Produced by Guest blogger
Sousdey everyone! Hello everyone! (Sousdey means Hello in Khmer)
Well, where should I begin – I don’t know how to capture this in a few sentences. But let me try.
Born and raised in a remote village in Cambodia, my life has been nothing but adventurous since a very young age. From living in a Buddhist monastery where I took refuge, I learned about becoming an English-speaking tour guide at the World famous Angkor Wat Temple. Education has been a catalyst and a driving force in shaping me to be where I am today.
As a tour guide, I had countless hands-on experiences interacting with people across the globe and from all walks of life. Having met many British tourists, I was exposed to the UK culture, which gave me hope and dreams to go beyond my border. That’s when I started preparing for Chevening scholarships. Now can you believe it? I am in the UK, marked as the first-ever foreign country I have ever travelled to and lived in. I am thrilled indeed 🙂 Feels like a dream after all.
So here I am embarking on an incredible journey travelling across the UK while pursuing my postgraduate degree in Tourism Management and reuniting with friends I made during the tours in Cambodia. I hope you will enjoy reading my blog as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Student Life at BU
From a very early stage, I have chosen Bournemouth University because it has a good reputation for tourism research. Furthermore, the core units have met my professional experience and career goals. Bournemouth University has been very supportive since the early stage of my application process. As I recall, Dirk and Ryan (the amazing international admission team) were working over the weekend to issue the English test for me to obtain an unconditional offer to meet the deadline of the Chevening scholarship application. You may be wondering what Chevening Scholarship is.
“Chevening is a UK government fully-funded scholarship program to bring passionate and talented individuals across the World to pursue a one-year taught master’s degree in any course at any UK university. Check out Chevening’s website to learn more.”
Bournemouth University campus is located within a walking distance from the beach. TripAdvisor voted Bournemouth beach as the #1 beach in the UK and the best place to live in Britain in 2021. What is even more exhilarating is that I get to experience the unique tourism opportunities.
Prior to my arrival, I was not expecting much from the university due to the hostility caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. I knew all lectures would be delivered online. However, it was not as bad as I anticipated, to my surprise. BU pulled that off very well in adapting to the online teaching and learning environment, which exceeded my expectations.
In particular, the Managing Visitor Attractions and Tourism Planning and Development Units taught by Steve, Duncan, and Adame were very interactive, from the way they delivered to arranging a breakout room in Zoom for students to discuss ideas. These two modules gave me a broader perspective on how a tourist destination should be developed. The lectures were so practical that I really enjoyed learning them. After graduation, Professor Steve Richard welcomed me to join his face-2-face lectures in November with the new intake. That was one of the best parts yet. Thank you, Steve!
The library provides everything students need ranging from a conference room to a high spec and up-to-date computers. Since I love editing travelling videos, the library computers are perfect for spending a couple of hours editing my videos. Moreover, the library is open 24/7, so if you ever get bored studying in your room, the BU library is always there for you. What is even handier is that if I forget to bring my personal computer to the campus, it is not a problem. The library offers a laptop for me to borrow and it is not even complicated.
Opportunity at BU
BU has a career-ready week where the career support team shares CV tips and job opportunities with students every week. I found this useful to explore whilst working as a student and after graduation. Sometimes, there are job fairs at the student centre where I can talk to employers in the fields. Recently, I got a temporary job after talking about what I was looking for at the career fair. It was constructive. I would recommend you use every support that the university has to offer.
Another example was using the business consultant company – Dorset Growth Hub for free in November 2021 every Tuesday. They gave me beneficial information about restarting my tour company upon my return. Now I know where to start first when I reoperate my tour company.
One of the unique opportunities was having a role as Vice-chief of external relations with the PATA ( Pacific Asia Travel Association) Student Chapter at Bournemouth University. With PATA, I could participate in various travel events in the tourism industry. Recently, I was given a chance to work as a volunteer with ITIC (International Tourism Investment and Conference) at the World Travel Market in London, where all the tourism professionals, tour operators, and ministries from across the globe came together to show their tourism products and post COVID-19 pandemic tourism recovery strategies. The enthusiasm of all the tourism specialists showed belief and hope for the massive tourism rebound. That was when I gained so much insight into tourism strategies to recovery and made so many connections with amazing people in the fields, thanks to PATA Bournemouth University Student Chapter.
Travelling and making friends
As you know, the UK is diverse, and it’s a perfect place for experiencing different cultures. You might have expected that you would be in a classroom with British students. However, in my experience, there were more international students in most postgraduate courses than natives. This is a fantastic opportunity to connect, network, and create lifelong friends from different countries. You never know you may build your life career with your classmates in the future. For instance, the online learning environment never stopped me from making new friends and interacting with classmates. I managed to meet them face to face, and almost every weekend, I arranged a trip with them to discover different parts of Dorset county and the Jurassic Coast – World Heritage Site. New Forest National Park is just one train away from me, which is a spectacular space to see breathtaking natural views, wild games – horses, deers roaming around freely – oh my god. What is this place?
During this one year, I’ve been to many places, both cities, and the countryside. However, I prefer exploring the countryside and tiny villages as they show the authenticity of the country.
The four seasons make it even more charming, especially in spring, with the bluebells roaming all-around places and snowdrops during spring. Since I was born a passionate photographer, the UK has been the richest place to capture stunning photos and landscapes. I can’t have enough. If you guys are interested, why don’t you check me out? @laoclassics Your inner traveller will probably be awakened, LOL.
What I like about living in Bournemouth, Dorset
I was born an adventurer, and I like hiking, cycling, and capturing beautiful scenery. Bournemouth is a perfect setting to live and study. It has one of the best beaches in the UK, and it gives access to the World Heritage Jurassic Coast in Dorset County. I’ve been travelling across England, and I think Dorset has the most beautiful countryside along the coast. They look like wallpapers. In Spring 2021, I went hiking from Weymouth to Lyme Regis and the Jurassic for over 50km within two days. Seeing bluebells and snowdrop flowers covering the floor made me feel like I was in paradise. It was one of the best hikes I’ve been on.
Another thing is the weather. Bournemouth is the sunniest area in the UK. I remember my friends posting snow pictures in the north but the sun shining in Bournemouth. The beaches refresh my feeling as you know it rains a lot in this country. It’s really important for student especially when I feel stressed from university work.
Finally, if I were to consider this whole experience, it has led me to meet amazing people. I have been entirely, wholeheartedly touched by one person’s wisdom, enthusiasm, and curiosity in traveling like myself. Now I know who I should look up to the most.
Thanks to the Chevening scholarship and Bournemouth University, I have had the most rewarding and memorable experiences in my life by far. It opened my outlook/perspectives on a wide range of things – from interacting with fellow students to interacting with old friends/customers, reuniting with friends. It has inspired me to be more optimistic about what I am pursuing and led me to gain transferable skills and practical knowledge to bring them back to Cambodia to help elevate development and improve sustainable community-based tourism in my home country. These skills equipped and strengthened me to innovate further and develop my Cambodia Overland Travel – a start-up tour operator based in Cambodia. Check out my tour company’s Instagram @Cambodiaoverland.travel
This entire journey has been made possible with endless support from my dear mother, who is eagerly awaiting my return, and friends who have been behind me every step of the way, through thick and thin. More importantly, Chevening and Bournemouth University’s support made my student life more enjoyable and somewhat memorable.
I owe my deepest and profound gratitude to everyone who has been a part of this journey.
Goodbye to student life and on to the next journey…. Stay tuned for more soul-lifting travelling vibes on my Insta page. I have made a short sum-up travel video. Check it out.