College Essay – Deconstructing Hate

The Vietnamese are obnoxious. The Vietnamese cause woe and degradation. The Vietnamese are the root of social and environmental ills: illegal logging, trawling, overfishing, pollution, poverty, and land scarcity. The Vietnamese enter Cambodia with ulterior motives: to shred our nation, to colonize us, and to weed out our Khmer culture.

This is the sentiment of my people toward the Vietnamese. This anti-Vietnam antagonism exists because of our embittered history—losing our territory. In an article entitled “Out of 20 of my friends, 17 hate the Vietnamese,” the Phnom Penh Post stated that the Vietnamese began to occupy our land in the 17th century, conquered Cambodia and seized Phnom Penh in the 19th century; they controlled our kingdom during the French Protectorate, and stole two pieces of ancestral Khmer land. What is even worse is that their involvement during the ferocious Khmer Rouge regime still haunts Cambodians, especially the older generation. Because of this savagery, there is justification for our suspicion and hostility; however, does a painful history justify the hate and prejudice of today?

In 2017, my classmates and I visited Vietnam for the very first time for Model United Nations (MUN). Along the way, I had a mixed feeling of how I should behave in a communist country and how the Vietnamese were going to perceive us. I expected Vietnam to be a sour land of mystery and depravity. Nevertheless, my expectation was proven wrong by my interaction with Vietnamese.

Sitting in a taxi, chattering mirthfully, my friends and learning facilitators and I were heading to the water park for relaxation on a sunny day. But suddenly, the rain started to pour.  As the coldness soared and the traffic swelled, the loudness of our voices died, and the lethargy soon suffused the atmosphere. I then reached for my phone to play music, and soon, everyone started to sing along. Since then, all our voices started to mute the music; but not for long because the driver saved our day. He turned his head to look and held a speaker cable to give to us. Just by this one simple act, our day was saturated with delight and our memory selectively captured this moment.

In 2018, I participated in a MUN in Vietnam again, and to say that I did not worry about my destination and their people would be a lie—residue of prejudice are still alive. But I would say that because of my last experience in Vietnam, my hesitancy had diminished.

Contentedly entering a Circle K store located in Saigon, my friends and I strolled through the door with dance moves, singing to the song of “Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran. We smiled, we shouted, and we laughed. Not just us, but also the Vietnamese cashier.

He complimented, he conversed, and he loved it. At that moment, I knew that the fire of hate in me had been extinguished.

In the same year, I was accepted by the secretary team to be a Deputy Chair (student officer) of Disarmament and International Security General Assembly of the MUN again, but this time the event was held in Cambodia. Now, it was time for me to completely cease the fire.

Welcoming my Vietnamese Head Chair to Cambodia for the first time with a hug and a smile, we were ready to serve. We collaborated to lead the committee to a successful path by guiding the delegates through the process and the protocols. Even though she was my Head Chair, we divided the tasks and the power equally. Together, we managed all the struggles and concerns carefully and were able to create memorable days for the delegates and for us; she was able to remove the last lingering barriers that I had with Vietnamese. I finally learned that I as a Cambodian citizen could cooperate with and really like a Vietnamese person.

My intention of bringing up these small snapshots is to illustrate that we can learn from the past to rewrite our future. We need to cooperate to extinguish the fire of hate; hate is a blindfold that block the beauty of people. By directly working and conversing with my Vietnamese counterparts, I have found the means to socially deconstruct my own anti-Vietnamese sentiment, and I hope that I can do it for others too.


