Students Overcome Hurdles to Study in Russia

Prom Thary and Mom Mit attended a party with other Cambodian students who are the members of the Association of Cambodian Students in the Russian Federation. Photo: provided


PHNOM PENH – Two Cambodian students have seized the opportunity to study in Russia and made the most of their experiences despite being discouraged in the first few months.

Prom Thary, a recent master’s degree graduate in political science from Saint Petersburg State University, said he had no motivation to keep going when he first embarked on the journey.

Originally from Banteay Meanchey province’s Malai district, he received a scholarship from the university in 2021 and graduated in 2023.

As most PhD programs in Russia are taught in Russian, Thary is now studying a foundation year in the language before pursuing his doctorate in history and theory of politics at People’s Friendship University of Russia in Moscow.

Thary said he is competent at social science courses and he enjoys learning about history and politics. In addition to his proficiency in those subjects, he is also a civil servant at the Ministry of Interior. He thinks this PhD program will benefit him in the future.

Thary recalled when he first studied his MA virtually from his home town due to the outbreak of COVID-19 and issues booking flights.

“I already graduated from one bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in Cambodia yet I did not find them as challenging as studying for an MA in Russia. I remembered I emailed my head of department to drop out twice,” Thary said.

“Classes in Russia require every student to actively participate in the lecture and seminar although those were online classes. After class, I had to do so much research and assignments for many courses in one semester.

“In addition to a load of assignments, I could not quite understand the professors’ accents. Growing up in the rural area, my English proficiency was still moderate, thus I found it difficult understanding and communicating in the classroom.”

Thary said everything went smoothly after one semester. He could see himself trying harder and taking part enthusiastically in the classroom. Most notably, he said he always put his efforts into research for every assignment.

Although they have quite a compact schedule to deal with a load of assignments, they still find time with their friends to explore the city. Photo: provided

Mom Mit, another scholarship student who is now pursuing MA in management and international business at Financial University in Moscow said he found it hard at first to understand everyone’s accent as his classmates came from different countries and experienced the different educational systems from his own country.

Born in Takeo province’s Samraong district, Mom Mit was granted a fully funded scholarship from the university in 2022.

Mit said the class encourages students to be actively involved in seminars in addition to lectures.

“As the only Cambodian student in the class, I was struggling to communicate with lecturers and classmates. After a few months, I got used to their accents and I enjoyed working in a team when it came to group discussions and presentations,” Mit said.

“Although I have been studying in Moscow for almost two years, the Russian language is still a barrier. I can speak only basic words. Google Translate makes my life easier when it comes to grocery shopping or buying medicines.

“Lecturers here also encourage students to publish their own articles and I could see myself enjoying researching and exploring more opportunities when it comes to researching or writing the articles,” Mit said.

Mit said he always takes part in any conference that is beneficial to his study during his spare time. He no longer views studying abroad a challenge yet a road to success.

Study Independently Yet Not in Isolation

Amid every difficulty, Thary and Mit said the Association of Cambodian Students in the Russian Federation never left Cambodian students there behind.

Recalling applying for the PhD scholarship, Thary said he could find many opportunities on the association’s Facebook page.

“The association has assisted me since I started submitting my application form. If any challenges arise amidst my studying, the association is always one of my best consultants,” Thary said.

“For my PhD, I submitted all the required documents to the association online. My PhD is funded by the Russian government and gets some support from our Cambodian Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport.

“After I was shortlisted, I was called for an interview by the Association of Cambodian Students in the Russian Federation and Russian Center of Science and Culture in Phnom Penh.

Mit said he also found his scholarship via the association page.

“I remembered I only submitted one motivation letter and other required documents to my university. It was my very first attempt,” Mit said.

“As it was my first time studying abroad, I received warm hospitality from the association. They have facilitated everything for us ranging from airport pick up until we could find our accommodation.

“Talking about some required documents including visa, insurance form, etc, the association is happy to help every Cambodian student,” Mit said.

He said although students study independently in different universities, every student is still connected when it comes to big Khmer festivals. So far, the association with the Embassy of Cambodia in Moscow has conducted many cultural events which students could enjoy.

The Choice Depends on Preferences

Thary (left) and Mit (right) attended a party with other Cambodian students who are the members of the Association of Cambodian Students in the Russian Federation. Photo: provided

Mit said no matter which country students pursue their degree in, they can still seize the opportunity of studying there if they put utmost effort into it.

“After immersing myself in the city’s educational system, I have built my interest in research and I will explore job opportunities related to research at non-governmental organizations or think tanks in Cambodia when I graduate here,” Mit said.

“Besides the good education system, the community where I am living is so safe even walking at night and there are many means of transport available in Moscow.

“As the scholarship quota for Cambodian students has increased from 25 in 2023 to 40 in 2024, I encourage those who wish to study in Russia to take the plunge and apply,” Mit said.

Thary said although he has quite a compact schedule to deal with a load of assignments, he still finds time to explore Saint Petersburg and Moscow and especially neighboring Finland. 

He said he is satisfied with the education system in Russia as he can improve himself while managing a good study-life balance.




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