Greetings, my name is Prida Chhoeur, currently a junior enrolled at the American University of Phnom Penh (AUPP) with a major in Global Affairs and a minor in Southeast Asian Studies. Having originated from the heart of Siem Reap, my pursuit of higher education in Phnom Penh has proven to be an enriching experience, affording me the opportunity to achieve noteworthy social and academic milestones. The vital role played by AUPP in facilitating my unwavering success cannot be overstated.
Currently, I hold the position of chairman within the Student Advisory Committee (SAC) at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at AUPP (CSEAS), where I provide direct assistance to Dr. Theresa de Langis, the director of the Center. During the summer of 2023, I served as a part-time researcher at the National Archives of Cambodia (NAC). Notably, I had the privilege of representing both CSEAS and AUPP, as well as the broader Cambodian context, at the UNESCO’s 13th Youth Forum held at the organization’s headquarters in Paris, France. The thematic focus of the forum revolved around “The social impact of climate change and the need to achieve an equitable transition.”
My engagement with AUPP has been further elevated by the encouraging and supportive environment fostered by my instructors and peers. Active involvement in a variety of activities, clubs, and events at AUPP has significantly contributed to my personal achievements and my character’s development.
Reflecting on my various accomplishments, it is challenging to pinpoint a singular source of pride, as each has uniquely shaped my personal and academic journey. The decision to pursue a major in Global Affairs at AUPP stands as an overarching source of pride, providing an environment that not only encourages academic growth but also enables one to discover more about their interests, and especially their identity.
My involvement in the Center for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS), initially as a member and subsequently as the chairman, demonstrates another accomplishment that evokes a deep sense of pride. This leadership role has enhanced my abilities in judgment, management, and leadership, further contributing to my personal development. Moreover, I am grateful for the opportunity, extended by Dr. Theresa de Langis, the director of CSEAS, to represent Cambodia at UNESCO’s 13th Youth Forum held at the organization’s headquarters in Paris. Pressing concerns such as the climate crisis require attention and worldwide collaboration, and I am honored to be able to
contribute and participate in this impactful event. A pinnacle achievement is the successful organization of the first CSEAS educational field trip, called the Peace Tour. Went to Koh Ker, a recently designated world heritage site, and Anlong Veng, a locale steeped in the history of the Khmer Rouge, the tour provided profound insights into Cambodia’s cultural heritage, artifacts preservation, and post-conflict reconciliation.
Additionally, I am also proud of engaging in part-time research for a book authored by university professors and journalists. This endeavor delved into Cambodia’s historical and political realities, specifically addressing the complexity of peacebuilding and development during the post-genocidal civil war of the 1980s. I am immensely proud of all my accomplishments.
My evolution as an individual, friend, and student is a cumulative result of diverse experiences and attributes over the years rather than any event, which by themselves are not sufficient in shaping who I am. While appreciating the privilege of being able to pursue my objectives without hesitation or setbacks, I have recently noticed a significant trend in my behaviors and actions. That is always pushing myself to the limits. Facing challenging and unpredictable situations, I have developed a habit of saying “Yes” to opportunities generously offered to me. While acknowledging occasional setbacks of saying “Yes,” the number of times that it led to success far exceeded these, thanks in part to the unwavering support of my parents, tutors, and close friends. This risky and curious approach has provided a clearer vision of my life goals, emphasizing the importance of taking chances whenever possible and learning from failures on the path to success.
Many people, including friends, teachers, and people I’ve encountered at events, gatherings, and schools have, in some ways, influenced me to follow this course of life. Each of these individuals has influenced my life in both positive and negative ways, and the combination of all of these has played a critical role in molding me into the person I am today. Nevertheless, my mother is without a doubt the role model I’ve looked up to since childhood. In Siem Reap, she works as a police officer. After more than two decades of service in the police department, she has eventually attained quite a high position through sheer commitment and hard work. She is greatly respected and looked up to by many of her coworkers, both male and female, as a powerful woman and an influential role model. In addition to her amazing work ethic, her job has taken her to other countries, including Australia, Spain, the Netherlands, and the United States. This has a big impact on my major choice because I’ve always wanted to pursue Global Affairs at AUPP to carry on my family’s legacy in the humanities fields and travel the world to see all the locations my mom has seen and more.
What has brought my work ethics and academic career to this point is the idolization of my mother. I’ve developed and changed myself into a diligent worker who aspires to complete tasks with excellence. Of course, there are certain assignments that I cannot complete as efficiently and effectively as others, but I still make a concerted effort to finish them as best as I can. In addition, I am tenacious in the face of challenges, and I don’t easily give up when I face challenging circumstances, much like my mother did while the country was still experiencing decades of civil war.
The trajectory of my entire life has cumulative and collectively shaped my current identity, with no singular action defining who I am today. Expressing gratitude, I extend appreciation to AUPP, friends, and teachers for their unwavering support, encouragement, and motivation that have fueled my academic journey. A pivotal step in my personal and academic growth involved deliberately exposing myself to unfamiliar and risky circumstances, further encouraged by innate curiosity and courage. This bold approach fostered a sense of community within myself and among those around me.
These daring decisions, including assuming a part-time research assistant position, leading the Student Advisory Committee of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies (SAC CSEAS), and representing Cambodia at the 13th Youth Forum of UNESCO, opened doors to valuable opportunities. The ability to seize every opportunity has significantly contributed to expanding my knowledge base, honing leadership skills, and pushing me one step closer to achieving my goals. In essence, navigating through a series of risks has not only enriched my understanding of who I am but has also paved a clear path for me toward realizing my ambitious goals.
Regardless of the circumstances, I still express my delight since I am optimistic. I was happiest at one point in time, which was when I got my BacII (National Exam) results early in 2022. Even though I had an A on my exam, I don’t think the outcome made me feel as happy and fulfilled as I’d thought. It was more the expressions on my parents’ faces when they initially received the news. They were stunned and at a loss for words as shock, excitement, and adrenaline surged through them. They were eager to inform my other family members of the exciting news. They seemed happier than I was as I stood there, and I couldn’t help but feel excited for them. Despite all that I have accomplished, it doesn’t matter if my parents are unable to witness it. I am appreciative that my parents encouraged me and are pleased with what I’ve accomplished. I will always treasure their priceless expressions, which is why I strive so hard every day just to see it again. This is one instance where I learned a little bit more about who I am. The fact that their happiness made me happy indicates that I enjoy witnessing other people’s moments of genuine happiness because of my actions. It helps me become a more selfless, empathetic, and independent individual.
While I don’t perceive myself as a significant role model, I strongly advocate a simple principle for achieving goals and aspirations in life: just say “Yes.” Embracing opportunities, whether they be an abroad trip, an internship, job offers, a proposal or volunteer opportunities, has proven to be a practical approach in my experience. While recognizing the necessity of saying “no” in certain situations, the overwhelmingly positive outcomes from saying “Yes” far outweigh the negative ones. The uncertainty of the future outcome highlights why “Yes” should be the proper response when a request or offer is presented.
I’d like to conclude my story by sharing a guiding quote that encapsulates my approach to life: “I’d rather regret the things that I’ve done than the things that I haven’t done.” This philosophy underscores the importance of embracing opportunities, taking risks, and living life to the fullest.