Class of 2018
To start off, my name is Chhaileang, but people shortly call me Chhai. I was born and raised up in Sisophon, a small town in Banteay Meanchey province near the Cambodia-Thailand border. Growing up in a poor village, where most people are less educated and illiterate, made me realize that something has to be changed to improve people’s living standard and of course, education is the key. This has shaped my personality and I started investing myself into education. I come from a poor family and I understand that having a good education is not that easy for us. But we have to make the best of every opportunity we have. My success in 2012 made a big surprise and made more people in my village believed in education that can definitely change our lives.
I applied for a UWC scholarship in 2012 when I was in 11th grade. I had to take the exams with about a thousand kids from across the country for many rounds. And I finally got selected by my national committee to obtain a 2-year scholarship to attend Armand Hammer United World College of the American West (UWC-USA) in Montezuma, New Mexico. I, the first generation of my family, made my way to UWC-USA and it was the first time I left Cambodia to study abroad.
You already knew the deal. UWC is a great place. Only about 200 people from 80 different countries around the world have made this small community so special. We all have incredible backgrounds that we can come to UWC living, learning and sharing our unique experience together. I have never seen this kind of place in my entire life where people are so responsible, caring and most importantly supporting each other. It is UWC-USA that makes us become one family and gives us the strong connection with other UWC’ers around the world. Honestly, I can see the whole world from here.
Two years in UWC was fun but also a tension for me. Besides having a good social life and long life friendship, I had to work way harder than when I was back home. I used to think that doing school work here was such a nightmare, yet it turned out that I was totally wrong about it. It is actually a life changing experience for me. I realized that I learned a lot of new things in my life that I never had the chance to do before. Regardless of academic, I was also a leader of Amnesty International which drew my attention on human rights and I got involved in many community services. UWC helped me to get to know myself much better and I am grateful for the fact that my personality has been shaped to the better. All of these things, along with other small things made up my experience in UWC the best and a memorable one. After I graduated from UWC-USA in 2014, I made up many plans to do during my summer vacation such as teaching English, promoting and making a presentation about Education and UWC, fundraising for poor students in my old high school and arranging the Cambodian UWC reunion.
I believe that I am now standing in a high spot but I need to find somewhere else higher. After reviewing and considering a long list of potential colleges, I found out that Lewis & Clark College is the best fit for me. When people talk about Lewis & Clark, the first thing that comes to their mind would be its location and the environment. However, a combination of other great factors makes this college so special. I, personally, like the diversity in the school and many opportunities the school offers such as a good number of study abroad programs. Another reason would be the size of the college is small that I can get to know more people and easily approach the professors when I have queries. I also learned that Lewis & Clark and UWC have so much in common which just blows my mind.
So far I have not decided yet what I am doing. However, the majors that interest me are economics and political science. I would like to double major those two fields since they are my favorite subjects and also important for my future career. Since Cambodia is a developing country, the demand for more people to know economics is very significant. Studying economics would be important for me because I may use it to help develop my country in the future. On the other hand, studying political science is also an option for me. Not many students in Cambodia studying politics because they are scared of getting involved in politics and also this political major seems to be ignored and not widely taught. But I find it very important and I want to use the knowledge to change the society system in my country as well. Moreover, I’m making a decision whether to learn a new language, Chinese or to continue learning Spanish which I have studied in UWC for 2 years already.
Outside of the classroom, I like to read, listening to music and watch movies or TED speech. Apart from this, I like to go out to town with friends to hang out or eat there. And I can’t wait to try Portland’s food.
Since I was in UWC-USA, it was not convenient for me to travel to any other countries for any program. However, I have travelled to many states in the U.S. I personally love to travel but I just never have the chance.
Having an opportunity to study in a famous city of Southwest America, I am looking forward to make the best of it. I strongly believe that four years adventure in Lewis & Clark will make me blossom and show me a path to walk toward a successful life. Moreover, I also hope that having an education in Lewis & Clark will help me to be a knowledgeable and better person that I can go back and help out the others and my beautiful homeland, Cambodia.