When we leave to go study abroad, family and friends would sometimes come to send us off at the airport, a ritual for all outgoing students. But the loudest, proudest farewell would probably be heard from Seng Hoarng’s family. It was an honourable moment for her and her family to acquire a scholarship to study abroad. She’ll go to Melbourne to begin her adventure as an international student.
As she lined up at the airport to send her off, the Cambodian student was excited to start studying in the August main intake at Trinity College. A recipient of the Cambodian Children’s Fund (CCF), she moved away from her home near Phnom Penh when she was 7 years old to study at the Neeson Cripps Academy (NCA) in hopes of getting a better shot at life. The children at CCF are able to receive proper schooling and are equipped with skills that will allow them to integrate well into society.
Cambodian Children’s Fund (CCF) is an International Non-Government Organization that aims to work with families to eliminate poverty within Cambodia through education and equipping children with job skills that can help them integrate into the workforce. To achieve that, you are enrolled in the Neeson Cripps Academy (NCA). NCA provides impoverished Cambodian children with proper education and opportunities that they otherwise would not receive.
Seng Hoarng, Sovannry Yem and Sophy Ron are a few of the many recipients of this foundation.
Sovannry Yem and Hoarng who were longtime friends of 12 years, met when they were in the foundation. Little did they know that they would soon find themselves earning a scholarship to go abroad and eventually start studying at Trinity College.
Through her time in CCF, Hoarng was exposed to many leadership programmes. After coming to Melbourne, she tried to give back to the community who helped her through organising The Peacebuilder Conference, an upcoming event that connects people who are passionate about building communities of peace along with Sovarnny.
To the pair, it’s a way they would like to give back to the society who has helped them, as a way of “contributing what they’ve learnt to the society”. And knowing that people back home were inspired by her actions had been her biggest achievement and her motivation to keep doing what she does.
Sovannry was lucky to be able to take part in many leadership symposiums and put what she learned there into practice. She realized that there were other things that she could be good at apart from just studying. “I’m more than who I was,” she expressed.
Almost like a “senior” to the duo, Sophy Ron was a graduate from Trinity College and currently starting out her Arts degree at the University of Melbourne. Though she missed her family from time to time, she told herself that “it’s going to be fine, it’s going to be okay later.”
The girls also faced the common struggles of what most international students go through. Our independent learning system was something that they had to adjust to because unlike back home, here they’re expected to manage their own learning and seek consultation when needed.
Studying in their second language is also a challenge for the girls as they are expected to study extra hard outside of class hours to catch up with their peers.
Despite all of the hardship, Sovannry shares that the journey with CCF has brought her other heart-warming memories and that even her biological parents share a tight relationship with her sponsor parents although they have never met. Her parents would sometimes ask if she has written to her sponsor and ask to send their regards.
The three girls unanimously agreed that they gave their parents the same love as they do to their sponsors. To Hoarng, it’s an honourable feeling knowing that there’s someone out there who loves her as much as her parents do. This serves as motivation for her to work even harder.
She attributes all her hard work and motivation to become a role model to the people who have supported her in the past. “I just want to thank you for making me who I am today,” she explained.
Sophy’s love and respect for both parents inspired her to be the best version of herself for the ones who loved her.
Sovannry who became a sponsored child to an American couple explained with huge hand gestures that “she is a part of my life.” Her sponsor parents showers her with gifts- things as simple as a toothbrush, something that many of us take for granted.
To all three girls, they could no imagine life now without their sponsored parents but at the start, Sophy found it hard to understand the meaning of a sponsor. She only knew that she liked the fatherly figure who stood and supported her.
“He’s like a father to me now” she expressed. When facing failure, he always told her not to give up which has helped Sophy stay strong.
Sophy recalled while growing up that her family of nine had never gone to an outing together. Hence, with the money she saved during her time at Trinity College, she dined out and enjoyed a karaoke session with the whole family. Even her father loosened up that night and seeing this motivated her to give her parents a better future during their aged days.
“Experience from abroad is always valuable to the people in my country,” said Sophy. She aims to gain more experience in Melbourne to be able to give back to her community and family.
Though the trio may not know what the future holds, they are hopeful and studies hard in their respective colleges and universities.