PHNOM PENH —
Eight Cambodian students were awarded a prestigious Fulbright scholarship this year to pursue higher education in leading US universities.
In interviews with VOA Khmer, the students said they hoped to help develop their country more on their return.
“They’re going to give the youth of Cambodia hope,” US Ambassador William Todd told VOA Khmer. “Whether they are going to the government or going to industries or law or education, they’re going to give the youth of this country a future. They’re going to grow the economy, and they’re going to help the country move forward.”
The Fulbright scholarship is a competitive international exchange opportunity that allows students to study in US universities. More than 130 Cambodian students have used the scholarship since 1994.
Pel Dalen, one of eight recipients of the scholarship, who will be studying education at New York’s Columbia University, said she hopes she’ll have a chance to return to Cambodia to help the Ministry of Education.
“This sector is vital for the country’s development,” she told VOA Khmer before departing last month.
A number of Cambodian Fulbrights are now working in key positions in the Cambodian government, the private sector or in NGOs.
Sopha Ratana, a former Fulbright scholar who now works for a private company, said the program opened doors for him.
“When we make connections, we can participate in more programs,” he said.
Pel Dalen’s father, Pel Som Un, said the family felt lucky to have her heading to the US.
“In her two-year studies, I’ve just advised her to study hard and try to gain knowledge and come back to help serve our nation,” he said.
The eight current scholars will pursue master’s degrees in the fields of law, economics, history, linguistics, English teaching and education, at various US institutions.