In the Asean region, Singapore’s education is hailed as one of the best, making it a dream destination for many Cambodian students.
Luckily, this dream has become more attainable as the Singapore government, once a year, offers numerous opportunities for students across the region who aspire to pursue free secondary education through the Asean Scholarship Awards.
Cheap Chealinda, one among the trio contenders in the second year of the Asean Scholarship Awards, left the comforts of Phnom Penh in October last year for a three-year scholarship in Singapore. During her first eight months in the Singaporean high school, Chealinda says studying in the country has been a great opportunity for him to improve his knowledge and skills and increase his employability.
The 16-year-old Chealinda, who is currently studying at the Swiss Cottage Secondary School, says that on top of education, her personality and habits, which fall under what some would refer to as “soft skills”, have also improved.
“I think after months of staying here [in Singapore], the way I communicate and think and the way I deal with problems have changed,” says Chealinda.
Comparing to her life in Cambodia, Chealinda says she rarely went out to explore the society she was living. Aside from home, school is the second place she visits very often. But now, things have changed.
“I myself know I’m not the best, but they [scholarship committee] still gave me a chance to attend this school because they thought I had the potential to reach greater heights. Thanks to this opportunity, I realised that the world is bigger than what I expected,” says Chealinda.
Chealinda is now a Grade 3 student studying in a classroom of diverse nationalities. She says living in Singapore has allowed her to meet different people from different races, including Malaysians, Chinese, Indonesians and Indians, among others. The experience, she says, has allowed her not just to get to know the Singaporean culture but other customs as well.
“The advantage of living here is I can learn from other cultures little by little every day. People here are friendly, helpful and easy to communicate with. Although many people from different countries come to live and work here, racism and discrimination are rare,” says Chealinda.
Every day, Chealinda uses public transportation owing to its guaranteed convenience and safety. Of course, food remains as one of Singapore’s strong points, offering a variety of delicacies from Asia to the West.
“I like Hainanese chicken rice in Singapore a lot. The original taste here is way better than what is normally found in Phnom Penh,” says Chealinda.
Despite the wonders of the country, the young intellectual says Khmer food still has a special place in her heart. “I still miss my grandmother’s cooking, especially when she makes Khmer curry and Samlar Kakor soup,” she says.