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Eagles of AUPP, Kakneka Ratana

Hello everyone, my name is Neka, and currently, I am a senior pursuing a dual degree majoring in business administration at the American University of Phnom Penh (AUPP) and the University of Arizona. Throughout my educational journey, I have achieved small yet significant academic accomplishments.

However, my passion extends beyond the classroom. Currently, I am a cultural affairs intern at the US Embassy in Phnom Penh in which I assisted in supporting U.S.-Cambodia program coordination, people-people exchange, and youth programs. Recently, I have also finished my internship at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation where I helped coordinate Cambodia’s international relations. In 2022, I represented Cambodia through the ASEAN Youth Leadership Program (AYLP), and in 2023, I proudly served as a Cambodia Delegate in Jakarta, Indonesia, alongside my brother “Anuthrak”. In October, I had the privilege of joining the Unitrepeneur program hosted by Khmer Entreprise, where my team and I won the 2nd Runner-Up award. In addition to my entrepreneurial endeavors, I have actively engaged in extracurricular activities at AUPP in 2022-2023. Back in 2022, I was the Public Affairs Officer of the AUPP Student Government during the 8th Mandate, I was the leader of the PAO Team in managing all SGA social media accounts and organizing events, and charity initiatives. I also served as a student employee throughout my Sophomore and Junior years for the Marketing Department, AUPP Technology Center, and also AUPP Student Affairs Department.

I am incredibly proud of the achievements I’ve accomplished, but there is one that holds a special place in my heart. Serving as the Executive Member of the Student Government Association (SGA) as the Public Affairs Officer during the 8th mandate was a defining moment in my life. It was a role that allowed me to make a tangible impact, to advocate the voices of my fellow students, and for positive change within our community. I took on the role with enthusiasm and determination, working consistently to encourage open communication, address concerns, and promote transparency. Being given such an important position was not only an honor, but also a testimonial to my commitment and leadership skills. The experience solidified my belief that each of us possesses the capacity to shape our surroundings positively. I carry the lessons and memories of my time as Public Affairs Officer as a constant reminder of the impact we can have when we embrace our potential and work together to create a better future.”

There was this one moment that completely changed my life. It was when I joined the AUPP Business Club team during my first year of university. Looking back, I see a different version of myself – someone who was shy, introverted, and preferred working alone, always staying within

my comfort zone. It was the first time I mustered the courage to apply for a competition, even though I never thought I would win. Little did I know that this experience would shape me in many ways. Being part of that team taught me invaluable lessons that went beyond the competition itself. I learned about resilience, the power of friendship, and the true essence of teamwork. I can honestly say that I will never find another team quite like them. I would like to take this opportunity to give a big shoutout to my team members Pich, Thida, Sin, and David. Without these people, I wouldn’t even think of trying new things and believe in myself.

We all have those heroes in our lives, the ones who cheer us on from the sidelines. The ones who maybe don’t wear capes, but their love and support are our greatest superpower. For me, that’s definitely my parents. They are my biggest supporters, my loudest cheerleaders, and my guiding lights. My parents always told me that “Nothing is Free” and it holds true when it comes to achieving success. To accomplish our goals, we must be willing to pay the price including our time, effort, dedication, and sacrifices. No matter what I achieve in life, I’ll always be grateful for everything they’ve done. They’ve made so many sacrifices for me, often putting my needs before their own. No matter how many people say this no matter where I go in life, I will always thank my amazing parents for everything that they’ve done. Their sacrifice should be heard. Thanks to them, I have the best life I could ever ask for, I have the love, the care, and the education that one could ever imagine.

The steppingstone to where I am now is that I started to recognize my potential and embrace my weaknesses. Each day, we move, we take steps, we evolve, we change, we learn. Each of those steps changes us in some small way. Each step makes us a little different than we were before. We’ve all been there, facing challenges that make us question if we have what it takes. But here’s the secret: the climb may be steep, but the key is to take small, manageable steps. You don’t have to make giant leaps or have it all figured out at once. Instead, focus on the small, actionable steps you can take today. Break down your goals into bite-sized tasks, and suddenly, the mountain doesn’t seem so big. Each decision you make moves you one step farther from where you used to be. Hopefully, with a little planning, a little observation, and some changes within, you will start to see the steps you are taking begin to approach the place, the person you would like to become.

It is your life, your steps, your desire, your outcome. Who do you want to become, and what steps do you have to take, and not take, to get there? We must each answer those questions ourselves, as our goals are as individual as our fingerprints. Finally, we must be willing to persevere if we are to make a difference in our own lives.

There’s nothing quite like that feeling of seeing your parents beam with pride. For me, the happiest moments aren’t the awards themselves, but that moment when I get to share them with my parents and siblings. It’s like the achievement is amplified tenfold by their joy. They’ve always believed in me, even when I doubted myself, and seeing their faces light up when I reach a goal is the ultimate validation. Their constant encouragement reminds me to keep pushing myself and bring the best of myself to everything I do. It’s a pretty awesome feeling to know that you’re not just making yourself happy, but you’re also inspiring the people who mean the world to you. To me, success is sweeter when it lights up the faces of the people I love most.

You might look at me and think I have it all figured out, but that’s not quite true. Just like you, I’m constantly learning and growing.

This is the advice I’ve learned throughout my university years, and I hope it resonates with you too. “Your Journey is Your Responsibility”. In life, there have been so many people and opinions surrounding us, but ultimately, the only person you have control over is yourself. I believe that by staying true to yourself and your values, and never letting the opinions of others define your path because you’re the only person who truly knows what you want. Whether you make the right or wrong decision, remember that the world won’t come to an end. Since we are all learning, do not burden yourself by taking on responsibilities that are not yours, always stay teachable and humble. Always surround yourself with a supportive network of people who believe in you, even when you doubt yourself. Believe in your potential, and let your actions speak for themselves. Your journey is yours alone, and each step you take contributes to your growth. Although there will be bumps in the road and moments of uncertainty, that’s okay. We’re all on unique journeys, and yours is just the beginning!

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