Because opportunities matter.
Life before college wasn't easy. When I was 10 years old, my family emigrated from Cambodia to the U.S., leaving behind the familiarity of our home, our language, and our culture, so my brother and I could have a shot at a better education. In the years that followed, we sometimes struggled in our new surroundings. My mother took a job as a hotel housekeeper, and I enrolled in English language classes. As my English progressed, I began taking honors courses, eventually graduating from high school at the top of my class. I was already determined to make something of myself.
We lived comfortably in Cambodia, but money quickly became a concern here, and no more so than when my thoughts turned to college. I knew my parents couldn't afford tuition, so I spent my senior year applying for scholarships, filling out nearly 30 applications in the process. Fortunately, I was awarded the prestigious Baird Foundation Scholarship through the UA Honors College. Coupled with the Wildcat Excellence Award and several other smaller scholarships, the choice was clear— I'd become a Wildcat.
Now in my junior year, I'm working on an interdisciplinary major that combines philosophy, politics, economics and law, with thematic minors in psychology and Southeast Asian Studies. This summer, as part of a study abroad program, I hope to return to Cambodia to immerse myself in its language and culture. In the fall, I intend to enroll in the National Student Exchange Program and complete my studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, with the eventual goal of pursuing a doctorate in Southeast Asian Studies so I can better advocate for Cambodians.
I'm thankful for the generous people who continue to invest in motivated UA students like myself. My hope is that one day I can give back to the Foundation what it has given to me.
This essay was originally featured in the UA Foundation's 2011 Annual and Endowment Report.
The University of Arizona Foundation is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to advancing the University of Arizona. Managing an existing asset base of more than $600 million, the UA Foundation has helped generate more than $2 billion in private funding to support the University.