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ICES Cambodian Exchange Student Speaks on their first week at American Schools

ICES Cambodian Exchange Student Speaks on their first week at American Schools

It has been over two weeks since the second-generation students of ICES Cambodia’s High School Exchange Program said goodbye to their families to go on a life-changing adventure in the United States, and like most exchange students there, they already noticed differences between their new schools and Cambodian school. 

Originally from New Generation School Preah in Phnom Penh, Sonalen Saing said she felt a big difference when she attended the first class at Santa Fe High School, a public school located in Edmond, Oklahoma, which was recognized as a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence by No Child Left Behind in the 2011–2012 school year.

“In Cambodia, students have a homeroom, so they only hang out with the same group of classmates, and they have to follow the school’s curriculum,” Sonalen said. 

“Meanwhile, in the U.S., students choose their own subjects, and it’s more flexible, meaning that we select classes based on our interests and we have different classmates.”

Sonalen was also surprised at how open American youth are, especially when they speak out their minds. 

“In Cambodia, students are more conservative; in contrast, the students here are more open,” she added. 

“Technology is another big difference. For example, at a Cambodian high school, for the most part, school work is done on paper, whereas in an American one, students write on the Chromebooks or paper.”

Also in Oklahoma, Chealeang Ear, another exchange student from ICES Cambodia, is still adjusting to her new life as a student at Mustang High School, a school well-known for its various sport programs and a nationally competitive marching band. 

Like Sonalen, Chealeang is happy about the high level of liberation students enjoy at American high schools as well as their efforts to drive students to explore their own learning. 

“At an American high school, teachers encourage students to do more research and share their own thoughts and they facilitate students to learn on their own,” she said. “American high school students choose their own subjects based on their interests and talent.”

Both Sonalen and Chealeang still have a full academic year ahead of them, during which they are looking forward to learning about new cultures and peoples as well as sharing their own identities with their host families and new friends.

“I am determined to share those experiences with my friends and also use them to develop myself after the exchange program is complete,” Chealeang said.

“The exchange programs brought me upon the know the real world and allow me to gain useful experiences, especially from spending time with my host families and my new friends,” Sonalen added. 

Amra Chamroeun, another ICES student who is attending Foyil High School Claremore, Oklahoma, said before she was heading to the U.S., she was worried about bullying and not having friends there. However, not long after coming here, she has already befriended many. 

“My school has other ICES exchange students from different countries such as Spain and Italy, and I am good friends with them already,” Amra said.  

“I am happy that I can learn about other cultures while living in America. We also go to church together on the weekends, and I enjoy that very much.”

Now is your turn follow the brave young girls and go on the thrilling journey overseas!  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 .

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.