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“The Exchange Year turned my boy into a man,” says the Mother of ICES’s First Generation Student

“The Exchange Year turned my boy into a man,” says the Mother of ICES’s First Generation Student

Over one year ago, when Saygech Ung learned that her son Chihok Guay, a student of both American Intercon School and Aii Language Centre, had been awarded a scholarship to go on a High School Exchange Program in the US, her heart was swollen with pride. Like a typical Cambodian parent, she had always wanted her children to see the outside world, meet people from around the world and become a global citizen.

Yet, as his date of departure was approaching, Saygech was getting more and more beset by worries. It would be the first time that his son would be flying without his parents—let alone living far from home for almost a year.

“I was so worried because I was afraid that Chihok might get bullied,” she said. “I was also worried him being homesick, and I didn’t know how his life would turn out living with a host family.”

The anxiety stayed with her until the day Chihok was boarding the flight to Edmond, Oklahoma, where he would spend the next year living with a host family and studying as an exchange student at Deer Creek High School. As Chihok was about to leave, Saygech could barely hold her tears, and Chihok told her not to fear, as he believed that he would be fine on his own, as he felt he was ready for the life-changing experience.

And he was right. In the next academic year, Chihok proved himself to be a good exchange student who worked and participated in all kinds of school, extracurricular and social activities. He was also loved by his new friends and his host family, who brought him to many places as well as introduced him to American cultures.

“I was so relieved when I learned that he was now in good hands and doing so well at school,” Saygech said. “We kept talking with him via video calls, and as time went by, I noticed more and more changes in my son.”

The best of Chihok’s exchange year in the U.S. came at the end when he was announced 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. Despite being over 8,000 miles away when her son received the award, Saygech felt she was the happiest mom in the world.

“As a mother, I was over the moon that Chihok could bring such a great pride to his family, school and country,” Saygech said.

July this year marks the end of Chihok’s exchange year, and when Saygech met her son in person after almost a year, she was so surprised to see how much the overseas experience changed him. For a start, he is now much taller and more muscular, as he had been introduced to the priority of athleticism. Yet, she also notices changes in Chihok.

“After completing his exchange year in the U.S., Chihok has become so mature that I can no longer see him as a boy but a man,” Saygech said. “He has become so good at critical thinking, and no longe afraid or reluctant to express his feeling.”

“His language skill has improved significantly, and he has also become a person of great sensibility.”

Even Chihok himself can notice the transformation, and the young man really appreciates the once-in-a-life-time experience granted to him by ICES Cambodia.

“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.”

“All these brand-new experiences were made possible by my host family, especially my host parents Jay and Tricia. They were the hero of my exchange year and have helped me, taught me a lot of things. Tricia was always there when there were any problems and Jay taught me a lot about building good habits, mindset, and money.”

Saygech, meanwhile, calls for other parents in Cambodia to sign up their children for the thrilling adventure.

“It is one of the best things that you can provide to your children, which will affect their life and career forever,” she said.

Chihok brought great pride to his family, and maybe you can accomplish it too! Prepared for your future for by signing up for a High School Exchange Program with ICES Cambodia. Enjoy special early bird promotion of $9,900 (ends August 31, 2021) simply by making deposit before the end of this month! Go to https://t.me/icescambodia for more information.

To be eligible, you must pass the English Proficiency Test provided by ICES Cambodia and have a good academic record (Average “C” in main subjects for the past 3 years). Register now to take the English Test: https://forms.gle/3qifKLu79f4hx5uB7.