Cambodian Student brings pride and ICES Student of the Year Award to the Kingdom
At the annual ICES (International Cultural Exchange Service) National Training Conference in Las Vegas, which was held on Saturday, June 26th, 2021, the MC was getting ready to announce the winner of ICES Student of the Year Award, a prestigious recognition of the exchange student who has shown outstanding participation and enthusiasm in the Student Exchange Program.
Chihok Gauy, an exchange student from Cambodia, was recording the occasion on his smartphone, expecting to hear someone else’s name, so it took him aback when his name was announced. A big smile appeared on his face, as he got up from his seat with confidence and walked to the stage to accept the honor.
Out of nearly 1,700 students who studying on ICES High School Exchange Program in the United States, he was the only one who had been selected for the award.
“I never thought I would be chosen for the Student of the Year, it was 100% a surprise for me,” Chihok said after the event.
“I was videoing my host mom Tricia because she got the award for being the Hero of the Year which she well deserves. But then she called out my name and I was surprised.”
Chihok is ICES’s first ever student from Cambodia to be on an exchange program through ICES Cambodia. As the pioneer of this program in his country, he has worked hard to help promote the exchange program in Cambodia and encourage other teens to pursue this life-changing experience.
After one year in the US, Chihok said the experience has transformed in a very positive way, from a shy boy who fear speaking to new people to a friendly and open young man who is enjoyable to talk with.
“Looking back, I do feel like I changed a lot over the past year, I learned how to deal with many things and got more confident,” Chihok said. “I believe that the exchange experience really changed my life for the best.”
Tricia Cason Evans, Chihok’ host mom, said she and the rest of the family are very proud of him.
“We are extremely proud of Chihok! During his time here in the USA he has become more outgoing, self-confident and independent,” Tricia said.
“He is a very respectful, hard-working and loyal young man. He will always have a special place in our hearts and is welcome at our house anytime!”
Tricia and her husband have volunteered to host international student every year, and they never think about giving up.
“The reason that our family has decided to host and continues to host each year is we like being able to help a student’s dreams come true and to develop a relationship that will last a lifetime,” she said.
On the same day that Chihok received the honorable award, ICES USA also celebrated their 30th anniversary. Designated by the U.S. Department of State as the exchange visitor program, ICES is a charter member of the Council on Standards for International Educational Travel (CSIET) and has successfully operated the high school program for 30 years with international students living with volunteer host families and attending U.S. high schools.
Eun Lee, the Senior International Relations Officer in charge of the exchange program at ICES Cambodia said Chihok deserves the award for his effort in taking on the challenge to get out of his comfort zone, embracing change, and trying new things.
“I hope to see more Cambodian students representing the country and not only learn about others but also introduce Cambodian culture to people from different countries,” Lee, herself a former exchange student, said.
Dr. Quach Mengly, a well-known education expert in Cambodia, said by winning the ICES Student of the Year Award, Chihok has not only brought great pride to his family but also made a good name for Cambodia and its education sector.
“His achievement proves that Cambodian students are as good as the students from all over the world, including those from highly developed countries,” Dr. Mengly said.
Dr. Mengly called for more parents to sign up for an exchange program to the U.S. or other developed countries such as Canada and Japan to gain “an eye-opening experience that can help students see the world from new perspectives”.
“Education is the centerpiece of any study abroad trip and choosing the right program is a very important factor; therefore select and consult with an institution/organization you can trust.,” he said.
“This will give you access to the tools and resources you need to make informed decisions, prepare your child and find success in her/his study abroad experience.”
Chihok also called for other students in Cambodia to follow his footstep.
“There are going to be differences, and differences in understandings, so you have to get to know each other and understand each other more,” he said.
“It is the time to find your ‘new you’.”
For more information on how you can join the High School Student Exchange Program with ICES Cambodia, as well as the program fees and application process, please contact 077 777 244 or 098 686 901.