Photo Source:

Conducting a Year-Long Research

Cambodia is still very new to the concept of sexual orientations, especially homosexuality. For instance, in Khmer language, there is no specific terminology to describe different sexual orientations; however, “ktery” is the only word that we use to describe all types of sexual orientations. Additionally, Kantar TNS has collaborated with ROCK (Rainbow Community Kampuchea) organization to conduct a research in 2015 called “Opinions, Attitude, and Behavior toward the LGBT Population in Cambodia” but never once did a research only on public perception toward homosexuality. Their report also mentioned that in the next 4-5 years, there should be another replica of their survey for comparison; in this case, 2019 is the perfect year to do another survey. Because of the above reasons, I would like to conduct a research about public perception toward homosexuality in Cambodia. This research will be an outlet for people to hear what “a boy loves a boy” or “a girl loves a girl” terms mean in Khmer and for people to think critically of what would they do if their children tells them that they are homosexual or should the government legalize same-sex marriage. The more people hear about how to say those terms in Khmer, the more it will become normal for them to use. By the end of this project, there will be data that can be analyzed and shared to everyone, especially students to utilize the findings as a learning resource to better understand the current situation of homosexuality in Cambodia.



Before I joined Research Strand class, I knew that I wanted to conduct a research related to gender issues because of my passion for this topic. There were three main ideas that I wanted to research about: LGBTQ, women, and marriage. Next, I have to come up with 10 thoughtful questions related to those three topics. Since those questions were very broad, I narrowed it down to three questions: why does Cambodian culture placed great value on female long hair? How can we use gender norms for women as strength? What is the current perception of people and government toward gay marriage in Cambodia? Then, I chose “what is the current perception of people and government toward gay marriage in Cambodia” for my research. After thinking about that question for a while, I was not satisfied with it at all because it was too specific. Therefore, I modified it into perspectives toward LGBTQ in Cambodia; however, since it is general and doesn’t have actual Khmer translation, I changed it to public perception toward homosexuality, which is my final research idea. While I was redefining my research topic, I also had to gather contacts of organizations and possible mentors for this research. I have reached out to ROCK and a few people to be my mentors. Additionally, I learned how to organize data and how to be ethical in my research; for instance, give credit to other published data, open to recommendation from others, not react or disagree with people’s opinions, and interpret the information correctly. After knowing how to be ethical and write methodology, I had to write a research proposal.


What have I done?

So far, I have formed 35 questions both in English and Khmer. Next week, I will be meeting with one of the staff from ROCK and Kantar TNS to discuss about my methodology and check my questions.

Before this research rolls out in March, I plan to do a mock interview with most of the Liger staff, who are Khmer. By doing this, I will be better prepare for the real interview with my actual target audience, since I can learn about what went wrong, what went well, and what I need to alter.


Photo Source: Thinkstock Images

S’more Stoichiometry Lab

Have you ever make s’more? If yes, that is great; however, do you know how to use s’more to teach others about limiting and excess reactants?

As part of our unit two topics vary from lewis structure to VSEPR model to polarity to types of bonding, we did a lab to further our understanding of limiting reactant and percent yield, which means the substance that gets used up in a chemical reaction and the percent ratio of actual yield to the theoretical yield respectively.

In this lab, I was working with three other boys, and we were given eight pieces of crackers, five marshmallows, and 12 pieces of chocolate candies. Following the procedure, we had to make four s’mores in which each contains two pieces of crackers, one marshmallow, and three pieces of candies. Hence, we can see that the candies and the crackers are the limiting and the marshmallows are the excess reactant because there is one marshmallow left over after preparing each s’more .

After determining which reactant is excess and which is limiting, we calculated the total weight of one s’more before and after roasting the marshmallow and the chocolate. The before-roasting calculation is going to be our theoretical yield whereas the after-roasting weight is the actual yield. Since we have both the actual and theoretical yield, we can easily find the percent yield by taking actual yield divided by the theoretical yield and multiplied by 100.

For me, I enjoyed not only assembling s’more but also working in a team that is full of boys and weighing and calculating the percent yield. It was my first time to make and eat s’more, and I love it! Can you find the percent yield of your favorite food?



Critical Teen Issues

Before entering adulthood, people have to go through “teen” stage, where rapid physical and emotional growth development occur. As we are a group of young Cambodian teens, our CTI team plans to conduct a workshop in order to facilitate discussion revolving around teen issues. On the very first week of our project, we brainstormed most common critical issues that Cambodian teens encounter. At the end, we came up with four significant teen problems in Cambodia: marriage and parenthood, stereotypes and bias, soft skill, and healthy teen relationships, which is our current topic.

