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Eagles of AUPP, Virya Sarun

Hello, my name is Virya Sarun. I’m a senior majoring in Global Affairs and minoring in Law. I am currently working as a Program Coordinator at the Asian Vision Institute (AVI) and volunteering as a Director of the Advisory Council at ASEAN Youth Advocates Network (AYAN) Cambodia. My most recent experience was working as a Cultural Affairs intern in the U.S. Embassy. Before that, I was a student tutor at the learning center at AUPP during the summer of my freshman year. I also was a member of the Student Advisory Committee (SAC) at the Centre for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS).

Now that I am in my fourth year, I find myself navigating the delicate balance between maintaining my academic performance and venturing into diverse fields to shape my future career. While I may not exhibit the same level of focus and determination as my freshman year, I try to appreciate how much I have grown as a person. My journey at AUPP over the past few years has been enriched by the unwavering support of both peers and professors. Despite rarely being on campus outside of class hours, I keenly observe the potential evident in my juniors who have recently joined AUPP. I am thankful for the opportunities for growth and learning that AUPP has provided me.

I take immense pride in my choice to pursue a Global Affairs major at AUPP, a decision that has opened doors to a multitude of enriching opportunities. First, I am proud of my achievement as a member of the Student Advisory Committee of CSEAS has allowed me to deepen my understanding of the Southeast Asian region and make meaningful contributions to the community. In April this year, as part of Genocide Awareness Month, we commemorated “Together We Remember” with an exhibition on the Oral History of Sou Sotheavy, a transgender survivor of the Khmer Rouge regime, followed by a mesmerizing dance performance by Prumsodun Ok & NATYARASA. Second, I am proud to have worked in AYAN Cambodia, which has not only helped me amplify my voice in advocacy but also provided a platform to connect with fellow youths, allowing me to sharpen substantial skills in project planning and execution. Another significant accomplishment is my internship at the U.S. Embassy, where I worked with colleagues from diverse cultures and actively engaged in the cultural and educational exchange programs the Embassy has to offer. Each of these experiences, from academic pursuits to internships, has significantly contributed to my personal and professional growth, all of which aspire me to work harder and build on my achievements.

There is no single experience that I would say altered my life. I owe much of my success and growth to the way I was brought up. With both my parents deeply involved in humanitarian work,

I was exposed to the raw realities that exist beyond the surface of everyday life. This early exposure illuminated the not-so-bright side of life, allowing me to foster a profound appreciation for the privilege of education and a reminder never to take any opportunities for granted. This plays a significant role in setting directions for my future career. I would say that my career aspirations are not confined to conventional success metrics; they are rooted in a deep-seated belief that meaningful accomplishments are intrinsically tied to the positive impacts one has on the lives of others.

I deeply admire my mother and consider her a significant source of inspiration in my life. We share an incredibly close bond, and I feel blessed to have such supportive parents with whom I can communicate my thoughts. I appreciate my mom’s approach to parenting – she loves me unconditionally but doesn’t shelter me from life’s realities. I am allowed to see the different sides of her, and still, my love for her is unwavering.

Her strength, courage, ambition, and hard work are qualities that inspire me daily. She dedicates herself to ensuring our family lives comfortably and navigating the challenges of life with resilience. However, she’s not immune to storms thrown her way; she gets sick, tired, and stressed. It’s in these moments that the most crucial life lesson unfolds – the acknowledgement that life isn’t always a bed of roses. It’s about weathering storms and cherishing the sunny days.

This realization has instilled in me the courage to feel, to be vulnerable, and to share my thoughts openly with her. Understanding that life is a rollercoaster of ups and downs has made our connection even stronger. I’ve come to embrace the notion that personal growth isn’t a solitary journey; it’s a collaborative effort. So, I don’t shy away from expressing my feelings or seeking guidance, recognizing that both triumphs and struggles are integral parts of the learning process as we all navigate through life.

I became the person I am today because of all the chances I took, but also all of the ones I didn’t dare reach for. I used to be a person who fears failure, and mind you, I still do. I learnt it the hard way through a period of introspection and self-realization. I realized that my lack of self-esteem rid me of many opportunities because I didn’t try. Instead of dwelling on the missed opportunities, I cherish those I did grab onto. One pivotal aspect of my growth was my decision to join the Global Affairs community, actively apply for internships, and engage in volunteering opportunities. Through these experiences, I crossed paths with remarkable individuals who excel in their respective fields, from whom I gained invaluable insights. These encounters taught me that the world is a vast reservoir of knowledge waiting to be discovered. Every decision, regardless of its magnitude, plays a role in shaping the trajectory of our lives. We are only alive until our next breath, so appreciate all that we can and use that to propel ourselves forward, for there is so much that awaits us; we just have to grab on.

My greatest joy is found in the company of those I hold dear, basking in the warmth of love and cherished connections. I thrive on people-to-people contact because they make the experience whole. Regardless of how hectic my day may be, I find solace in engaging with others, sharing our respective experiences, and discovering the beauty in our diverse journeys. I like to ask people how their day was and enjoy telling them about mine. My close relationship with my parents is a cornerstone of my happiness, and I seize every opportunity to make them proud. Their support and pride in my endeavors serve as a constant source of motivation and fulfillment. Equally, the bonds I share with my friends are invaluable, offering me glimpses into the varied tapestries of their lives. I also find a sense of purpose by giving back, and I take pleasure in contributing what I can to the well-being of others. I firmly believe that the knowledge and experiences I’ve garnered are not solely for my benefit but are meant to be shared for the greater good. Life’s true values, I believe, lie in the shared tapestry of experiences and the impact we can have on each other’s journeys.

While I do not consider myself a role model and don’t hold any expectations for others to see me as one, what I genuinely aspire to be is your friend. For those of you grappling with challenges or navigating through a period of uncertainty, I want to extend a reminder that life’s journey is unpredictable, and sometimes the most unexpected paths lead to incredible destinations. Embrace the uncertainty, don’t shy away from opportunities, and put yourself out there. It’s through taking chances that you uncover hidden potentials within yourself. Communication is key, not just with others but also with yourself. Engage in conversations, seek out diverse perspectives, and learn from both your own experiences and those of others. Remember that failure is not the end but an integral part of the journey toward growth. Be kind to yourself. Don’t be too harsh in times of difficulty; allow yourself to feel all the emotions, and remember to take breaks. It’s all part of the learning process. Instead of fixating on past mistakes, view them as stepping stones for personal development and growth. Life is a continuous journey of learning, adapting, and evolving. So, as you navigate your path, keep in mind that your uniqueness is your strength, and there is unlimited potential within you. Embrace the journey, and don’t hesitate to reach out—whether for friendship, support, or shared insights. I wish you all the best in your endeavors. May every step forward bring you closer to the person you aspire to become.

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