The student on the right is a 17 year old from Australia. I talked to him to learn more about him and Cambodia.

When I first heard of an opportunity to do a project of this scale, I immediately dreamt of recruiting students from all over Southeast Asia to come to Culver so they can receive a westernized education and possibly see them through until after college, so there can be more capable and globally minded leaders that can contribute to the world and their home countries.

However, that is quickly dismissed. I realized that even though I have more capability to help than before, I am still a high school student, and cannot yet handle the logistics and workload for such a project. So instead, under Mr. Giraldi’s guidance, we decided to limit the scale of this project for now. With the new plan, we will start with Cambodia, since I have familial ties with the nation, and beginning with one school, as we assumed that the Cambodian educational system would be similar to ours, and one school can be a good starting ground for recruiting capable students who would want to go to Culver.

Once I stepped into the school, I quickly realize how unprepared I am: I only have a framework of what to speak to the students, I don’t yet have a fully developed system for the interviews, and most devastatingly, I didn’t realize that this is a Chinese School, and while English is taught here, it is not at a conversational level, but rather a class of reading and reciting words. This language barrier is one of the biggest issues, but I decided to press on, hoping that those who can understand me talking are coincidentally those who are interested. The class size also astonished me, since when I interview, I did not expect around 50 students, even after limiting them to mostly 12-14 year old. Another big issue is me making too many promises to the kids who would really want to go to the United States, and I need more communication with the school prior in order to avoid making empty checks like what I did there, which ended up disappointing many kids.  

The language barrier continues to impede progress outside of the classroom. The parents never received proper education in English, let alone Chinese. While initially we do have a teacher who would help with translating my words into Khmer, he later left his job because he realized he didn’t need the job.

The second time I arrived in Cambodia, I came in too late. The school informed me that they are preparing for the test, and would not take away their already precious time for the interviews. Again, this reminded me that communication is key to avoid another instance like this. I talked to the principal, hopeful to set up another round of interview next year, when another teacher came in. It appears we have competition, from China, as Chong Zheng academy, a Chinese school, receives the opportunity to send students to China for a summer camp. This is way better for the students, and unless we improve our appeal, students would not want to join Culver.

If this project can have a do-over, or a third round, the biggest issue I would try to rectify is communication. Communication with Culver, with Chong Zheng, and with the parents and students directly are paramount to ensuring that my plans will be able to work.

For the short term, this project would have little to no impact, but we hope that by fostering capable student leaders in the future, Cambodia, United States, and the world can all benefit, just like Early Modern China when it sent out students who would change the nation forever.