I was born in August, 1994, but my mom put May fifth because she wanted my birthday on the fifth day of the fifth month. I was born in a farm house, so after class I’d help my parents plant rice or look after cows. I have three brothers and I am the third child. My second brother is my twin, and because he was sickly my mom often had to take him to the doctor. I would stay with my grandma, so growing up I spent much time with her until she passed away.
My mother is a primary school teacher. Even when I was small I went to study with her at school. My father is a farmer. He doesn’t have as high an education as my mom but he always supports me and never lets me know how hard it is; even when he’s so tired he still smiles.
By first grade I knew how to read and divide a little, but my twin brother didn’t. In fact, I could go to second grade but my mom told me to study in first again so that we could start second together.
But the next year he failed the test again so I entered second grade without him.
In seventh grade they told me I would start studying English. I didn’t know what English was, not even the letters! In class the teacher liked to call on me to read. I was so nervous for this that I would write how the English sounded in Khmer above the English words in the book and read from the Khmer. By eighth grade we were translating. I could read a little but I still couldn’t translate. Like reading in seventh grade, the teacher would always call on me. These two years I worked hardest on English. By ninth grade I could read and translate a little so I wasn’t as nervous about using English.
In tenth grade I moved to a high school far from my home. With classmates who lived near me, we would wait for each other on the road and then ride our bikes to and from school together. We would leave and arrive when it was still dark. We rode together until we had to go our separate ways, and sometimes when I rode alone in the dark I was afraid of ghosts.
- Age: 29
- Ethnicity: Khmer
- Country: Cambodia
School & Program
- Norton University
- Bachelor’s, Banking
Goals & Dreams
- Own a small business in my hometown
- Earn enough so my parents don’t have to farm anymore
- Loan Amount: $2,300
- Amount Left To Fund: $0
- Contract Duration: 11 years
- Status: Repaid in Full
What Others Are Saying About Sitha
During the day at high school we never ate rice when we were hungry. For three years we just ate noodles—noodles, noodles, noodles, noodles! Few of us ate rice because we didn’t really have money. Rice is more expensive, and we always spent our pocket money to pay for extra classes.
In twelfth grade I studied the hardest because we had the twelfth grade exam. I studied so long and hard that one time at home I fell asleep next to a candle and burned some of my book and hair. Also in twelfth grade we had a talented student exam. I studied hard for it, and even though I didn’t win the contest I got sixth place.
After I passed the twelfth grade exam some of my neighbors advised my parents that as the only daughter they shouldn’t let me study in Phnom Penh. They said I should work in the factory because studying at a university costs a lot of money. But my parents didn’t listen to them. They allowed me to continue my studies even though it was very hard for them.
Coming from the countryside, I thought Phnom Penh was a very beautiful and modern place. I didn’t want to study at Norton University though, and I didn’t want to study economics or banking. I wanted to study IT, and I thought I could at the International College of Technology. But my cousin told me I’m a woman and the school is far from my house, so studying IT wouldn’t be easy. If I studied economics I could probably find a job more easily. Now I really love studying economics.
When I finish studying I want to work for a little bit. That way I can get experience and save some money in order to open a small business. I don’t want a big business, just a business that is enough to live and make me happy. I’m thinking I could start a restaurant, and when I have enough money I won’t let my parents farm anymore.
Written by Sitha with editing assistance from Zomia’s volunteer editors.
“When I finish studying I want to work for a little bit. That way I can get experience and save some money in order to open a small business. Not a big business, but a business that is enough to live and make me happy.”
“After I passed the twelfth grade exam some of my neighbours advised my parents that as the only daughter they shouldn’t let me study in Phnom Penh. They said I should work in the factory because studying at a university costs a lot of money. But my parents didn’t listen to them. They allowed me to continue my studies even though it was very hard for them.”