A reflection on an academic anniversary​



Today is my two-year graduation anniversary. To celebrate this particular day, I thought I might as well share a few thoughts on my journey and thank some people who helped me get through it. My intention is not to go into much detail about how I got a PhD, what made me decide to pursue it, nor my experience, my activities, those struggles, and my perseverance to get this thing done. For all that, I may need to write a whole book.

Attending a PhD program has been one of my long-term goals, and that became a reality when I obtained a scholarship to do just that from the University of British Columbia (Vancouver, Canada) in 2010.

After some ups and many downs emotionally, physically, and mentally during the last five years or so, my academic journey came to a smooth end. I obtained a PhD and thus fulfilled my long cherished dream of earning one. I felt so relieved, so satisfied, so complete, such great gratification … feeling like all those things an athlete feels when they score a game-winning goal. I felt like a champion who just came out of an extremely tough match now that I reached my goal!


Now, I can hang it on the wall. I can keep it in its original folder that was handed to me on that stage during the graduation ceremony this very day two years back. I can put that word “Dr.” or PhD title before or after my name without feeling any embarrassment like I used to pretend to many times before (lol). Or I can just … do whatever I find fit with it. I’ll go ahead say I am so proud of myself! That I could do it!


But as you might have guessed, I couldn’t have done it without the continued and unwavering support and encouragement of many people. I already thanked them in many occasions-relevant or otherwise, in my desertion, in my defence, and every time my interactions with other people involve education, my academic journey.

Here again, I would like to express my most profound gratitude to all of them. Professor Lesley Andres, Professor Kjell Rubenson, and Professor Hans Pechar have provided me with all necessary support to complete my degree. They have been very understanding and supportive of my education as well as my personal life. They also made my journey so much easier for me to adapt, build self-confidence, and to be successful during my graduate program. To the three of them, thank you!

To the 18 interviewees who volunteered to participate in my research, thank you so much. I appreciate your interest and your sharing of time, viewpoints, and insights about Cambodian higher education. My thanks also go to The University of British Columbia for providing me with a Four-Year Fellowship and a four year Special Graduate Scholarship.

Last, but not least, thank you so much, my dearest wife, Theary, and my loving boys, David and Ethan! Sincerely, the completion of my study would not have been possible without the many years of your untiring patience, love, encouragement, understanding, support and sacrifices. I thank you for all that! You all are awesome!

And yes, thank you too for still being with me so far.

So overall, I was quite satisfied with my time at UBC. The program helps to improve my confidence, self-discipline, and ability to read and think critically and to synthesize information. But do I have things I wish I could have done differently? You bet. I should have invested more time and effort in networking, presenting or publishing. I should have started this blog back then (smile). I should have started building a much stronger profile from day one. My networking certainly helped me to cope well with stress, frustration, and difficulty during those years. But I should have networked a bit more with people out of my institution.

Well, I wish I could share with you here some memorable, some funny, and some embarrassing moments I encountered during all those years. For those of you who consider graduate school, I wish I could go all in about the application process, how to apply for a scholarship, how I did it, and what I focused on. I also wanted to touch on other issues such as family involvement, books I read to prepare, and mistakes I made which I would try to avoid at all cost if I could do it all over again. Perhaps I could tell you all that another time. I’ve got to end here; it’s already a bit too long for an intended short reflection.

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