How I change Cambodia 2018-2019

My academic year has been wrapped around the quote, “if you want to change the world, start with yourself,” by a well-known hero, Mahatma Gandhi. A few weeks into the academic calendar, I found myself losing interest in (fictional) novels; I no longer enjoy reading fantasy or adventure books. I picked up books like, “Unmade in China” by Jeremy R. Haft, “Insight Out: Get Ideas Out of Your Head and Into the World” by Tina Seelig, and “Winning the Brain Game: Fixing the 7 Fatal Flaws of Thinking” by Matthew E. May; at that moment I knew I was going through a dramatic change.

“Don’t cry honey, mommy will hit the earth for you,” Mother said when I tripped while learning to walk. Years later, I, age seven, said the exact same phase to my younger sister, replacing mommy with big sister. Unaware back then, I subconsciously learned to point finger at a scapegoat for my shortcoming or failure and even taught it to my sister.

I did not notice this growing up until now. I started reaching deep within myself. I contemplate and see flaws in little things. It’s like I’m in a whole new world. Rather than looking at only the big pictures, I also focus on the small details because that is where changes start. I thought about many problems that I see in my country: gender equity; lack of health knowledge (both physical and metal); Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing (IUU); excessive use of packaging especially plastic packaging; and a lack of career and college counseling for students in public schools.

I knew that I can’t work to change all the areas I’ve identified at once, so I decided to work on a few that I felt most passionately about. I initiated a project called Chatting Through. I see that many students in public schools have a hard time planning their future in the traditional learning curriculum they are immersed. I wanted to do something about this. With some research, I learned that the Ministry of Education, Youths, and Sports (MOEYS) of Cambodia also see what I see. That was why MOEYS created and launched an app, Trey Visay, in 2018 that would help students choose their career path. Although this app has a very high potential for change, it does not seem to gain a lot of support—only 1K+ downloads. This means that the app does not fulfill what the students need or is not known to students. With that, I thought to myself: I am not a certified counselor, but I can help students find counsel.

Chatting Through became the platform where I reflect and change myself. It’s where I make change while also learning to change myself. I had to pull myself out of my comfort zone and bring discussion to to an unspoken topic.  “Strangers know nothing about you; you get to reinvent yourself,” was said to me by my English literacy teacher. I’ve never believed it until recently. I say and rehearse my speech in my head before saying it; I faked it until I made it. I pushed myself to ask for help which is something I had always viewed as vulnerable. Now, I understand that asking for a favour is not weak. I change from being independent to inter-independent; independent while also dependent on others. Through this project, I know that I have inspired high school students to think about their future and career planning. I know that I have provided them scholarship information that is unbeknown to them. I know I have lit a candle in the dark. I also know that I have changed myself to better impact my country.

I’ve learned not to take things personally and react differently to unexpected situations. I can’t expect strangers to trust me or act in ways I’ve expected them to. I can’t expect them to believe in what I believe. To make change, it takes time and trust. It takes all parties to believe in a mission to make change.

I’ve changed and grown so much this year. Though sometimes it feels too much, I am grateful for it. I now see and can tell my younger sister that the earth is not the blame for our failure to walk; life is about walking and never stop no matter how slow we walk. It’s up to us to push through even when the surface of the earth can sometimes be muddy, steep, slippery, or cold because it helps us grow and discover our potential. It’s not about how we fall, but how we get up.

LMRT Trip | May 22-26

This was our last trip of this academic year—2018-2019. For the first time, we had the greatest visibility! We were able to conduct or survey and see how our structure has improved. We were able to see groupers and seagrass and new fishes that needed to be identified! Though the visibility was offering, the current wasn’t. We had two more second cohort joining us and one of them is boat sick. One of LMRT member, although not boats, also got sick with the perpetual strong current. After all, this is what real scientific research looks like. It’s about risk and giving our effort and time even when the result is unpredictable.

I can’t say enough how successful this trip has been. We worked together really well; everyone was aware of everything that was going on and available to offer a hand to those who needed it. We again help out with the dolphin survey and were able to spot dolphins. We did a beach clean up and collected a lot of trash at a location that hasn’t cleaned in a while. MCC now are able to get some bamboos on the island after running out for quite some time, so we put our hands on the cluster. We spliced and sliced the rope into a device that could be used for conservation and case study purposes! We left the island with big smiles on our faces.

