Student Spotlight: Hongna Svay

Hongna Svay, 29, is currently studying computer programming at South Puget Sound Community College. He came to Olympia from his native country Cambodia to attend college and to be near his friends and relatives in the Olympia area.

Svay first came to America in Aug. 2010. He started attending SPSCC right away, enrolling in English as a second language classes. He advanced quickly through the courses and was able to skip English 96.

Soon, he was studying what he studied back home, computer programming and databases. He was already accustomed to the Windows environment, but he had some upgrading to do. “We used Windows XP in Cambodia,” he said.

Svay said corruption is more out in the open in Cambodia. He said the wealthy Cambodians have intimate ties to the government, living in the capital city of Phnom Penh, while the poor are largely relegated to the rural countryside with little hope of upward mobility, especially with their wages fixed at an average of $60 a month.

“The rich spend money like paper,” he said.

Svay said the Cambodian educational system puts the focus on quantity over quality. He said good grades can be bought by the rich. Cambodia is still a developing country, and government corruption is unfortunately also a part of their educational system, he said. The poorer students typically stop going to school after sixth or ninth grade, he said, as they can’t afford to continue their education. Svay said he considers himself middle class.

This quarter, Svay is studying active server pages in Microsoft’s .Net Framework and taking an advanced course in Microsoft Access. He said that one of his favorite courses was structured query language, and that he’s considering switching from the computer programming track to the database management track.

“The cores are the same, just two or three of the classes are different. I think I have to change my mind,” he said.

Svay also interns at the Tumwater Department of Health. He works at the help desk and does desktop support work. “It’s not related to my field, but the experience I’m getting is good,” he said. He said he would eventually like to get a job working for the state.

Svay said that when he’s not studying, he likes to sing karaoke with his friends.

He said his favorite sport is soccer, but he said he is not happy about the fact that he rarely gets an opportunity to play.

“They had an indoor soccer tournament last year, but that was it. I haven’t played here for a long time,” he said.
Svay said he keeps in touch with his friends and family back home pretty regularly by phone and Skype. He said he’s planning on returning to Cambodia this summer, and he’s preparing for a visit from his parents, possibly next year.