Sophalkalyan Aims for New York Times Career

Jay Sophalkalyan is studying for a master’s degree at New York University. Photo: Sem Vanna

PHNOM PENH – Jay Sophalkalyan is studying for a master’s degree at New York University, and he wants to work as a journalist for the New York Times.

Over 50,000 students come from nearly every U.S. state and 133 countries to study at New York University (NYU), including Korea, China, Japan, and Cambodia.

Jay Sophalkalyan is one of them. 

He said that he wants to work as a journalist because he loves to express ideas. When he was in Cambodia, he felt that the press was biased. He thinks that the U.S. has greater freedom of speech.

Sophalkalyan is a scholarship student with a journalism and political theory major at New York University (NYU). It took him five months of research to find and be accepted into this scholarship.

“I tried to find a scholarship on NYU’s website, and I spent two or three months gathering information,” he said during an interview in New York.

He said the NYU website has a list of nearly 200 links that point readers to outside organizations that provide financial aid or scholarships. Sophal tried to read as much information on the websites as possible to find the one that suited him best.

“I am a person from an Asian country, so I applied for a scholarship for someone from Asia because it is suitable for me,” he said.

NYU is the 24th-best university in the world, with 42 percent international students.

He applied for four scholarships to supplement his budget for his studies at New York University. 

“I applied for about three applications because the scholarship the NYU provided was a partial scholarship, not a full scholarship,” he said.

Sophalkalyan was born and raised in Cambodia. He did his undergraduate studies at Springfield College, where he majored in English with a double major in creative writing and social justice. He came to the United States at the age of 19 for college. 

When he first came to the US, he lived in a small town named Springfield, Massachusetts. While he was staying there, he said it was hard for him to find Khmer food. It was only when he moved to New York that he could more easily find all kinds of Asian restaurants.

“When I moved to New York, there were more Asian restaurants, but there weren't many Khmer restaurants,” he said, while pointing out that the cost of living in the U.S. is a lot higher than in Cambodia. 

Sophalkalyan has worked as an editor-in-chief for a magazine, a writer for a newspaper, and a creative writing teacher at a high school.

His poems have been published on a few platforms, including a literary magazine called the Alden Street Review. In 2020, he was chosen to present his critical essay titled (The Falsity of the American Dream in A Raisin in the Sun) at Sigma Tau Delta’s annual international convention.

When he graduates, Sophakallyan said he wants to work for the New York Times since he doesn’t want to work in another state or come to work in Cambodia. 

“New York state has many opportunities for me to find a job, and I don’t see myself returning to Cambodia. Especially because I don’t specialize in the Cambodian context,” he said.

Sophalkalyan explains that if Cambodians want to apply for scholarships at international universities, they have to spend time researching and obtaining information about the university in question. Spending one hour a day doing research is enough to find good information, he said.


Originally written in Khmer for ThmeyThmey, this article was translated by Nhor Sokhoeurn for Cambodianess.

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