Cheng Reaksmey, 24, who has attended the volunteer program for six months in Portuguese and Spain, gave his opinion on how students should invest in community services, particularly as a supplemental learning environment, which can be a positive contribution to society.
Reakmey is a recipient of the University of Cambodia’s “Samdech Hun Sen – Handa National Scholarships 2008.” This scholarship covers the cost of academic tuition for four years. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations.
Through his firm commitment and devotion to public service, Reakmey has won a fellowship to go and study abroad in Portuguese and Spain. This is a six month training program that focuses on vital life skills. Realizing his accomplishments and contributions to society, The Southeast Asia Weekly has asked him for an interview, aiming at sharing his opinions to learners.
Q: How did you get involved with social services and student program?
A: Once I began matriculation at The University of Cambodia, I started getting involved in different organizations focusing on diverse activities. They included The University of Cambodia Debate Club (UCDC) and The University of Cambodia Student Senate (UCSS).
Q: How did you obtain the volunteer program to Portuguese and Spain?
A: After tasting academic life, I decided to put more effort with student associations and also work voluntarily at a local organization called Khmer Youth for Social
Development (KYSD). Fortunately, the organization announced the Cambodian- European Volunteerism Exchange Program which was a golden opportunity for me. After facing several challenges in the organization, I was among the selected winners to visit Portuguese and Spain for six months.
Q: How did you describe the lifestyle of European students?
A: Greeting, living, working, and building relationships are all different from Asians. Europeans appear friendlier. They treat people equally, and prefer a simplified way of living. To criticize someone, they prefer saying it politely and in a constructive manner, especially when the time seemed appropriate. Moreover, they love challenging themselves in terms of studying and they tend to engage in debate over important issues. But once academic life ends, they know how to code-switch back to being cordial friends.
Q: In your perspective, how do you view European participation in social services?
A: Remarkably, from children to adults, Europeans are involved actively in community services: citizens usually organize public programs on the beach, park and other venues. Some of the things they do seem a bit strange, but it seems to be packed with efficiency, especially when they deliver messages to the public.
In summer vacation, they would apply for volunteer opportunities in their communities to test their knowledge and skills. They are interested in improving the community. They spend large amounts of time communicating with diverse people in order to use the knowledge they have gained from their academic life. After gaining a great deal of experience from services, they would put serious attention to working so that they can see an investment in what they have done. As soon as they start working, they are already armed with many skills they can use in the workplace.
Q: What are key leaning techniques received from European students?
A: European students have adequate learning materials. They have a variety of books located in comfortable libraries. They consume much time doing research, and reading outside of the classroom. Many European students I asked during the stay replied that pursuing two or more degrees at the same time is very rare among them.
Pursuing one degree requires substantial investments in terms of time and effort, especially when it comes to studying and conducting research. One degree is usually enough. These students focus on quality of education, not quantity of degrees. They also need to conduct research around issues beyond the borders of their countries. Globalization is a real factor. For instance, to study philosophy, they don’t just apply research study in European countries but they would spend a year or more in China, India, and other places far from their land in order to figure out different philosophic doctrines. This is how they invest time with only a single major
during their time as an Undergraduate.
So to this point, I want to emphasize that students should pursue only one degree and make the time worth it. They should focus on how to become an expert in that specialization so they can apply it in the field once they enter the workforce.
Q: What do you recommend to students interested in studying abroad?
A: Well, to those who intend to experience volunteer programs overseas, they can search programs via various organizations in Cambodia. When you apply for volunteer programs, find out which opportunities are out there and if you’re successful you can start the following year. You can also earn money on your own, and travel throughout the country, if you can afford it.
Q: What are your next steps for involvement?
A: Actually, I have already planned for another possible research opportunity in the ASEAN region, and also in Cambodia’s rural villages. My goal is to learn diverse cultures and concepts to improve quality of life and competence.
Q: What is you future plan toward future academic education?
A: For the future, I am planning to become a qualified public policy maker. Though, I already plan to apply for international scholarships in South Korea to improve three basic skills: politics, philosophy, and economics. (SEAW)
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