In a library corner in Pannasastra University, books about American culture and English language are stacked up for the Cambodian public. High school, university and primary students gather around the lofty chairs and wooden desks, picking up a book on their favorite subject.
Spread out to four locations in Cambodia –Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Battambang and Kampong Cham – American Corners is an oasis for students of all ages to learn about the culture and history of the United States. They can also study for American tests such as the ACT and the SAT, providing them with the education and counseling support in aims of studying abroad. They even have “Americana quizzes” every month to facilitate learning and memorisation, as well.
Their mission is to build an understanding between Americans and Cambodians through the resources of books, lecturers and extra-curricular programs. These include a reading contest directed at high school students, a story time for primary students and various study workshops for university and high school students, according to Mao Kolap, American Corner director in Phnom Penh.
For her, American Corners is not just a library but an opportunity for Cambodian students to expand their knowledge. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin- Madison with a Master’s degree in library science, Mao sees the benefit of the services offered by American Corners.
“For me, education is the foundation for everything: for success, of life. I benefited a lot from higher education. I did not only learn about the philosophy of the library, but I also got a chance to learn about American culture and values. That’s also why we want to give counselling for students who want to study in the US, because I think that the experience and knowledge I got from the US really helped me and made me feel more confident and open and know my world,” she said.
Up north, Hun Dara, American Corner director in Siem Reap, also agrees that the value of education is indispensable for Cambodian youth, and American Corners is a way to provide them with more potential to learn.
“[With the scholarships we assist in] and the programs we provide, we can strengthen Cambodian youths’ proficiency,” he said. “We can teach them how to be confident and prepare themselves to be future leaders.”
While American Corners facilitators work in setting up resources, students come to reap the benefits.
Bak Touk High School student Lyhour Khann, 16, dedicates herself to come every Sunday, her only day off from her rigorous high school schedule. For her, learning about American history and figures such as Martin Luther King Jr, inspire her to learn more.
“I think the reading club is the most helpful because I meet a lot of friends, and we do a lot of activities and debates. I used to be the one who was less confident, but since I started coming here, my confidence began to increase.”
Chanreaksmey Yi, a Pannasastra University student, 21, goes to American Corners everyday with the responsibility of being the executive of the reading club. As he reads books, he finds ways to encourage students on the importance of reading and critical thinking.
“I come here and I read, then I teach the students, and we learn together,” he said.
Another student from Bak Touk High School, Socheata Khun, 15, also finds his way to American Corners everyday, learning about American tests, like the SAT, and working towards the goal of studying in the United States one day. His weekends are also spent at American Corners, where he is part of the reading club. His hopes are that more students join in.
“If I had a chance, I want to suggest other students to come here to find resources to study because it can make them learn more and improve their lives.”
Pannasastra University of Cambodia, Phnom Penh
ADDRESS: Norodom Boulevard, Phnom Penh
Phone: 023 993 957 | E-mail: [email protected]
Business Hours: Mon - Fri: 7:30 am. to 8:30 p.m.
/Sat - Sun: 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
University of Management and Economics, Kampong Cham
University of Management and Economics, Battambang