ICES Cambodia’s Chealeang gives an update on life halfway through the exchange year
After almost six months of attending Oklahoma’s Mustang High School, Chealeang Ear, an exchange student from ICES Cambodia, no longer feels like a new girl in the States. Halfway through the program, she already has many stories to tell, and ICES Cambodia spoke to her this week about her journey so far.
ICES Cambodia: It’s been six months since you left Cambodia. How would you describe your exchange year and experiences so far?
Chealeang: So far, my experience is great. I’m having a lot of fun, enjoying life, learning and exploring.
ICES Cambodia: You are living with another exchange student from Brazil. What is that like?
Chealeang: Double-placement (when two exchange students are placed with a host family, the students must be from different countries) is a surprise for me. I already felt nervous at first to live with a family that I don’t know and adding another person from a different country it’s kind of exciting and nerve-racking at the same time. But so far, I’ve been enjoying the company of my fellow exchange student, Bia from Brazil. I enjoy the time with Bia, we share our experiences and cultures with our host family. We hang out a lot together with our host sister, Kiersten too.
ICES Cambodia: Up till now, what are some of your favorite memories of staying and studying in the US?
Chealeang: All the experiences turn into amazing. If I had to choose one, my favorite memory so far would be Christmas and on the trip to Orlando in October.
ICES Cambodia: What part of the exchange program do you like the most?
Chealeang: It’s hard to choose a favorite part of the program. I would say every process is equally important and my favorite from applying, flying from Cambodia to the US, meeting my Local Coordinator (she’s the best, she’s so sweet and full of care), and living, learning, sharing, and going through the whole process with my host family.
ICES Cambodia: Running into Challenges is not unusual when it comes to exchange program. Did you run into any? And how did you overcome them?
Chealeang: This time I want to share something other than language barrier. One difficulty/challenge I faced in The US is managing my finances. There are many sales in the US and good shopping deals. Sometimes I spend more than I planned to. To overcome it, I set myself a financial limit, especially during all the fun times like Christmas, Black Friday sales, etc. Some months I went over the planned budget but I try my best not to exceed the limit I set for myself. I ask myself is there another chance to make the purchase (unless it’s something special or needed for special occasions).
ICES Cambodia: What do you miss most about home?
Chealeang: What I miss most about home are my family and food, but I don’t think I ever got homesick. I have good communication with my parents in Cambodia.
ICES Cambodia: How is life in the US compared to your life in Cambodia?
Chealeang: Everything from daily routine, clothing styles, food, environment, grocery store to events and holidays are different. I also go to church on the weekends instead of the usual pagoda visit during traditional holidays in Cambodia.
ICES Cambodia: Do you have any comments or advice for the next generation of ICES Cambodia exchange students?
Chealeang: I want to tell the next generation to start focusing on self-care. Self-care for both physical and mental health is important. Make sure you know how to prioritize and remember to not put too much pressure on yourself. Another piece of advice is no matter what happens, don’t give up. It may be scary or hard at first but it’s not that bad. When you experience it, you’ll look back and thank yourself for making that decision. Don’t lose your chance, just take the next step, adventure awaits you!
To be able to go explore a big foreign country with multiple races and cultures offers you many stories to tell for the rest of your life. And you can do it, too. Don’t wait until college to go study abroad. ICES Cambodia can show you the way.
For more information on how you can join ICES Cambodia, as well as the program fees and application process, please contact 098 686 901 or 061 924 141. 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).
The next intake for 2023-2024 starts in May 2022. Register to take the English Test: https://forms.gle/3qifKLu79f4hx5uB7