From Our Scholar Blogs:

Lessons Learned: My Journey from Cambodia to Lafayette Colllege

Socheata Huot is a freshman at Lafayette College. 
August 10th, 2021, was the night I left Cambodia for the first time. I traveled with another scholar, Bong Pisey, whom I’m grateful for keeping me company on our nearly 9000 mile journey. From the almost 20 hours of flight to our layover in Korea, I felt strong excitement. It overwhelmed me in ways it never had before.
When I finally arrived at the Virginian airport, my mentor Kate welcomed me with flowers and a personalized sign. During my three-day stay with Kate, her extended family gave me an equally warm welcome and even allowed me to visit their farm. Kate and her family being the first people I met when I touched foot in the United States reassured me that I was beginning a positive chapter. 
Soon, I moved from the countryside to the city, as Stephanie and Berkeley (close friends of Kate)  came to pick me up and drove us to Washington, DC. I loved this aspect of the trip. During the day, Berkeley and I walked around going to museums, the riverside and a few different neighborhoods. With Stephanie, I spent a nice evening with her and her adorable kids, Peter and Patrick.
The next step was to commence my move to New Jersey. My mentors assisted with planning a train ride so I could meet another mentor of mine, Mary. Both Mary and her parents displayed great kindness. They helped me shop for dorm supplies, set up my telephone’s sim card, and get more familiar with the town. Through their kindness, I was also able to visit New York City.

Although I’d been in the States for about ten days, it all seemed unreal until I reached the gates of school, resting my eyes on the large sign that read “Lafayette College”. Now it’s all very real. Since being here, I make my way across campus with a sense of direction. 
The first week of classes was especially interesting. From starting new friends, immersing myself in different cultures, moving into my new living space, and exploring all that campus has to offer, the original excitement that overwhelmed me still comes back intermittently propelling me into trying new things. The International Orientation was one of my favorite times at college; it allowed me to come to campus a week before class and meet others who were in similar positions to myself.
It can be very challenging coming to a new country. Still, all challenges present the opportunity for growth so I wanted to share a few lessons I’ve learned from my journey:
  1. To travel is to learn. 
    1. I’d never traveled alone in my life, but I’m glad that I have now. It taught me how to plan ahead, research an area I’m from, and to be confident in myself. 
  2. Meeting people is hard, but it’s easier than you think. 
    1. I am so grateful that my school year has started off in person! That means I was able to physically not only the international orientation but also the Asian Culture Association and International Students Association. By meeting others, I was able to better explore my interests and learn new things. 
  3. Find your places! 
    1. Another aspect of in-person learning is the opportunity to familiarize yourself with the geography of campus. By finding your place, I don’t just mean in the social sense, find your place in the literal sense too. For me, that meant discovering the best places to study. I like the Skillman Library and the Rockwell Science Center. You might enjoy other places more, perhaps an open-air setting or an especially quiet room. Still, you won’t know until you go out and research.