Chhang Vanlika left Cambodia for Malaysia in 2018 in pursuit of higher education. Despite Vanlika’s worries about stepping out of her comfort zone, her parents wanted her to experience the challenge of living independently in a foreign country.
Vanlika agreed with her parents’ wishes and decided to transfer from Limkokwing University Cambodia to Limkokwing University Malaysia. Vanlika is now returning to Cambodia to pursue her career goals, after graduating in July.
The 22-year-old majored in architecture, an industry mostly chosen by men. It had been Vanlika’s passion since she was young, despite her knowing that women are under-represented in leadership roles in this industry.
At Limkokwing University Cambodia, Vanlika was one of only two female students in her class to choose this major. She found the absence of female students in her
“When I was in Cambodia, I sometimes thought about switching to another major, such as interior design, because it is similar to architecture and I believe that many female students choose it,” she said. However, with the encouragement of her family and friends, Vanlika persevered with architecture and tried to strengthen her abilities.
It was when she arrived in Malaysia that she realised that she had made the right choice.
“When I arrived in Malaysia, I was surprised because the majority of the class were female. 22 out of 40 of the students were women, which is very different from when I was studying in Cambodia,” said Vanlika.
She believes that gender equality in architecture is close to being achieved for more developed countries like Malaysia. She also believes that gender equality issues in Cambodian architecture are improving.
“The female students there [in Malaysia] are mostly outstanding students, and often receive better grades than the men, even in the architecture major. The secret is that they study hard, and they have inspired me to do the same,” said Vanlika.
“I remember sleeping for between two and three hours a night, for a few days in a row, in order to finish my projects. I also pushed myself to speak to professors and lecturers before my other classmates for feedback,” Vanlika recalled.
She says: “Many students from different countries come to study architecture in Malaysia. These include Cambodia, South Korea, China, Dubai, among others. They are all friendly and easy people to communicate with. However, Malaysian students are the most friendly and tolerant in my mind,”
“Although most Malaysians still speak mainly Malay, most of the people in this country can speak good English, which made it easy for me to study there,”
Vanlika recalls that living and studying in Malaysia was really comfortable.
“I lived in Cyberjaya, where there are many schools and student residences, which was better than living in a commercial area. Another thing I liked about living in Malaysia was the climate, as I always felt fresh when I woke up,” she said.
Vanlika’s two years studying in Malaysia were the most memorable years of her academic life. The initial struggles she faced made her a stronger student, and now she actively encourages others to study abroad.