skill set in my job now.
In the future I hope that I can find a job that matched the skills I learned, because I do enjoy IR. Students during my time were more partial to majoring in engineering and banking and finance, which they only take up because of the mindset that it’d be easier to get jobs in those fields. However, I think it’s more important that you ask yourself what you would like to do in the future.
Nov Nita, 26, programming coordinator at PNN TV
I graduated from banking and finance at the Royal University of Law and Economics in 2013, and I completed my English Literature major at Pannasastra University at the same time. When my internship period approached, I applied for an internship as a television news writer at PNN TV, on a whim. Today, I’m still working at the TV station. Choosing to study banking and finance was my personal decision because I see the opportunities of working in a free market, but having had a taste of working life in the television station made me opt to not continue with banking.
To me, working in a job that I love is not difficult as it does not feel like a mundane job.
During my time in school, a really high percentage of students opted for banking, finance and law courses. Overall, I think the younger generation should not be pressured into taking up majors which they have no interest in just because their family want them to. They should learn to break out and go after what they would truly enjoy doing as a job.