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Eagles of AUPP, Raksa Ma

Introducing our Eagle of AUPP, Raksa Ma, a shining example of resilience and innovation within the AUPP community!

Raksa’s path to success began with a Full Scholarship for a Bachelor’s in ICT at AUPP, where he embraced the opportunity to learn and grow. His recent remote internship with a renowned tech company in Italy, coupled with a deep fascination for Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, has driven his passion to contribute to these transformative technologies. Raksa’s dedication earned him a spot as a Ugrader in the esteemed Global Undergraduate Program, affirming his commitment to academic excellence.

Beyond academia, Raksa’s impact reverberates through his commitment to cyber literacy. As a member of the ASEAN Youth Advisory Group, he initiated the PUTHI Campaign, educating peers about cybercrimes and cybersecurity. His workshops and online courses empowered hundreds, exemplifying his drive to create positive change.

We are proud to have Raksa in our community. His story serves as a beacon of hope and possibility for the entire AUPP community. Join us in celebrating an Eagle who not only soars to great heights but also paves the way for others to follow.

Read about his exciting journey in the caption of each photo below.

1. Could you tell us a bit about yourself? 

My name is Raksa Ma. I was born in Takeo province. In grade 10 during High School, I moved to finish High School in Phnom Penh. After grade 12, I was offered a Full Scholarship to pursue Bachelor’s of Science in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) at AUPP. I am among the first-generation students in this major. As a senior, I have recently completed a remote internship with a conglomerate technology company in Italy. After spending 4 years at AUPP, I am deeply fascinated by the transformative power of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. These groundbreaking technologies are reshaping our world, offering solutions to complex problems and unlocking untapped potential across various industries. I am eager to delve further into this field, understanding its intricacies, and contribute to its evolution by devising innovative AI and Machine Learning models in my master’s degree. 

2. Could you tell us about the achievement you are most proud of? 

The achievement that I am most proud of being selected as a Ugrader in Global Undergraduate Program 2023-2024. The 2023-2024 Global UGRAD program provides one-semester scholarships to approximately 250 outstanding undergraduate students representing all world regions to study in the U.S colleges and universities sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the U.S. Department of State.

I will spend Spring Semester 2024 at Kansas State University as my host university. Being shortlisted as the primary candidate is the most challenging task to achieve as the program is highly competitive and there are many steps along the way. The moment I am most proud of is when I get to tell my parents “Mom and Dad, Your Boy Did It!”.

Another accomplishment is that I recently completed the Oxford Machine Learning Summer School 2023 in Finance Track. Among over 1000 participants, I am among the youngest and least experienced students who got selected to participate in this program. I also would like to thank AUPP for sponsoring me to join this amazing program as well. OxML 2023 covered some of the most important topics in machine learning (ML) and deep learning (DL) that the field is showing a growing interest in (e.g., statistical/probabilistic ML, representation learning, reinforcement learning, causal inference, vision & NLP, geometrical DL, …) and their applications in sustainable development goals (SDGs). During the lecture, I was thrilled by the speaker’s groundbreaking research and tremendous application of AI in solving the world’s most pressing challenges. After completing the program, I am very inspired to continue to pursue a master’s degree in AI and ML.

3. One thing you did that changed your life? (One experience I encountered that could change my life) 

The experience that changed my life was being a member of the ASEAN Youth Advisory Group. As part of the ASEAN Digital Literacy Program, I received grants from the ASEAN Foundation and to implement my campaign called the PUTHI Campaign. The goal of the campaign is to Educate youth aged from 18 – 25 about cybercrimes and how to prevent themselves from being victims of cyber-attacks. About 600 youths’ benefit from our campaign including three workshops at different universities under the topic: “Understanding Cybercrime” and the online course: “Cybersecurity 101”. This campaign has changed my life to be a changemaker as a team and contribute with the government to ensure our citizens are ready for digital transformation!

I found my passion in doing volunteering activities. One of them is being a Section Leader of Stanford Code in Place 2023 in which I taught coding to students from different parts of the world. I had students come from the UK, Germany, Czech Republic, China, Turkey, Thailand, Nigeria, and more. I covered Python basic concepts such as using Karel, conditional statements, control flow, etc. I considered it the best experience in my life in which I watched how delighted my students were when they wrote code for the first time in their lives. Not only do I make an impact locally, but this teaching could help people from around the world.

