PLF uni graduate Socheata at work

“It is very difficult for those from a poor background to get a good education in Cambodia. I am proud of my achievements and will not forget PLF for helping me. I promise that I will help my family and those around me, and spread my knowledge in the same way that PLF helped me.”

Newly-graduated Socheata (pictured second from left) epitomizes our University Scholarship program and its mission: to create opportunities for some of the most disadvantaged but promising young Cambodians, who have the potential to go on and shape their communities and become great role models for others.

In Socheata’s case, who majored in Civil Engineering,  this also includes smashing gender stereotypes, since female engineers are very rare in Cambodia.

Socheata is one of 14 who completed their bachelor’s degrees in late 2021 – beating the many challenges that Covid brought. Their final few years of classes were almost completely online, with some studying in the capital being in strict lockdown for long periods of time. They showed perseverance, adaptability and determination to overcome these obstacles and can be so proud of their resilience and achievements. 

A huge CONGRATULATIONS to this amazing group! Here’s what they have collectively achieved:

2021 uni scholarship majors

This cohort is our largest graduating class yet, and represents the continued success of our University Scholarship program. To date, 177 students have entered the program, with 65% of recipients being young women, and 64% majoring in STEM subjects. Both these numbers speak to our commitment to encourage girls to achieve their full potential, and the promotion of tech subjects to advance and contribute to Cambodia’s future development. 

Our program started in 2012 with very small intakes of just one or two students per year. And in 2022 we’ve hit another first – our largest ever new intake with 32 new scholarships awarded.

2022 new univeristy scholarhip intake group shot
Smiling PLF high school student, 2022

2022’s new intake have also struggled with Covid challenges, as long school closures means they are leaving high school with their knowledge undoubtedly behind what it should be. Considering this, it might’ve been prudent for us to play it safe and award fewer scholarships, but as with our bumper intake for new Grade 12 scholarships, unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures. Ultimately these students have suffered through  no fault of their own. It may seem like a risk, but with the dual Covid silver linings of their newly acquired ability to self-study and stronger digital literacy – plus the support network we have in place – we know they’ll do well. Their determination and courage in getting through Grade 12 have shown us how worthy they are of this opportunity, and we can’t wait to see what they will achieve.

2022 new uni intake

2022 new scholarship awardees and families

Indeed the overall success of this scholarship program is due to the desire and hunger of our students to continue their education beyond high school – and to share this opportunity with others. Since those first few who led the way, every cohort has handed the baton back to others following in their footsteps. They bond together in support groups, and develop as role models to mentor the younger students. Without a doubt, each cohort’s personal determination and willingness to share gives us the confidence to invest more and more in our university program. 

And so what’s next for our new graduates? In the current economic climate in Cambodia, it has also been more difficult than usual to find a job, especially for those wanting to move back to Siem Reap. But the majority of our graduates are already employed with an average salary of $350-400 per month. This may not seem like a lot, but it is at least 3 times what a fresh high school graduate can expect to earn. Given their qualifications, there will also be lots of opportunities for promotion over the coming years. 

Seeing their grit and determination through the last few years, we feel very confident about their futures!

Let’s hear more from these exceptional young adults in their own words …

NHEV: Khmer Literature graduate

Nhev - 2021 university graduate

I am from rural Siem Reap province and was awarded a scholarship to study Khmer Literature at the Royal University of Phnom Penh. PLF supported everything related to my degree, including my basic living expenses whilst living in Phnom Penh. PLF’s student support group really helped me. We met every month to share our knowledge and ideas, and to support each other when we had problems. I tutored school kids in my free time to gain relevant experience for my future career.

During my bachelor’s degree, I gained a lot of knowledge and experience. Now I’m working as a teacher at USL International School in Phnom Penh. My dream is to be a government school teacher, so I can teach back in my home community. However, due to the pandemic, the government cancelled this year’s intake at the Teacher Training College, and I will have to wait a further year to apply. However, I will continue to work hard and strive to achieve my goal in the future.

SOCHEATA: Civil Engineering graduate

Socheata - 2021 university graduate

Before my university scholarship, I was scared to say anything to others, especially to correct them if they were wrong. Now I am more confident, because I know myself and I want to correct them for the good of everyone else. My goal in life is now much bigger than before. Previously I thought too much and was a little negative. Now I have changed myself, I only think positive thoughts. Now I can also help my family financially. As a new graduate, it’s not a lot yet, but I can make a big difference to them. I like to raise their spirits and encourage my younger siblings, nieces and nephews to study hard and try to be a role model to them.

Right now, I am working as a Quantity Survey Engineer at BS Land & Home in Phnom Penh.

Finally, I would like to thank PLF for supporting me, and providing me with this opportunity. They are like my second family who brought light into my life, and helped me to understand that life has meaning. 

KOSAL: IT graduate

Kosal - 2021 university graduate

This scholarship helped me get to University: I am from a poor family with no father. It was very hard for me to have enough support for my studies. My scholarship played a big part in supporting my living and studying. Especially receiving a computer, because I am studying IT. My school fee and basic living expenses were also supported and allowed me to focus on my studies. Additionally, as a scholarship student, I was able to request some advice and help if I had any problems, also I can meet with other scholarship students and share knowledge. The scholarship made me feel like I had one more family and gave me warmth.

I feel happy now that I am graduating, and and also graduated 1st in the class! Finally, one of my big dreams has come true; I also have a job related to my major. And I am working on my own startup with friends in my spare time. I feel like my big dream to become a professional in Information Technology is coming true.  

Like the sound of our programs and want to get involved, but not sure how? 

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For as little as $10 a month, you could contribute to the ongoing education of our students. $120 goes a long way in Cambodia: that’s 5 village children on the road to education, with access to school and clean drinking water for half a year. Or a million other things, all of which coalesce into the tools needed for life to change for the better!

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