Keo Bonoeun says he feels lucky to have received so many awards, but choosing the right programme was difficult
Scholarships are difficult to come by for students in Cambodia, where school officials say competition remains fierce. However, one enterprising young scholar has managed to win three awards – two from Cambodian universities and a third from the Laotian government.
Keo Bonoeun, 21, a freshman from Takeo province studying at Kosomak Polytechnic Institute, said he won sponsorship from the government to cover the costs of his student fees for four years of study. But this year, he decided to submit applications for additional scholarships, at Mekong University in Cambodia and Veang Chan City University in Laos.
“I was excited to see if I could win more scholarships, but I didn’t think I would be lucky enough to win,” he said, adding that he knew the odds were against him because of the sheer numbers of students seeking financial aid for their studies.
Keo Bonoeun was one of 90 students out of about 2,000 applicants awarded a scholarship from Mekong University, he said. The award covers all school fees for four years of study.
But he also applied, and won, one of six scholarships granted this year by the Laotian government, which provides a more comprehensive award package that includes school fees, accommodation, food and miscellaneous expenses, Keo Bonoeun said.
Continuing his studies in Cambodia poses several challenges, Keo Bonoeun said, because despite the scholarship, he would still be responsible for paying his living expenses in Phnom Penh. So, the choice of which scholarship to accept proved difficult.
“If I take one, I have to give up the rest. It was hard to decide.”
But decide he did, and the lucrative nature of the Laotian award tipped the balance, though the required course of study at Veang Chan City University is not exactly to his liking.
In his first year, he is required to study the Laotian language – something he looks forward to. But in successive years, he must pursue a degree in information technology.
“Actually, I didn’t want to study IT, but I had already chosen it when I applied for the scholarship. I think after I complete the one year of language study, I will ask the university to change my major to agriculture and rural development,” he said, adding that he is interested in pursing a range of subjects that will offer him better job prospects in the future.
As for the one-year language requirement, Keo Bonoeun said it might eventually help him secure a job at the Cambodian embassy in Laos – one of many career paths the young scholar said he is considering.
Keo Boneoun also takes pride in his proficiency in mathematics and social morality, which he says figures heavily in the scholarship application process, in Cambodia, as well as neighbouring countries.
“Actually, all Cambodian applicants are able to score well in mathematics, but many have difficulty with their social morality exams,” he said, adding that preparation for such tests require a deep commitment of time and focus.
“I know how to meditate well,” he said, describing his methods of approach to examinations. “Before I start to take a test or study by myself, I have to do meditation in order to bring my mind back into focus and to concentrate on what I am about to do.”