Early morning dolphin survey.
Splicing rope to make ‘cluster.’
Water entry for our artificial block structure survey.


LMRT Trip | April 24-28

We’re back on the land!!

We just got back from our Khmer New Year holiday; what a great way to spend the beginning of a new school term! We depart to the island earlier than usual to join MCC for their football match. Some of our team members join the friendship football match, while some other (Venghour and I) did a live video to cast the “competition.” It was a lot of fun; before we knew it, it was time to hit the boat to the island.

I was excited to do the survey, but the weather didn’t allow that. Most days, we could barely see anything at all; the sea was always clouded by sediment. Even then, we were still productive. We did beach clean—as always—and discuss our plan for this research team. We joined the Cambodian Marine Mammal Conservation Project for their dolphin survey and spotted dolphins!!! We even did a live video for the dolphin survey; Venghour and I (again) were the hosts. It was very raw; I ran around taking the angle of the dolphin from the boat while shouting in the phone. I was very excited to see dolphins and communicate to the world of what we are doing.

  • Hosting Facebook Live video for the friendship football with Venghour.

LMRT trip | March 20-24

It’s been a while since LMRT has been to our research site. For this trip, we were there with some new plan and members. It’s sad to say that we would soon graduate high school and part for college to chase our dreams, but it is the truth that we have to face. We love the project and team and definitely want to keep it going; we start introducing the sea and the island to the second cohort (C2) of our academy to recruit for the future LMRT. We had three C2s joining us on the trip and had fun teaching them about the marine species and taking them around the island. With the bad visibility, we managed to do some surveys and determined that it was best to do it early in the morning where the visibility is (observed to be) at its peak. Aside from our research survey, we helped with the boat-based dolphin survey. We were lucky to see dolphins and to see how the C2 react to seeing their first dolphin.

Vannareach, a C2, looking through his binoculars on a search for dolphins.

A lot of positive things happen during this trip. We, for the first time, come to an agreement about our new research site since the old one is completely different now. We pushed through waking early and get ready for our survey knowing that we might not be able to it and supporting each other as much as we can. We saw some new species at our old survey site, and for the first time saw a grouper at our site. We did a beach clean and collect 60 kg of trash within an hour!

A group photo of the participants of the beach clean.

English Literacy Round 3 – College Essay

The theme for English round three is identity. Because we are at the age to start planning our future and thinking about college, the aim of literacy this round is to start understanding more about ourselves and or course start writing college essays. In total, everyone wrote three essays, but choose only one that they think is the best and would get them into a college if they were to apply. The essay below is about my relationship with science. Enjoy reading!

Driving Force

Science has opened realms of understanding for humans ever since it came into existence. It is a way to explain concepts with proof and reasoning. But for me, it is beyond that. For me, science is more than a subject at school or a topic to discuss to sound nerdy. Science is part of me, that I still have yet to learn about. I am intrigued by science and especially intrigued by how it influences me.


In Cambodia, opinions of a child are seen as less important than the elder’s’. But science taught me to break that cultural barrier and have my voice be heard when I refused to drink honey with energy drink as replacement for a vaccine of a newly discovered hazardous disease that didn’t even affect Cambodia. Back then, even though I didn’t fully understand how vaccines work, I was able to piece information together and be an advocate for what I believe in.


Science taught me to make better choices in my life. That does not limit to only my choice of diet and lifestyle since it taught me to be a critical thinker. I’ve learned to ask questions and explore more than one side of a story or topic before picking my stance. I’ve become a critique of my own thought in choices and decisions making.


Science helps me cope with mortality and sometimes other personal matter. It explains death and the cycle of life in a way that is soothing and complete. It helps me stay calm and not freak out over physical symptoms that others may take as signs of lethal consequences. It helps me understand what healthy is and not diet to fulfil the beauty standard by the unspoken messages of  society.


To name a few, these are only some ways science help shape my everyday life. Soon, it will too, shape my future. Science will help me to unlock doors to knowledge that will enable me to save lives of people who need medical care and empower science in my home country just like it has empowered me.

LMRT Trip | Jan 31st–Feb 3

It’s been about eight months since LRMT was last on the island. What we’ve been dying to see is our research site and how it has changed over the course of the months. We were expecting to see some growth in seagrass and an increase in species richness and abundance. What we actually saw and heard was unanticipated.

