From an Awkward Introvert to a Chevening Scholar

By Chheng Sotharath

©Songsouzana Ping

The topic for this week’s blog post is “Inspire! Profile”. The very first person that comes up to my mind is the beautiful, introverted Chevening Scholar, Ms. Ping Songsouzana.

Currently, Ms. Ping Songsouzana is a lecturer at Department of English at the Institute of Foreign Languages (IFL), which is affiliated with the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP). In addition to her career and academic work, she can also sing and play the guitar.

Even though Souzana doesn’t talk much, she’s a very easy-going, helpful and approachable person. She’s not just a teacher, but also a sister and a friend to her students. Today, Souzana will talk a little bit about her academic life and how she became of one of Chevening Scholars in 2015–2016 academic year.

As a former student at IFL and a current lecturer here, can you please describe briefly how your four-year academic journey here was like?

It was the most fun and productive time of my life. I never really understood what it’s like to have fun learning, as I didn’t enjoy my high school life very much. However, it was during those four years at IFL that I came to realize who I really am, what I am passionate about, and where I want to go in the future. I had fun figuring myself out. Frankly speaking, I have never ever received any outstanding awards during my academic life there, which upsets me from time to time because I feel like I could have done better, or tried harder, but despite that, I’m still satisfied with the fact that I’ve become a better individual now.

In addition to your in-class activities, did you also experience other extra-activities such volunteering or internships?

Besides in-class activities, I also volunteered in the Organizing Committee at IFL for two years, and I also volunteered in AIESEC IFL for almost three years.

You just came back from pursuing your Master’s Degree in the United Kingdom, which is very inspirational for me. Can you please briefly describe how you managed to earn the Chevening scholarship for your Master’s Degree?

Winning Chevening Scholarship truly opens my eyes to a lot of things. I did apply for this scholarship twice. I didn’t make it the first time, but I’m thankful for that experience. It was that failure that taught me how to be a well-prepared candidate for any program I’d like to apply for. I believe that I won the scholarship the second time I applied because of the better preparation I had. I invested my time and effort to learn more information about the scholarship itself, ranging from its objective, vision to the process of applying; I attended the information session so that I could ask about what I was unsure of; I sought advice from my lecturers and the Chevening alumni; I planned and drafted my application many times, but of course, to be able to do those things, I had to start working on my applications early and manage my time well.

Now, to conclude this interview, let us talk a little bit about your Chevening journey. What major did you take back then for your Master’s program? Did you have any challenges? And how did you overcome those challenges?

I took MA in English Language Teaching (with a specialization in English for specific purposes). It was really daunting at first because I was in a strange land, trying to study to get my degree successfully whilst coping with homesickness and all. Everything was fast-paced; my classmates seemed to know more things than I did; hence, they were able to catch up with the lessons really fast. I knew there and then that I couldn’t just study the way I used to. I knew I had to try a lot harder, so whenever I had problems, I communicated with people around me. I had meetings with my professors, discussed the problems with my classmates, read and read and read until I could catch up with the class. My professors and my classmates were always willing to help, and for that, I am really grateful. So, I guess my advice to you from this is that never keep your problems to yourself. When you know you need help, ask for it; don’t do NOTHING!

Views expressed here are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of UNICEF.

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