By Ing Sopheap
My lecturer Tem Oudom notices a lot of students are coming to school every day with stress and pressure. He keeps reminding us, the students, to study what we truly love and not to study out of fear. Fear of not getting good grades, or fear of failures. He said when we love what we do, we’ll be able to enjoy and focus on the process. Eventually the good outcome would follow later.
He told us that he was not passionate about studying back in high school. However, after he found his passion, he has been striving for it and got a scholarship to study in the United Kingdom. So, let’s see how the pursuit of his passion brought him to where he is today.
Can you briefly introduce yourself to the readers?
My name’s Tem Oudom. I received a bachelor degree in International Studies from the Institute of Foreign Languages (IFL) and a master degree in International Relations from the University of Nottingham. I have been a lecturer at IFL for a few years. Currently, I am an economist for the Ministry of Economy and Finance.
When and how did you find your passion? In what ways has finding your passion impacted your life?
After I graduated from high school, I didn’t know about IFL, but I wanted to study at the Department of International Studies (DIS). At that time, I read a book about the Vietnam War and started to understand that I was kind of passionate about politics. But when I took an entrance exam at IFL, I failed and became very embarrassed because all of my friends passed. However, the embarrassment became a motivation for me to work harder and harder.
Instead of waiting to study here, I applied to study at the Royal University of Law and Economics. I was there for one or two years and took the Bridging Course at IFL as well. So, I managed to pass the next entrance exam. After entering the university, I was so passionate about politics, and read a lot about it. I also learned to think critically and apply concepts in many case studies. As a result, I didn’t struggle as much as my classmates to understand the concepts.
What is it like to study and work in a job that you are passionate about?
Well, when you’re passionate about something, you have a goal. Although things might get tough, you just still go for it and don’t care much about the challenges. On top of that, I used to think that passion doesn’t change, but actually it does over the course of time.
When I did my bachelor’s degree, I was really passionate about politics and International Relations. Then, my passion changed when I did my master’s degree. I’m not as passionate about politics as I used to be. I switched to development-related courses such as Human Security, Democratic Development, Political Economy and others. I never thought I would like economics, but eventually I became an economist. My interest in development increased constantly. I guess passion changes with time and experience, be it academic or professional.
So, you mentioned your are studying at the University of Nottingham. How did you get the scholarship to study in the United Kingdom? How did you prepare yourself to apply for the scholarship?
I would say the scholarship was quite unexpected. I went to New Zealand for an exchange study when I was in my third year. When I finished my bachelor’s degree, I wanted to do a master’s degree there. So, I applied for a New Zealand scholarship. I was very serious about it and prepared my application for two or three months. However, I didn’t even make it to the shortlist. I was so disappointed.
Later, I applied for a scholarship in the UK. But I was not so serious about it. I took only two or three days to complete the scholarship application. Surprisingly, I got the scholarship. Firstly, I thought it was because of luck. Sometimes, you may not be chosen if you apply for the scholarship that doesn’t prioritize your field. Secondly, academic merit is very important because it illustrates your competence. Thirdly, it’s about profession. You have to make sure that what you want to study is relevant to your current career. Finally, it varies from person to person how you try to convince the scholarship committee. You should be realistic about how you can contribute to your country after coming back.
Do you have any future plans?
My plan for the next few years is earning more practical experiences. I want to be a apply my knowledge, that’s why I became an economist. It’s because I want to learn from policy makers, and I want to engage in the policy-making process in Cambodia. I’m not sure whether in the next few years my passion will change again.
If I were to continue my PhD, it would be about human security of unskilled labor. Many Cambodians are doing unskilled labor, so I want to address their challenges, the threats to their economic and health security. My targets are farmers and workers in the service sectors since they earn little and struggle a lot. I would pursue my PhD in the countries that promote human security, probably the U.S. or Canada.
This interview truly I inspired me to explore my passions regardless of any obstacles. I should believe in myself and forgive myself when I fail. I hope to figure out my real passion and work hard for it too.
Views expressed here are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of UNICEF.