We had been told by the staff at MCC that the bamboo structure (also known as cluster) has been cut and left stranded in waves of the vast ocean. They found it and retie it only to be cut off again. After it was cut for the second time, MCC let the concrete structure we deploy sit underwater without a marker for a while.

And that is not it! We got to witness the condition of our blocks in the murky water. About one-third of the concrete structure is buried in sand and sediment. Surrounded them were fishing net and trash. What we concluded happen was that some fishermen might cut off our cluster and trawl the area that has attracted commercial fish species. As a result, the hexagonal block structure was dragged across the ocean floor, bump into the three tiny hollow cubes and sink into the sand before it snatches off the net.

It was sad to see what we have deployed being ruined. But at the same time, we were glad that the block is doing its job. After all, we are doing a real-life research!

Sadly, we did not get to survey our site….because of the consistent bad visibility, but we got to make more bamboo clusters and clean the beach and keep being ocean advocates. Moving forward, we would develop our research project and work on making it a sustainable project.



Khmer Literacy | Unit 2

In this unit, we focus on introductory to in-depth Khmer grammar. In doing so, we studied two Khmer novel, one of which called Tum Teav about love between two people of different class, and the other is called Melea Doun Chet which is about love between two people of different race and class. These two novels have a very different setting and plots but they all communicate the same thing: class and social status don’t matter in a love relationship.


Back in time, parents in Cambodia usually arrange a marriage for their children to someone of the same class. Love relationships between classes were forbidden because they do not want their children to be involved with someone from a family that is inferior to them. But of course, attraction and love can’t be stopped. At some point in history, young adults start to revel against their guardian to live with someone they truly love, but the result never ends well.


Seeing this problem, a writer of that time wrote a novel called Tum Teav. Tum is the name of the male character, while Teave is the name of the female character. They were deeply in love even though they weren’t supposed to. When the first met Tum was a monk, a religious figure who is to not date or want anything thing more than what they need t to survive. Because of his strong attraction, Tum decided to quit being a monk to reunite and prosper with his girlfriend.


By then, he was almost too late. Teav’s mom had decided to offer her as the mistress of the king of the is wealthy and powerful. Luckily for him, he was there to declare his love relationship with his girlfriend. Awed by his bravery, the king gifted the coupled with a marriage. They were all happy, except for Teav’s mother. She wanted her daughter to marry someone wealthy, so she devises a plan to trick her own daughter to leave her husband and marry someone else by lying to her that she is sick and really want to see her daughter.


Teav did not know about her mother’s plan, went home immediately to see her mom but was captured and forced to marry the next day. To her luck, someone offered to pass this information t her husband who rushes to her home as soon as he receives the letter. When he got there, things did turn as expected, and so the couple ends up dying under their love tree.


The novel ends here to leave space for readers who guardian to reflect and they story and think about what they would do as a parent through considering they rather having their kid being dead by forcing them into a marriage. Not surprisingly, many people who have read this novel which is written in a poem associate it to Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, because they both have a similar story and communicate the same idea.

English Literacy Unit 2 | Communication Unit

This second unit of our literacy class, our main focus is communication. We learn not only to communicate through spoken but also written words. One of the topics covered was active listening. Through this topic, we realized that we mostly listen to speak, listen so we can interject our ideas, and not listen to listen. Active listening is really skill important to have because, in a complex problem or conflict, it requires us to open our mind and hear what others have to say. Active listening also shows a person speaking respect, for an example if they are speaking about a topic that sensitive, it is best to give them all the space they need, and not distract their thought and speaking process.


To practice this skill we now learn to be very important, we spent one hour of our class time just talking to classmate whom we are not so close with. We were to pick a partner and share something about ourselves that matter to us or speak about something that we are passionate about. I paired up with another girl in my literacy class who also share many other classes with me but never interact often enough to considered close to me. We found a comfortable room and sat in a chair face to face making eye contact as one person talk and the other listens.


With that, something miraculous happened. We allowed ourselves to be vulnerable and share stories we don’t often do about ourselves: stories we don’t feel comfortable talking about. Through this, we able to connect to one another very closely, as we soon realized that we have so many things in common. I felt as though, I learn and get to know her better in this one hour than I had in six years we had been in a boarding academy together.