With the changes that happen in teen’s brain, and the pressure from our parent, peers, partner, and society, it is challenging to maintain a healthy relationship with these groups of people. For instance, your parents expect you to have good grades in school and obey them, your partner anticipates you to say “yes” every time they ask you to do something, your friend always want to spend time with you, and the society requires you to look in a certain way in order to be “normal.” These expectations and the emotions that teens experience can adversely affect their relationship with other people.

In October, we have sent our survey, which consists of 26 questions, to Liger students. This survey helps them to reflect on their relationship with others and assists our group to better develop our workshop, which will be held on the 14th of November.  

Click here to view the responses

MUN Trainer

It has always been my dream to share my knowledge and my passion of Model United Nations (MUN) to other students. On August 2018, I was very privileged for the opportunity to bring MUN to the second cohort of the Liger Leadership Academy.

Three of Liger MUN warriors and me had one hour and 30 minutes every week to facilitate the students. First, we planned out the structure of the class. Explaining about the protocols and process and assigning each of them with a country, we organized a mock MUN session, debating the topic of “should smartphones be used in classroom.” Although the topic was not from the UN and not a major problem in the world, the students were able to follow the protocols and the process, yielding a successful debate.

After grasping how MUN worked, the students challenged themselves to take part in an official MUN—hoping to expand their MUN experience— at iCan International School in Phnom Penh. I was responsible to guide four students, who were the delegates of Bangladesh, Iraq, Urganda, and United Kingdom in Junior General Assembly 1 (JGA1).

There were two urgent topics that were being discussed upon in JGA1: eradicating modern forms of slavery and feeding the growing billions. Discussing about slavery with students who were 10-12 years old was very challenging for me due to the sensitivity of the topic. I was quite uncomfortable at first when familiarizing them with the topic; however, after I told them that this discussion will require their maturity and openness, they were able to understand more about the complexity of the topic.

Before those four delegates went to that iCanMUN, they were required to research, write an opening speech, and complete a draft resolution paper. I shared many techniques to research those two topics as well as helped to edit their opening speeches and resolution papers.

Walking with confidence and nervousness as it was their first official MUN, the students were ready to debate and collaborate. I was so honored to be able to watch how their knowledge and experiences unfolded in their committee. I hope that I will be able to share my passion in the future not just with younger people but with everyone else.


Fighting with Nature

As part of our Engineering Strand class, we were assigned to research an engineer so that we can learn more of what they did to get to where they are today.

For this project, I researched about Debbie Sterling because mainly she is a FEMALE engineer. Many people believe that girls should not be an engineer because it is against nature. Additionally, even in college, girls who are majoring in engineering usually are the minorities. Sterling has inspired me in so many ways especially my mindset. Everyone is not born a genius, so to be successful, we need hard work. 


“Even girls who love being a princess should get the chance to build the castle too,” says Debbie Sterling.

For girls out there, have you imagine of having building blocks or construction kit to play with instead of “pink” dolls, makeup and cooking kit? Many young girls do not have the privilege of having “blue” and “black” legos or simple construction components. Toys that they received from their parents or relatives are selected from the “pink aisle.” That is why Debbie Sterling, a Stanford graduate with engineering degree, has one important mission: to disrupt the pink aisle.

Sterling is an entrepreneur, engineer, forefront of movement to encourage girls to involve more with engineering and technology, and founder and CEO of GoldieBlox ‒ a toy company that is breaking the gender stereotypes by providing girls with building blocks to spark their interests in engineering and inspiring them to love STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) more. Basically, the children can read the story of Goldie, female main character, and they can build a long with Goldie as she faces with challenges. By doing this, it will fight against the nature that girls like “pink, dolls, and princesses.”

