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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Young Woman from Cambodia Redefines 'Home'

In this personal narrative, Ms.Linda Tha, a young woman from Cambodia, shares with you her experience of living in three different continents: Asia, Europe and now North America.

Linda Tha in her hometown (Photo: Tha)
Home Sweet Home. A lot of people would say, “Wow, your life is very interesting! You have traveled a lot and you are still very young.” To many, my experiences might sound cool. Personally, I feel proud of my accomplishments.


However, there are times, I just cannot lie to myself. Regardless of the numerous great places I have been and visited, home will always be the best. There is no such place on earth that can replace Kravanh, my home.

Kravanh is a small town, which is located in Pursat Province, Cambodia. This town is known as a rural area for the people who are from the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh.

For us, the local people, Kravanh is a very beautiful mountainous area, full of nature and rice fields. Both my parents are not originally from there. After their marriage, they moved back since at the time, the place was good for business.

All my siblings and I were born and raised in Kravanh. In 2008, my older sister and I moved to Phnom Penh to further our education. I lived there for two years. Then, I got the scholarship to study in United World College Maastricht, the Netherlands. During my two years in Maastricht, I went to France, Germany, Belgium, and Hungary. In May 2012, I got another scholarship from Westminster College, an American college located in Missouri where I am working on my Bachelor's degree.

Ready for Fun and Freedom. In 2008, my older sister graduated from high school. Since there was not any college or university in town, she moved to the capital city. For years, I had secretly waited for that time to come. I always felt that the education that I got from the school in town was not enough, especially in English. At first, I was excited to live without my parents in the capital city. I went to a good state school, then a very good but expensive English private school. My sister and I had a lot of fun exploring the city at first. After a while, we started to face some problems.

Linda Tha playing Kong Vong at Pichnel, Kampot, Cambodia
We became very homesick but I was the most affected. I did not do very well in school for few reasons. One reason was that I did not feel that I belong to the school. The school was big so not everyone knew everyone else. I was not used to that kind of environment. Another reason was due to my weak time management skills. I found it very hard to manage my time and to be responsible of both my school and my social life. I really wanted to go back home.

One night, I remember how much I cried, thinking about how bad I did at school. My sister and some of my neighbors tried to console me. They said everything was not as bad as it seemed, and I get used to the new environment soon. They believed in me and knew I will be a successful student. I refused to listen to everything they said. I called my parents begging them to go back home. Since none of them agreed with my idea of going back home, so I stayed. After half a year, I adjusted to my new life and felt better in the city, yet I still did not do well in school. I lost my ambition and in the mix, myself. However, the idea of getting a scholarship to study abroad popped into my head led me to work hard.

New Life, New Me In 2010, I met an old friend from my hometown, who got scholarship to study in United World College in Italy. She came to my house and told me all about her amazing experience there. Excited about the opportunity, my family encouraged me to apply for it. I was not very enthusiastic about the idea since I was already hopeless about everything. In February of the same year, free application forms came out. My grandmother had to force me to leave the house in order to get the form. I finally filled the form and applied for it. I got into the shortlist and went for the first round exam. I was very surprised when the result came and I passed. I became so happy and very determined to pass the second and third round. Unexpectedly, I passed through all the selection process and got full scholarship to study in the Netherlands.

1st September 2010. I arrived in Schipol Airport, Netherlands. I saw it as a fresh and exciting beginning of my new life. I was so determined to have a great and happy two years over there. However, it was sad that things did not go the way I wanted. There were so many difficulties. Culture shock was the biggest issue for me. I could not really adapt to the Dutch culture. As a result, I could not develop friendships at school and know people in my community. Once again, I was ready to return home. However, I could not just leave and go home since the scholarship meant so much to me. I finally graduated from that school in 2012. I had learnt so much for these two years in the Netherlands. No matter what, the idea of going home was always in my head and I somehow build my own imaginary home.

Home, Actually. Last summer, I visited Cambodia. I enjoyed every moment. Every day was amazing. The weather, the food and the people were just great. I could not imagine another place better than home. Although, I found out that the location of home, for me, seems to change. Home was first Cambodia.

"I always look back  to honor  my past"~Ms.Linda Tha said
Over time, I felt as the Netherlands became my second home, since I start comparing Cambodia to the Netherlands. Now, I am the United States of America. This may just the human nature that we somehow belong to the place where we live, although we do not even think about it. At any rate, I will always consider Cambodia, precisely Kravanh, as my home. This is the only place where I took almost everything for granted. Now I realize that all those things made me different from others and transformed me into the young woman I am now. 


After the summer, I left Cambodia again and came to Missouri (U.S.A.) to continue my study for a Bachelor Degree. Here, I get adjusted to the new environment easier and quicker compared to two years ago when I got to the Netherlands. However, I am never able to say that I am used to living abroad and homesickness never leaves me. My plan is to finish all the studies and to return in my golden homeland.

This story was originally written by Linda Tha
Linda Tha is a young woman from Cambodia who is currently studying at Westminster College, an American liberal arts college located in Missouri. She previously attended the United World College (UWC) of the Netherlands, giving her the opportunity to visit several European countries. Her goal is to finish her studies and to return in her homeland.