Life is full of twists and turns. OK most of mine revolve around Cambodia: every decision somehow bringing me back to this wonderful country, but I could not have predicted what happened this week.
I’ll set the scene:
I visited the University of Warwick campus in the summer of 2000 when I was 10 years old. I was visiting my big brother Jamie where he was studying Politics and Sociology and we went to see him performing in Guys and Dolls. My mother is an alumnus Warwick as well and I was in awe of this shiny, exciting, vibrant university campus. I resolved there and then that I was going to attend this fantastic institution. But then I had to actually study. Which I did really (quite) diligently until I was sixteen. Seriously, my GCSEs were great! Just a shame those qualifications literally mean nothing in the real world. So when I left high school with three B’s (in English, Maths, and History) for my A levels, the university ranked number six in the country funnily enough rejected my application.
Huh. Life plan scuppered.
What to do? Hide in Cambodia for seven months and volunteer in an orphanage whilst thinking up a back-up plan, of course.
Back-up plan! Cardiff University. I loved my three years in the Welsh capital and I wouldn’t change it for the world (well, most of it). But Warwick still niggled at the back of my mind. So when I graduated in 2012 with a 2:1 in History and Sociology I … went to volunteer in Cambodia again. What? It’s like an addiction!
But then the money ran out and I came back to England. Equipped with my 2:1 BA in History and Sociology I began work … in a pub. I loved it, honestly! And then I realised I missed education and I wanted to go back. I wanted to learn again. I wanted more letters after my name.
But what to study?
Really? Is that even a question? Cambodian history, duh!
But where to study?
Well this was a little harder because, shockingly, there aren’t too many professors who are well read in Cambodian history. But through a wonderful, fantastic, bizarre twist of fate, one of the few universities which could accommodate me was Warwick!
My Masters by Research was basically a mini PhD. I had no lectures, no seminars and set my own research area. Cambodia, naturally. And I was wonderfully supported by my two supervisors throughout this process despite innumerable people advising me not to make my Masters research so niche. Obviously I didn’t listen.
So after five years and three mediocre A level results, I was finally at the university of my childhood dreams, studying my passion and surrounded by people who have become some of my closest friends.
And then, 58,000 words and 228 pages later, I was finished! Using oral histories I had analysed the Khmer Rouge rule and Cambodian society’s gendered expectations. I can tell you’re intrigued. Let me know if you want me to email you the PDF …
So what to do now?
Go back to Cambodia, of course!
Only this time it was a little different. Instead of volunteering I had an actual job: teaching at Sovann Komar Orphanage and School. I moved to Phnom Penh. It was my new home. It is my home. See, I blog about it!
And even now my life is pulling me back to Warwick in the form of a great honour which has been bestowed upon me this week. You are, right now, reading the words and wisdom (?) of the University of Warwick’s Alumnus of the Month. Yes, the pleasure is all yours. I contacted Warwick because, rather big-headedly, I thought they might be interested in SKOPE, my charity. Turns out, they were! They offered to feature me on their alumni website detailing what I am doing in Cambodia and how I have moved from studying history Warwick to charity work. So if you’re not already bored of my waffling, please give it a read. It’s a far more informative, better written piece and will give any of you who don’t know an idea of what I’m doing out here in Cambodia.
BA, MA … PhD?