4. Who is the person you look up to the most? 

I look up to our senior eagle, Mrs. Sievlan Len who received the prestigious Knight Hennessy Scholarship to pursue her graduate studies at Stanford University. Her story deeply resonates with me, and I think of her as a role model. She embodies resilience, dedication, and an insatiable thirst for knowledge that I find truly inspiring. Not only did she conquer the academic challenges that come with such a demanding scholarship, but she also showed me that nothing is impossible when equipped with determination and a love for learning. Her journey is a testament to the power of education and the remarkable things one can achieve through perseverance. As I continue my own academic journey, it is the example set by Mrs. Len that fuels my ambition and keeps me grounded in my pursuits. 

5. What are the steps that you took that take you to where you are right now?  

The journey to who I am today unwinds like an intricately woven tapestry, rich with experiences and lessons. Born and raised in the province, I was fortunate compared to many of my peers. I had the privilege of a family that placed great emphasis on education, encouraging me to seize every opportunity to learn and grow.

From short courses in English and Computer to self-motivated study sessions, my parents encouraged me to dive deep into the realms of knowledge. Consequently, I gained proficiency in English and Computer literacy as good as kids in the city.

A pivotal point in my journey was meeting a friend in grade 7 who embodied the spirit of independent learning. His influence marked a paradigm shift in my educational journey. He taught me to break the shackles of dependency on teachers and to be the master of my educational destiny. He instilled in me the habit of proactive learning: researching, completing exercises independently, and reviewing lessons before class. This approach turned our academic journey into a friendly competition, constantly pushing each other to excel and stay ahead of the curve. This competitive spirit ignited in me a passion for challenging myself and stepping out of my comfort zone, a trait I carry with me to this day.

The chapters of my university years are filled with vibrant shades of exploration and self-discovery. My freshman year saw me diving into various extracurricular activities, from public speaking and photography to joining a music club. Each club was a new world, a venue to foster connections and uncover facets of myself I hadn’t known before.

As a sophomore, I cast my net wider, adding to my experiences by participating in competitions, undergoing training, and volunteering. A pivotal moment was when I was nominated as a Statistics tutor at the AUPP Learning Center, a role that kindled in me a fervor for teaching.

The junior year chapter saw me engaging in an international hackathon, entertaining start-up ideas, and embarking on journeys to foreign lands. Each experience was a brick in the edifice of my personal and professional growth.

In my final year, I’ve turned my focus towards volunteering and campaigning for community betterment. However, my journey hasn’t been without its share of challenges – procrastination, burnout, and setbacks. But I’ve learned to navigate these obstacles by taking strategic pauses, rewarding myself, and finding ways to stay motivated. It’s a constant dance – a step back, a leap forward, a sway to the side – but always moving, always growing. That, in essence, is my journey.

6. What is the happiest moment of your life? 

The crowning moment of my life, a surge of elation and achievement, arrived when I received a call from AUPP, proclaiming that I had been awarded a Full Scholarship. The memory is etched in my mind, a beacon of triumph amidst a challenging time.

My final year of school, Grade 12, was fraught with uncertainty and disappointment. The Ministry of Education, in an unforeseen move, decided to cancel the National Exam – an event I had been diligently preparing for over twelve long years. The anticipation, the countless hours of study, all seemed to dissolve into nothingness. It felt as if the rug had been pulled from under my feet, and the disappointment was profound.

However, I refused to let this setback define me. I chose resilience over despair, persistence over surrender. I channeled my energies into seeking out various scholarships, sitting numerous exams, utilizing the wealth of knowledge I had painstakingly accumulated over the years.

The culmination of this journey was nothing short of extraordinary. After a dozen years of relentless challenging work, of unwavering dedication, I was bestowed with a scholarship to the finest university in the country. It felt like a validation of my efforts, a reward for my perseverance.

The pride reflected in the eyes of my parents, the congratulations from my teachers, and the overwhelming support from those around me, amplified my joy exponentially. I was awash with happiness, not just for my accomplishment, but for the recognition and affirmation it brought along. It was a testament to the fact that even in the face of adversity, with determination and resilience, we can indeed shape our destiny.

7. Any advice to the people that look up to you? 

For those who look up to me I encourage you to never stop learning, for our world is ever-changing and your mind should be too. Embrace the challenges that come your way, viewing them as steppingstones to your success. Believe deeply in your abilities, and don’t let self-doubt hold you back. Success comes to those who persevere, so stay patient and committed to your goals. Uphold your integrity, as it is the cornerstone of your character. Celebrate your small victories, for they mark your progress on your journey. Lastly, prioritize your well-being; a healthy body and mind are fundamental to achieving your dreams. Remember, your journey is not a race against others, but a marathon against yourself. Believe in your journey, believe in yourself, and enjoy the process. 

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