Despite her family’s difficulties, Lao Dane never thought of giving up her education, always studying hard and participating volunteer in social work, and eventually winning a scholarship to attend a one-year programme at Bridgewater State University in the US.
Ms Dane, 25, now a senior at Pannasastra University of Cambodia (PUC) majoring in Business Information Systems, said her mother was a fishmonger and her father a bicycle repairman. Although her parents are poor, they always dreamed their children would be able to pursue higher education.
Born in Siem Reap, Ms Dane said that in addition to the support of her parents, she would constantly push herself to do volunteer work. Her social work inspirated her to pursue a bachelor degree in Phnom Penh.
“Only through education and understanding each other can people be united and have peace. Therefore, it is really important that we all work together and try to understand one another,” Ms Dane said.
When Ms Dane was 13, she did work for a reproductive health training organisation, Mith Obrom Mith. In the beginning, she was an outstanding student in class, school, village, and eventually become a model the province. She took an exam to become an outstanding student in city, but her English was not good enough for international competition.
“When I was in Grade 11, I took an examination related to Buddhist teachings after studying for 10 days. I won first prize as well as a scholarship from Pannasastra University of Cambodia, but I personally didn’t appreciate the value of the scholarship at that time,” she said.
Based on things she read and the stories she heard from her father, Ms Dane often wondered why people fight wars instead of trying to unite with each other. She realises now that the root causes lie in a lack of participation in problem-solving and knowledge-sharing.
While studying at university in Phnom Penh, she had health problems and wasn’t able to spend time with her friends. Sometimes she told herself that she should go home. “It was a big problem for me,” she said. But eventually, she can issue it by through negotiation and understanding with her friends.
Comparing PUC and Bridgewater State University, Ms Dane said studying in the US wasn’t hard for her because the system there was quite similar to PUC. However, the technology and study materials in the US are very modern and really convenient, she said.
Ms Dane said her English was really poor at first; she failed the IELTS test four times before getting a scholarship to study abroad. She recommended that youth who want to study overseas study English to an international standard.
“I would send a message to all parents that they should give the same opportunities to their daughters as they would to their sons. Don’t treat your daughters as household slaves. Also, women should strengthen their capacities, confidence, and potential through education. Education is the only way to reach your destination,” Ms Dane said.