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Eagles of AUPP, VanWilliam Meng

My name is VanWilliam Meng, but most people call me Will. I recently graduated with honors from the American University of Phnom Penh and the University of Arizona in the Business Administration Dual Degree program this past May 2024. My university experience wasn’t what I initially expected, but it turned out better than I had expected, filled with unexpected activities, that led to the personal growth that shaped what I am today.

While I majored in Business, I found myself gravitating toward a wide range of extracurricular activities which led me to explore various interests and discover many hidden talents that I never expected to possess. In my freshmen year, eager to build a network beyond my year group, I joined the Student Government Association (SGA) as a representative. This initial foray into student leadership sparked my passion for service and collaboration which contributed throughout my university years.

Beyond the SGA, I actively participated in numerous clubs and volunteer programs. My desire to give back to the community led me to volunteer with the CCSP (Committee for Community Service Program), where I had the rewarding experience of teaching English to local students. As the pandemic hit, I realized the importance of mental well-being, especially during online learning. This motivated me to co-find the AUPP Mental Awareness Club, creating informative and engaging posters and podcast content to help students cope with the challenges of remote learning and their overall mental health and well-being.

Looking for a physical outlet to complement my academic pursuits, I joined the running club, badminton club, and even yoga club. These activities not only helped me stay fit but also provided a much-needed social space to connect with fellow students who shared similar interests.

My creative side found a home in the music, photography, and media clubs. These clubs provided a platform to explore my fascination with visual storytelling and technology. This passion for media and content creation led me to co-find the Vlog Club, bringing together aspiring content creators from our student body.

However, one of the most transformative experiences that truly shaped my values and leadership skills came from developing the Puthi Campaign. This initiative aimed to educate Cambodian youth about cybersecurity and empower them to protect themselves online. Leading and motivating a team, developing a comprehensive campaign strategy, and advocating for cybersecurity awareness pushed me outside my comfort zone and significantly honed my communication and collaboration skills. The positive impact of the Puthi Campaign instilled in me a passion for social responsibility and the power of collective action.

As you can see, my university experience wasn’t just about textbooks or PDF files and exams. It was a time of exploration, discovery, and personal growth. These experiences not only shaped my skillset but also helped me discover my true passion for marketing and media. And now that I have graduated, I will pursue my master’s degree in the United Kingdom in this very field.

One of my proudest achievements happened in Spring 2022 when I got to say to my parents “Mom and Dad, I’m going to Europe!”. I was awarded to study abroad at ISAG European Business School through the Erasmus Mundus program in Portugal! This was a testament to the countless hours I dedicated to academics, excelling in my classes, and actively participating in extra-curricular activities.

While I was actively pursuing academic excellence, I also embarked on freelance projects during this time. This wasn’t just about earning additional income; it was about gaining practical experience in the field I was passionate about – marketing and media. My freelance work allowed me to develop and hone my creative skills when I took on projects that involved content creation, such as crafting social media content, photos and videos for event coverage, and even photoshoots for the F&B clientele. Through these projects, I learned to tailor my communication style to different audiences and platforms. These experiences also taught me the intricacies of project management, being able to meet the demands of crucial deadlines while also juggling between different projects, and schoolwork ensuring that the highest quality of work is delivered on time and within the budget.

Receiving the acceptance letter from ISAG European Business School was a truly momentous occasion. It wasn’t just about being accepted into a prestigious program; it was a validation of all the hard work and dedication I invested throughout my university career and beyond. It filled me with immense pride and a sense of accomplishment, knowing that my efforts had been recognized on an international level.

Studying abroad in Portugal was an enriching and transformative experience. I had the opportunity to learn from renowned professors and interact with international students, gaining valuable global perspectives on business and life in general. This experience not only expanded my knowledge but also broadened my professional network and instilled in me a lifelong love of cultural exchange.

Looking back, one defining moment that significantly impacted my approach to academics and overall work ethic was the aftermath of my grade 12 national exam results. Disappointed by a lower score than expected, I initially felt discouraged and questioned my academic abilities. It was a huge blow to my confidence, especially considering the expectations I had set for myself.

However, this experience became a turning point. Instead of dwelling on the disappointment, I decided to use it as a catalyst for growth. It pushed me to evaluate my study habits and realize the importance of meticulous preparation and thoroughness. From that point on, I adopted a “slow and steady wins the race” mentality, ensuring I put in the necessary effort and attention to detail for any task I undertake.

While I had studied diligently, I realized I hadn’t approached preparation with the necessary thoroughness. The national exams required a deeper understanding of the material, not just rote memorization. I began to delve deeper into the subjects, focusing on grasping the core concepts and applying them to critical thinking exercises.

