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Exchange Students from ICES Cambodia share their first Christmas Experience in the U.S.

Exchange Students from ICES Cambodia share their first Christmas Experience in the U.S.

When an American is asked which holiday is the most important in his or her country, the first one that usually comes to his or her mind is likely to be Christmas, which celebrates the birth of Jesus.

According to research, Nine-in-ten Americans say they celebrate this holiday. Common Christmas practices are observed by people who are not religious or believers, and in this way, some Christmas traditions have become American family traditions.

Christmas shopping is a major activity for many Americans in the month of December. Gifts are given to children, members of the family, and close friends. Most Americans send greeting cards to their friends and family during Christmas.

Americans have always been passionate about their Christmas decorations. Most families have Christmas trees in their homes, garnished with small lights and ornaments. Presents are placed all around the Christmas tree to be unwrapped on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

Christmas dinner is another big part of the American Christmas tradition. Friends and family gather for a feast of turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, and ham. Then they sum up the meal with sweet desserts such as pumpkin or apple pie. The dinner will be followed by games or other fun activities. To an American, it is indeed “the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”.  

For the first time in their lives, the third-generation exchange students from ICES Cambodia attending high schools in the U.S. were exposed to the American celebration of Christmas. Last week with their host families, they enjoyed the unique experience which definitely gives them stories to tell once they are back in their home country.

Here are their own words about the all-American-Christmas experience:


Chealeang Ear

Mustang High School, Oklahoma

The Christmas experience is great. My host family and I did a lot of cooking, wrapping and unwrapping gifts, decorating the house, shopping, and more. Americans put all the nicely wrapped gifts under the Christmas tree. First, we unwrapped gifts from my host dad’s side of the family during the Christmas party. Then we unwrapped gifts from Gina’s side of the family and went on a Christmas-themed train ride called The Polar Express. On Christmas Eve, we went to the Light Festival at church. On Christmas Day, we unwrapped the rest of the gifts and it was a lot of fun. I got a lot of gifts from my host family and their relatives: candy cane, snacks, socks, towels, snacks, make-up, face cleanser, and the list goes on!


Amra Chamroeun

Foyil High School Claremore, Oklahoma

Since the beginning of Christmas, my host family and I’ve been decorating the house and the Christmas tree. On Christmas Eve, we had a gingerbread house competition and it was a new experience. On Christmas morning, my host family and I woke up really early to unwrap the presents. We all got presents from Santa and spent time opening each other’s presents. It was a really fun time.


Rathreacheany Samat

Fennimore High School, Wisconsin

My host family and I went to buy some fir trees (a type of evergreen tree) for Christmas. We decorated the tree with lights, ornaments, and candy canes. My host mom and her sisters made our advent calendars (a special calendar used to count down the days in December leading up to Christmas Eve). I’ve been getting lots of candies and toys prior to Christmas. I’ve also been helping my host mom wrap gifts for everybody. At school, my friends and I did Secret Santa. I got a lot of candies and fuzzy socks from my Secret Santa. A few people decided to give me even more American candies to try. I’m not complaining because I really love trying new stuff so I can’t wait to start digging in!



Sonalen Saing

Santa Fe High School, Oklahoma

My host family, two dogs and I celebrated Christmas at home. I got a lot of gifts from my host family and we spent time together watching Christmas movies, listening to Christmas songs, cooking, and playing board games. I decorated a gingerbread house as well. My host mom’s family will be visiting us this week and I am very excited to finally meet them. 


Joining different festivals and celebrations is a definite perk that comes with a student exchange program–in addition to many others such as improving one’s English language skills and gaining unique academic experience. And you can do it, too. Signed for the exchange program with ICES Cambodia and go on a thrilling adventure overseas right now!

For more information on how you can attend high school abroad with ICES Cambodia, as well as the program fees and application process, please contact 077 777 244 or 098 686 901. 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