Before she started this company, she was working as an intern at a branding and design agency at Hornall Anderson. Even though that she loved her job at that time, she was feeling what she is doing is not enough. She wants to create change and give back to the world in a meaningful way. As a result, she quitted her job and tried to find her true passion. At first, she decided to volunteer in rural India. Next, she worked as a marketing director of a “small, woman-owned jewelry company,” where she gets the opportunity to learn how to run a business. Finally, she found her passion because one of her friends mentioned that there is a lack of women in engineering field. That is where it all started. She gave herself one year to finish the development of GoldieBlox. Because of her determination, there are now more than one million of toys being purchased in more than 6,000 stores across the globe.

Despite all of her amazing accomplishments, her perseverance and hard work should not be neglected. Bearing in mind that only 14% of engineers and architects are female, so for her to enrol in this class in Stanford is very challenging. Being the minority, she felt that she did not fit in: the boys excelled at the assignments and her male teacher were making fun of her because she can not draw in 3 dimensions. At one point, she was on the verge of quitting until her friend encouraged her to not give up. They usually go to library to study and when she saw that the boys were there too, she “realized that it’s not about being a born genius, it’s about how hard you work.” On the other hand, when she were proposing her idea of GoldieBlox to the toy companies, they keep rejecting and say that it will never sell, it will never be successful, and especially that she can not “fight nature.” Regardless of people’s opinion, she still keep fighting for what she truly believes.

Growing up, Debbie has one important role model that she always look up to ‒ her grandmother. Her grandmother also eradicated the stereotypes that woman can not be in the Senior role, that women can not be involved in male-dominated field. She was “one of the first female art director in 1950’s,” and she is also “one of the first female cartoonists at Disney.” Because of what Sterling’s grandmother did, it was one of the reasons that motivated Sterling to reach her dream.

There are three main principles that helped Sterling be successful in this contemporary patriarchy world: risk taking, grit, and passionate. First of all,  her idea is a new concept, and it takes a great amount to risk to develop it because no one has done it before. However, she did not allow that to bar her from helping other girls. As our world continues to develop, it is essential that we experiment new things in order to create positive impact for the world. Secondly, she was being looked down because of her inability to draw in 3 dimensions, but she managed to survive it by working harder. Additionally, there were so many people that keep telling her that her idea is not going to work. Parents will not change their habit of shopping from the “pink aisle.” Nevertheless, she still determined to pursue her dream and at the end, everything works out finely. Finally, passionate, she spend her early twenties searching for her passion: from volunteering in India to working in a jewelry company. Based on her interview with Forbes, she said that find a business idea that you “truly passionate about.” It needs to be something that you are persistent in pursuing it. If you start to question your idea, “you won’t have the inner fire and conviction you will need to overcome the inevitable rough patches and rejections you will face.”


Works Cited

“Debbie Sterling.” EngineerGirl,

“Get to Know Debbie Sterling’s Grandmother.” GoldieBlox, 16 Apr. 2018,

Mason, Heather. “Meet Smart Girl Debbie Sterling, Founder and CEO of GoldieBlox.” Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, 29 June 2017,

TEDxTalks. “Inspiring the next Generation of Female Engineers | Debbie Sterling | TEDxPSU.” YouTube, YouTube, 19 Apr. 2013,

“Women in Architecture and Engineering Occupations in 2016.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 10 Mar. 2017,

Aquaponic: 100% Organic Farming

As our Earth’s climate is getting warmer, drought has become the worst nightmare for Cambodians, especially farmers. That is why we decided to introduce a family-size aquaponic system to the the rural community in Cambodia. 

However, to achieve this goal, we have to develop our own prototypes first. So, for the first couple of weeks of this project, we have been researching of what is an aquaponic and exiting models. In addition, we contacted multiple aquaponic owners so that we can visit their farm to learn more about it and figure out what need to be change for our system.

Since we are at the beginning stage and have a lot of things to complete, we have divided our group into six roles: project manager, reflector, explorer, reporter, networker and communicator, and finance person. I am a reflector, and basically I am a mediator that make a group comes to an agreement. It is also essential that I am not biased toward any idea whether it is mine or not. Furthermore, I need to ensure that every member get similar amount of work and to talk with the team about their feeling toward their work. I plan to send out a survey every school term to know how they feel about the group as a whole and each teammate.