Looking at my study habits, I realized I could optimize my time much better. I created a dedicated study schedule, prioritizing challenging subjects and allocating specific times for revision and practice tests.

I might have relied on last-minute cramming. This experience taught me the value of consistent effort over time. I began incorporating daily study sessions into my routine, ensuring I was actively engaging with the material throughout the semester.

This transformation wasn’t just about improving exam scores. It instilled in me a work ethic that transcended academics. It taught me the importance of:

  • Critical self-evaluation: Taking the time to analyze your strengths and weaknesses allows you to identify areas for improvement and ultimately, achieve your goals.
  • Resilience and perseverance: Setbacks are inevitable, but this experience showed me the power of bouncing back and using challenges as opportunities to learn and grow.
  • Meticulous planning and execution: Taking the time to plan your approach and then diligently following through is key to achieving success in any endeavor.

By embracing these lessons, I transformed my approach to academics and overall work ethic. This experience has had a lasting impact on my journey, making me a more focused, determined, and resilient individual.

While I admire many people for their achievements and contributions, my biggest source of inspiration is my parents. They may not have had the most formal education due to the challenging circumstances during the Khmer Rouge Era. But despite their hardships, they always instilled in me the value of strength, ambition, courage, and a relentless work ethic. They never stopped pushing me to achieve my dreams, even though they may have seemed far-fetched. Their unwavering support continues to motivate me today and reminds me of the importance of perseverance in the face of challenges.

My path to success wasn’t a straight and narrow one. Before university, my interests and career aspirations shifted. Initially, I considered pursuing a career in law, then auditing piqued my curiosity. However, while at university, my experience opened my eyes to new possibilities. My lifelong fascination with cameras and the world of media, nurtured from a young age, started to take center stage.

I began creating content for the school, experimenting with video production and photography. This not only allowed me to explore this passion but also helped me develop my creative and technical skills. Fueled by this newfound interest, I decided to join the marketing department at AUPP during my second semester in my freshmen year. It was a decision that significantly impacted my future.

Working within the marketing department as a Multi-Media Lead allowed me to gain valuable real-world experience. I tackled various marketing projects, honing my skills in content creation, communication strategies, and campaign development. This experience strengthened my inner passion for marketing and media, and I realized this was the field I wanted to pursue as a career.

While university life was filled with many memorable moments, it’s difficult to pinpoint just one “happiest moment”. The entire journey – the classes that challenged me, the friendships I built, the connections I made, the projects I collaborated on, and the events I participated in – all contributed to an unforgettable experience.

However, one memory that truly stands out is the “Unity for Our Community” charity event I helped organize as the treasurer of the SGA. This event focused on raising funds and awareness for the Cambodian Children’s Fund, a cause close to my heart. Witnessing the impact of our meticulously crafted marketing messages reaching thousands of people on social media and seeing the positive outcomes of our fundraising efforts filled me with immense joy. The event truly showed me the power of collective action and the impact we can make by working together for a worthy cause.

University was a time of immense learning and growth, not just academically, but also personally. One of the most valuable lessons I learned is that “the more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know enough”. Every semester opened doors to new knowledge and the chance to explore further. This resulted in a love of learning and a constant drive to expand my skill set.

I am truly horned to those who look up to me and my advice to them would be:

First, find your passion. Don’t settle for a career that doesn’t ignite your fire. University is a fantastic time to explore different interests, take diverse classes, and participate in various extracurricular activities. Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone and try out new things. You might discover a hidden talent or passion you never knew existed in you. Once you find that spar, pursue it wholeheartedly. The journey of learning and growth will be much more fulfilling when it aligns with something you truly enjoy.

Second, for existing and income students, help each other out! The university experience is filled with challenges and opportunities alike. For juniors and incoming students, don’t be afraid to ask for guidance. There are many resources available, including professors, advisors, and of course your seniors, who are all there to support you. Seek help when you need it, and don’t hesitate to ask questions. Remember, everyone starts somewhere, and sometimes a little guidance can make a world of difference.

For seniors, remember the challenges you faced when you were new. Offer a helping hand to your juniors. Mentor them, share your experiences, and provide advice. You never know the potential you might unlock by helping someone else succeed. By working together, supporting each other, and fostering a collaborative environment, the entire student body can thrive.

Remember, your university journey is unique. Embrace the experiences, challenges, and opportunities that come your way. Find your passion, learn from each other, and never stop growing. This is just the beginning of your exciting story!

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