Anyways, that is just one aspect of our unit. Another aspect is etiquette writing where we focus on writing professional Emails and making résumé. In this topic, we learn and practiced writing professional to someone we have never met. We pretend that we have to ask a fashion company for an internship company through Email. It was a really great exercise for us to do because we actually send the Email to someone we know who has been working on communication for longer than we have existed. We got feedback and suggestions on our Email to help us grow as communicators.


Lastly, we dive into video conferencing. In this session, we learn how to group call which can be a really difficult task to do. It is already awkward to just call someone and try to make eye contact with them by staring at out PC camera, doing it a team makes it even trickier. But through our lessons and practice, we learned to divide roles in video conferencing and group calling easier to archive. But good networking and communication skills don’t come to us naturally, so we have to always keep practicing.

Unit 2 – Yeast Respiration Lab

Yeasts are known to be used for making beer and bread, but how do they actually contribute to these products? The answer is simple: anaerobic respiration. Plants and animals need to constantly respire to sustain their lives. This means they need to respire no matter air (oxygen) supplies is available or not. This brings back to anaerobic respiration. Anaerobic respiration is when an organism has to respire without oxygen, and aerobic respiration is when the organism respire with the presence of oxygen.


Given this, it is still unclear how yeast help make bread or beer. How do they actually do this? To answer the question, let’s explore into the process of anaerobic respiration. In anaerobic respiration, organism goes through fermentation, a process to restore the materials needed for the next respiration process. Normally, organisms would not do this, but because of the lack of oxygen, they have to. In animals, they go through lactic acid fermentation. This lactic acid causes the pain that can be experienced when we exercise because through exercise, we do not get enough oxygen. Another type of fermentation is alcoholic fermentation, a process that plants including yeast (fungi) go through.


By going through anaerobic respiration, yeasts use sugar molecule to act upon and produce some energy and carbon dioxide and ethanol as their byproduct. That concludes why yeasts are used for they are used for. In making beer, the ethanol they produce is favored. In making bread, the carbon dioxide they release is favored for creating air bubbles in the dough as well as to raise the dough.


In a lab for AP biology this unit, we conducted a yeast respiration lab to observe and learn the process described above. In this lab, we immersed yeasts in different solution such as, distilled water, water and sugar, honey and water, water and Royal D and water and vanilla extract which are stored their own flask. At the rim of the flask, we attach balloons that would be inflated when yeast respire to see the variation of yeast respiration rate within our different solution. After the experiment is set, we let the flask sit for an hour before we make our observation.

To our surprise, the balloon attached to the flask that holds water and Royal D was inflated the biggest, followed by water and sugar. This means that Royal D holds materials that are favored in yeast respiration; it holds not only sugar but also vitamin and potassium. This may explain why the balloon attached to the Royal D flask was inflated bigger than sugar.  As can be seen in the photo, none of the other ballons were inflated. It is no surprise though that the balloon attached to the water and vanilla extract were not inflated because they do not have sugar which is needed in respiration. Honey, howeve,r came as a little shock, but we hypothesize that the sugar molecule it holds may be too big for the yeasts.

Math Round 2 | Pre-calculus

In this round, we start our pre-calculus class. We start with a review of functions and quadratic equations, then move to a more advanced math as we proceed in our class. Throughout our class, we do a lot of independent work to allow each and every one of the students to work through the lessons with our own pace within a time constraint. One way we archive this was using the online platform to practice math, particularly Khan Academy. On this platform, we practiced solving the following: functions, polynomials, rational relationship, exponential growth and decay, exponential and logarithmic functions, radical relationship, and trigonometry. Below are some pictures of what the exercises on Khan Academy look like.


Another way students were allowed their own space to learn is, we are given an assignment for a span of time. Within this time, students get to decide the time to do their work and the focus of their study for this class within this time.

Nevertheless, we work together a lot. When there is a challenging problem we find either in our textbook or on an online platform, we would bring it to class and look at it together. This way, we can solve the problem better and faster. From time to time, we all shine in a different way when solving the problems, because we have our strength and skills. I, for example, am really good at seeing and visioning shapes in my head, other students are good at other things, for instance, seeing relations between equations. Others are good at recalling principle and laws that we learned to apply it to problems and solve it all together. Whenever we solve a problem in class together, it is my favorite part because it feels like bringing different experts to solve a  complex math problem. On that note, we help each other learn and grow as a math student.