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Hard work and persistence pay off for US-bound scholarship winner

Say Tola / Khmer Times Share:
An Songmouy prepares for her trip to the US. KT/Say Tola

A fully funded scholarship to study in the United States is the dream of students everywhere. Achieving this is easier said than done, but not impossible if students dedicate themselves to studying and make a strong commitment to fulfilling all the criteria set by the school they aspire to attend.

Like other dreamers, An Songmouy, who turned 19 this year, wanted to study in the United States since she was in Grade 10. She is about to realise that dream, having been awarded one of 15 US Embassy scholarships to study English under the Education USA programme.

“My mother works by selling things. I had to spend a lot of time helping her. I had to set aside time to study at night when it was quiet and I could concentrate. Sometimes I studied from 7 pm to midnight, or else I would go to sleep early and wake up at 1 am up to study,” Ms Songmouy said.

As the scholarship was very competitive — and she was helping her mother with work at the same time — she admitted to being stressed out while studying. However, when she reached Grade 12, she was able to focus on her studies more.

Ms Songmouy recalled, “Like everyone else, I assumed I would get an A. But I didn’t, I only got a B. I was really upset. Later on, I realised it wasn’t doing me any good to sit around feeling sorry for myself. Immediately, I decided to apply for the SHE-CAN programme, which gives great support to girls looking to get a higher education abroad.”

“When I got to the interview round, I really lacked confidence, as most of the other applicants had A grades. Yet I told myself that I could do a great job; it wouldn’t be a big deal.”

Ms Songmouy said there were many steps involved in the SHE-CAN scholarship selection process. These included being interviewed, taking IELTS and ACT tests, and leading a project. Applicants had to complete all these requirements within four months.

“There was a lot of pressure on me because I also had to study at IFL,” said Ms Songmouy, second-year student majoring in international studies. “I had to keep up all these things because SHE-CAN followed up on my GPA and test scores, as well as the progress of my project. I think SHE-CAN wanted to be able to evaluate the commitment of each applicant,” said Ms Songmouy.

Though it was very tough, Ms Songmouy saw it as a great opportunity, and one she had to seize. She has remained focused on her priorities and reaching her future goal.

“IELTS was quite new to me,” she said, “yet I had to prepare for it in seven weeks. So I kept reading and focusing on it every day. At the same time, I sought advice from older students who had already been accepted into this programme.”

To prepare for her trip to the US, Ms Songmouy continues to study at IFL, saying she doesn’t want to be distracted from learning at any stage. She is also taking American online courses to strengthen her understanding of the educational standards there. When she goes to study there, she also has another five mentors to guide her learning there effectively as well as provide emotional support. This part was recently inserted and it is called the Mentorship programme.

When she gets to the US, Ms Songmouy will study policy studies at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. She is interested in policy studies because she thinks being knowledgeable in this area will be a very helpful addition to current social policy in Cambodia, specifically in the fields of education and women’s right. She wants to encourage and empower women to pursue higher education.

Ms Songmouy encourages Cambodian students to apply for scholarships and grab any chances that come along, rather than hiding and dwelling on their weaknesses.

To understand more about SHE-CAN, visit: http://www.shecan.global/ or https://www.facebook.com/shecanglobal/

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