MekongCup 2018 Organizer

MekongCup is an international non-profit Frisbee tournament, which will be held from the 20th to the 21st of October at the Navy Field in Cambodia. Currently, the teams that are going to participate are from Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, and Cambodia.

Frisbee is a  new sport in Cambodia that many people are not aware of it.  In this event, there will be three Khmer teams including Liger. 

To ensure that this event will be happened on those selected days, Bee Force, Cambodia women ultimate’s team, decided to collaborate with five students from the Liger Leadership Academy to organize this competition.

There are multi-faceted roles in this project such as create a logo, Facebook page, and game schedule, collect music, finding sponsorship, contact ice company, find transpiration to take the players to the field, and research tents owner. For me, I have already find nurses for the two days of the event, and I am in the process of figuring out first-aid essentials that we need to buy. Additionally, I have contacted a clinic and a restaurant, ElevenOne Kitchen, that can cater our tournament. Right now, I am just dealing with small details with them like they should bring their own tables, dishes, utensils, and there is no kitchen at the field. Moreover, I and another student are working on developing an “info pack” for the players. Also, my most important job at the moment is dealing with finances and filling out the price for all variable and fixed costs. 

One of the main challenges that we need to overcome as a group is communication among our Liger and Bee Force team.  We usually distribute our information through e-mails, and sometimes it is quite inefficient because it can be unclear and the process of writing e-mails back and forth can be long. Despite this issue, I hope that all our tasks will be done before the event, and it is going to be exciting days!

Publishing a Poetry Book

One of the biggest projects that we did in Khmer class this year is creating a poetry book, which consists of our first Liger cohort writings. Each student contributed at least one poem that either related to education, parents, food, scenery, or love.

In addition to students’ writing, we included different types of Khmer poems and steps to create them. Most students did a lot of research and learning from existing Khmer poems, except book organizers and designers.

In this project, I was both an author and a designer. I contributed one of my poems and drew the feather that is on the front cover. Additionally, I also created the back cover and designed one section of the book, which centered around love, by using Adobe Indesign. After I finished putting students’ poems into the program, I had to do a lot of editing and asking the owner to confirm my changes to their poem.

A few weeks a go, after we completed designing this book, there were a couple of students showcased the printed version of this book at Khmer Literature Festival in Battambang province.

We are now at the stage of finding fund to print this book because we would like to share our love for literature to other students across Cambodia. Since we have a poor reading culture, we believe that this book will come in handy in nurturing the growth of literacy in Cambodia.

Example of one section of the book: កំណាព្យមនោសញ្ចេតនា

Flame Test Lab

Everything on Earth is made of atoms, and all atoms have electrons, which is a negatively charged particles that move around a nucleus, consists of protons and neutrons.

To further our understand of electrons, we did a cool Flame Test Lab to study how electrons respond to flame, which we can measure their reactions through the use of color. Basically, we put a tiny amount of chemical, Barium Chloride, Calcium Chloride, Copper (II) Chloride, Lithium Chloride, Potassium Chloride, and Strontium Chloride, on a Popsicle stick and bring it to the flame. When heating, the electrons are able to move from the ground state to excited or high-state energy. As they return to their ground state, they will release the energy as photons of light; therefore, the wavelength of the light will produce colors of light.  

There were two challenges that my team noticed when doing this experiment: distinguishing a certain color from another and removing the dropping compound. For instance, it was arduous to identify if the color of the flame is actually green or yellow or green or blue because they are very similar. Additionally, when the students burnt the compound, some of it fell down and stayed at the base of the flame, which can influence the actual color of the next compound.

Personally, I believe that this lab is very beneficial to our understanding of electrons’ behavior when they are being heated. If we just learn this concept from our teacher and did not do the experiment, I think that I would not understand that much of it.