Montana in the eyes of a stranger

By: Sokny Kim, EEP fellow from the Kingdom of Cambodia!

Once heard of the Economic Empowerment Program and the Professional Fellowship, I thought of how I as an individual could learn, take advantage of this precious intercultural exchange program to explore the knowledge, knowhow, experiences from every counterpart I will meet and all the trainings I will join to share, serve, help and contribute back to my community for the well-being of my society and to improve my professional capacity and capability.

Many ideas, thoughts, visions came to my mind from different sectors and perspectives; I wanted to understand the cross-cultural business perspective, to advance my knowledge on entrepreneurship, to promote Cambodia and its business environment, to build networks among regional participants and Americans and on the other hand thought of how am I going to utilise those knowledge to empower women in the community as well as to preserve cultural value and heritages if I have no any abilities to make it as prestigious as the past. It could be because I was overwhelming about the program!

One week pass by, there’s so much I have learnt within this very short period of time. Let’s leave aside the beautiful and spacious campus, fabulous program, the knowledgable Rotary Club of Missoula luncheon, the wonderful sessions and presentations each presenter provided, (and how much I could narrow down my scopes and objectives) Missoula, Montana is a very beautiful and friendly city from the cozy weather, to mountainous landscape, environmental-friendly atmosphere, clean streets, respectful and friendly people to the warm feeling we get, which make us feel like home!

What impressed me the most is the culture value of the people of this particular state. I couldn’t just believe this is America! We, most Cambodian know America and American mainly through medias, movies, songs and view America as a country of individualism; kids move out at the age of 18 for college and have their own lives, people are aggressive, less respectful, dress revealingly, which the perception provides strong influences to youth in our country and providing it as a sort of “Americanised”! As the matter of fact, people here in Missoula live calmly and respectfully. They value the importance of the family and it’s the most important part of their lives. A lot of children choose to stay with parents during college or even after. People share and help one another to grow for the development and prosperity of their communities and nation as a whole. People here are more direct of cause compare to most people in the ASEAN countries, where we tend to hide our feeling and emotion. However, the way they talk and address issues are nicely, calmly and respectfully, whereas dressing are so conservative and moderate which totally out of my expectation (I expected the Americans are dressed like in the movies).

The relationship of each country based on how well their ambassadors do; We, the fellows from the 5 countries from Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, Thai and Vietnam) each serves as an ambassador to own country. Within a very short period of time, we build a very strong tie among one another as soon as the first day we arrived here in Missoula. We taking care one another’s wellness, save notes for each other once one is sick and absent from any session, choose to stay back together for dinner everyday as a family… A Cambodian old-say says that “people have different mother at home, but only one mother in the forest” means that we are from different families, social backgrounds, and countries, once coming together we become siblings and look after one another just like we were given births by the same mother!

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