US Scholarship Winner Spells Out Success Formula

Mealea, 17, graduated from Liger Leadership Academy Foundation in 2023. Recently, she won a fully funded scholarship to study political science at Northwestern University in the United States. Photo: Moeurn Makthong

PHNOM PENH – Regardless of gender, female and male students are equal when it comes to choosing a major in university, high school graduate Mang Ratanak Mealea says. 

Mealea, 17, graduated from Liger Leadership Academy Foundation in 2023.  Recently, she won a fully funded scholarship to study political science at Northwestern University in the United States. 

“I remember my tears falling when I knew I had been selected but I was pretty sure that it was tears of joy as studying in the US has been one of my biggest dreams since I was young,” she said. 

While studying at Liger, Mealea challenged herself in competitions, including debates and public speaking. 

She was also interested in joining Model United Nations simulation, an academic simulation where students take on the role as the representative of their country to solve real-world issues.

From her experiences, she was able to find the passion to pursue this major. 

“Political science will enable me to deepen my understanding of not only my country but also other countries around the globe,” she said.

“Studying this major, I can join hands with other nationalities to find a common ground once the issue arises which could benefit everyone involved. 

“Gender does not restrict us to study what we want. As long as we are capable enough, we will be able to achieve it. 

“I believe women have a voice to speak up on the international stage, so I intend to see women utilizing their voice to the extent feasible when they represent their countries,” she said. 

Mealea sees studying in the US in the near future as her exchange program with diverse groups of students from all over the world. She intends to teach them some Khmer words and learn their culture. 

Being able to study in the US, Mealea can immerse herself in its rich culture.

Mealea said that after graduating with the bachelor's degree, she intends to involve herself in diplomatic work or become an ambassador to represent her country. 

“I believe in myself in representing my country, and I will put all my efforts to let other countries recognize our country,” 

Mealea has been independent since she was 10 years old as Liger requires every student to stay at the dormitory, away from family. 

Thanks to Liger, Mealea said she did not fear studying abroad alone. 

She gave tips in applying for scholarships in the US. Maintaining a good GPA in  Cambodian schools can be a significant factor. Students should have a sense of responsibility as no one is going to tell them constantly what to do. 

Mealea said taking part in extracurricular activities will also give more credits to a curriculum vitae. During high schools, students should find time for civic engagement in their community so that schools in the US can prioritize applications. 

Language is also crucial in applying for scholarships abroad, Mealea said if students go to countries that use English for communication, they should improve their English skills from a young age. It will be essential to take the IELTS test for English language proficiency. 

Mealea said she got no pressure from her parents when deciding on a major or career path. 

“I believe success will be around the corner if we are brave enough to pursue our dreams and have self-confidence. 

“No one understands us better than ourselves so do not let others influence our decisions.” 


Originally written in Khmer for ThmeyThmey, this story was translated by Rin Ousa for Cambodianess.

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