My year in the USA

JPA student Sokhoeun ’19 playing lacrosse on the Perkiomen Lacrosse team. Jay Pritzker Academy, Siem Reap, Cambodia. Jay-Pritzker-Academy-Siem-Reap-Cambodia.
Sokhoeun Playing Lacrosse on the Perkiomen Lacrosse Team - Sokhoeun (bottom left)

Sokhoeun ’19 has returned to school to finish his senior year of high school after he spent last school year in the USA at Perkiomen School in Pennsylvania under the ASSIST scholarship program. He shares his story below.

JPA student Sokhoeun ’19 with International students at Perkiomen School, in Pennsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. Jay Pritzker Academy, Siem Reap, Cambodia. Jay-Pritzker-Academy-Siem-Reap-Cambodia
Sokhoeun (center) with Fellow Perkiomen International Students

The past year at Perkiomen School, in Pennsburgh, Pennsylvania, proved to be an excellent year during which I challenged myself. I had so many new and interesting experiences and learned to be more independent. I learned a new language, took AP courses, tried new sports and enjoyed trips to various places including New York. Upon arriving, I was pleased to meet the friendly and supportive staff who helped make my year there so special.

I enrolled in some new and challenging classes. At Perkiomen School, there are about 30 AP courses and four language classes to choose from which is many more than I can take at JPA. I enrolled in AP Microeconomics and Macroeconomics, which were not offered at JPA until this year. I had a tough time with this class as I had never taken any economics classes before. I was up to speed halfway through the year, and I finished with respectable scores of 4 and 3 on the AP Macroeconomics and AP Microeconomics tests respectively.

I also took a Chinese language course which was enjoyable. After about a month I felt able to use a little of the language that I had learned from my Chinese friends. Then, after another few months, the pace actually became too slow for me, so I enrolled in a higher level class - from level 1 to level 3 - where I felt more at home.

Perkiomen spends more time on sports than JPA. At home in Cambodia, I would practice running for a few hours in the weeks leading up to the marathon in December each year. I soon learned that at Perkiomen we were to spend about two hours on sport after school every day. At first, it was quite exhausting with up to four or five competitive sessions per week. I had previous experience with running, so I chose to be part of the cross country team. In cross country, we ran 3 miles, and I started with a time of about 24-minutes. The captain of the running team then challenged me to get my time below 20 minutes. During practice, he encouraged me by suggesting I focus on trying to keep up with him. After much training, I was eventually selected as one of the seven runners from my school for the Tri-County League (TCL) championship (a meet with 8 or 9 competing schools from adjacent counties). I placed 13th overall and 4th from my school, and I beat my record and goal by running a time of 19:26. Our school won the championship, and I was so pleased that my effort had played a part in the victory. This accomplishment demonstrates how I can succeed as long as I continuously keep putting in my best effort and commitment. Importantly, having a supportive team played a major role helping me attain my personal best time.

JPA student Sokhoeun ’19 Skiing for the first time and visiting Baltimore, USA. Jay Pritzker Academy, Siem Reap, Cambodia. Jay-Pritzker-Academy-Siem-Reap-Cambodia
Left: First Experience Skiing    Right: Visiting Baltimore

In the spring, I decided to try a new sport - lacrosse. I had no clue as to what lacrosse even was, but, I looked it up and decided to join the team. When I began, I could not even catch the ball in the cradle of my stick. I spent about six hours practicing every weekend with a friend who was also new to the sport. My coaches gave us tips when they saw us practicing, and the captains kept checking up on us and offering help. I would have never imagined that I would end up scoring four junior varsity goals, two varsity goals and earning a position as a junior varsity captain. I learned that you cannot let yourself be intimidated by a bigger or more experienced opposition. Dedication to practice and lots of preparation allowed me to perform to the top of my ability. I now have the utmost admiration for this sport and its’ players.

Almost every weekend on campus, there were concerts or plays to watch and I was lucky to see the wide array of talent at Perkiomen. Students would sing, play instruments and perform plays, some written by the students themselves. Some of the musicians were new to their craft, however, they were amazing performers as they used all their free-time practicing.

There were also many off-campus activities. The first excursion I took was 100 miles away to New York City to attend a Broadway musical at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. When we arrived in New York, I could see why so many people love the city because of its bustling city life, skyscrapers and so many attractions. It was a stark contrast to Puok in Cambodia.

JPA student Sokhoeun ’19 with  Host Family, Mr. and Mrs. Deratzous and Advisor, Mrs. Weirsmith; Cross Country Team; Perkiomen Cross Country Team Captain Congratulating Sokhoeun. Jay Pritzker Academy, Siem Reap, Cambodia. Jay-Pritzker-Academy-Siem-Reap-Cambodia
Host Family and Advisor, Cross Country Running Team

It didn’t matter to me that I was new to Perkiomen, what mattered was how much I wanted to get from this experience and how much effort I put in – in the same way that the musicians applied themselves to their instruments, I applied myself to my classes and sports. For example, after selecting lacrosse for my spring sport, I began to envision myself as one of the players on the field, rather than a spectator on the sidelines. This change of perspective motivated me to improve my skills, observe how the most skillful players played, ask for advice, and finally incorporate all of this into the long hours of practice that I dedicated myself to. Similarly, I would not have been able to understand any Chinese if I had not been passionate about learning a new language. I devoted numerous extra hours of my time, watching extra lessons and practicing with native speakers on campus. I became a more self-directed and independently minded person.

This past year was a great experience for me to learn more about myself, acquire a bit of a new language, play new sports, and broaden my academic skill set. I would like to thank JPA, ASSIST, and the Perkiomen School community for all of their help and support. I want to send a special thank you to the Deratzous family, who hosted me for the year and to my advisor, Mrs. Weirsmith, for taking care of me so well.

Thank you, Sokhoeun, for sharing your story and we wish you the best in your final year at JPA.