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Pa Séridang, Pursat, UWC Mahindra College, 2013-2015


Pa Sèridang (in levender colored tie), UWC Mahindra College 2014 - 2016,
Middlebury College , 2016 - 2020

On August 23rd, 2013, I left home for the first time to study at the Mahindra United World College of India (MUWCI). I can still remember that day vividly. I had never been on an airplane or alone in another country so traveling to India all by myself was a huge deal for me. On the escalator in the airport where we separated, I knew I would not be able to hold back my tears while waving to my family but I did not want my family to worry so I just faked a smile and turned away quickly. As I continued to the security check, it really hit me that I would not see my family or anyone I know for a really long time, and that I would not be able to rely on my family to be there for me in difficult times anymore.

In my first term, academics were a huge challenge. It was my first time studying Economics and Chemistry and it was also my first time studying in English so I did not understand half of what my teachers talked about in class. I thought I was going to fail the courses. Nonetheless, I kept asking questions in class and outside of class in broken English and kept reading the textbooks before and after class. As time went by, my English and my understanding of the subjects got stronger and now I am acing my classes. I learned that I could do without my family in tough times even when it was overwhelming sometimes.

I learned to not be afraid to step out of my comfort zone and I realized that I learn the most when that happens. Last winter break, I went trekking for the first time on the Annapurna circuit in Nepal with a group of friends and teachers. The trek was both physical and mentally challenging for me because I never walked such long distances with a backpack or slept outside in sub-zero weather. At the time, I said never again but after a few months, I was looking forward to another trek because I learned how to take care of myself in such conditions and I was much more mentally prepared and there are also many rewards on the trek such as the intimate friendship bonds, the mesmerizing landscapes, and the beautiful simple mountain life. Had I not come to MUWCI, I would not have ever gone hiking at all because I would have been still a mom's boy and I would not have been brave enough to step out my comfort zone.

MUWCI is full of people that I can learn so much from. Back home, homosexuality is regarded as abnormalities. One of my roommates was gay and he told me homosexuality was not a choice. Through spending time together, I realized the truth in his perspective despite our difference, and now he is one of my best friends. I learned from my Economics teacher why the drought in Ethiopia increased child marriages dramatically. It is because if your daughter is married, you have one less mouth to feed. This gender-biased problem goes beyond "culture" to risk management by the poor in response to shocks. I would not have learn any of these in Cambodia.

There is no doubt that coming to MUWCI marked my transition from childhood to adulthood. My advisor can still remember the first night I arrived in India. My flight arrived two hours late because of the weather so I could not contact my parents. Because my parents do not speak English, they made my little brother, who knew a little English, call my advisor 20 times until 4 am. Back then, I did not even know how to book a flight ticket and now I am planning my own trekking trip to north India with my friends.