Interview: YSEALI Alumna Shares her Story

By Vichean Chea, Secretary General for FUSAAC

I’mACE Team had a chance to meet with Vichean Chea, a YSEALI Alumna to speak about her time in the US and speaking at the International Education Tour for Study Abroad and Scholarships in Sihanoukville.

What is your background?

I am originally from Tboung Khmom Province and also a recent graduate from Royal University of Phnom Penh, Bachelor of English Education. I moved to Phnom Penh during grade 12 to prepare for my high school diploma graduation and to attend a preparation course for the entrance and scholarship exam for the Institute of Foreign Languages.


Vichean during the Welcome Luncheon at Northern Illinois University with other participants from all ASEAN countries

What program did you do in the US and what was the application process like?

Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) is U.S. government’s signature program to strengthen leadership development and networking in Southeast Asia and "YSEALI Academic Fellows Fall 2016 on Civic Engagement Theme" was the program I attended in the US. I spent 4 weeks at Northern Illinois University (NIU) in Illinois and I was the only Cambodian with 20 other participants from 10 other ASEAN countries.

There I received academic residency, attended lectures about civil rights, women rights, LGBT rights, disability rights, and labor rights in the American context. I also attended leadership development classes, did team bonding, went on educational study tours to museums, institutions and organizations, did local community service activities (volunteering), and got the opportunity to engage with American peers to learn more about the American way of living and studying. Throughout the program, I and other participants were given the chance to discuss issues in our community respectively to gather ideas and inputs into developing a civic action plan to implement when we returned to our own country. The program concluded in Washington, D.C., and there participants presented their civic action plans to the U.S. Department of State and spent some time sight-seeing. 

The YSEALI selection process is made by U.S. Embassy Phnom Penh starting with an online application form then a face to face interview, and lastly a confirmation from the U.S. Department of State. 

What did you share at the International Education Tour for Study Abroad and Scholarships in Sihanoukville?

I gave a presentation on US scholarship information which was beneficial for audience members of all level. I shared with the audience all the different types of scholarships and exchange programs there are to the United States with their basic requirements and application cycle that could prepare them for the process. I also introduced them to various websites and social media sites where they could find sources of scholarship information to connect them to opportunities that are open. 

To everyone and especially students in the provinces who wish to study scholarship abroad:

  1. Be curious in searching for the opportunities that fit you
  2. Be aware of the nature and objective of the program that you are interested in
  3. Be mindful in following the application's requirements and processes
  4. Be brave and reach out to previous successors for their tips, so that you will be the next recipient!

To learn more about the YSEALI program go to:

For more information or further discussion on your study plan, come to IDP study abroad offices to talk with study abroad counsellor at any ACE campuses.

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