Studying at HWS from Cambodia – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Studying at HWS from Cambodia

Vuthy Vey ’24 has begun his first semester at the Colleges a little bit differently than most of his classmates. Located in his home in Kampong Thom Province in Cambodia, Vey joins his peers via Zoom for coursework in computer science, his First-Year Seminar “Einstein, Relativity and Time,” and other classes. Vey, who has experience in app development and computer game design, is immersing himself in the tech and entrepreneurial community at the Colleges.

Cambodia is part of the Indochina Time Zone, so Vey’s courses often start at 9 p.m. and end as late as 3 a.m. While he has been adjusting to the late night routine, he has been getting to know his faculty and peers. “With a small ratio between professors and students, I feel a deep connection between my classmates and professors,” says Vey noting the many opportunities to express himself in class discussions and communicate directly with his peers during Zoom breakout sessions.

Helping him make the transition to college life, Vey has connected with Associate Vice President and Director of International Enrollment and Success Marylyn O’Hora Uhnak and Hobart College Assistant Dean Joseph Mink. “They always regard me as one of them even though I’m very far away,” Vey says.

Vey found HWS through his high school counselor at the Liger Leadership Academy, where the mission of the school is to inspire students to become agents of change in their communities. The Liger Leadership Academy curriculum emphasizes project-based learning.

“I knew I wanted to study in the United States to gain a foundation in computer science and to learn more about the country’s culture. Tech companies grow quickly in the U.S., and I want to know why,” Vey says. “When my counselor told me about HWS, I was impressed by the entrepreneurial programs. They really triggered my interest.”

Vey has been coding since he was 13 years old, and has experience in app development and tech entrepreneurship.

At Liger Leadership Academy, Vey and a group of his peers created a digital currency app. After two years of programming and development, the app was implemented at the school, allowing students to practice financial independence. Students and staff exchange a digital currency to make utility and catering payments.

“We had a vision to make it work, which had me working very hard. And I had the support of the school’s board and students,” Vey says.

Vey says his learning experiences have instilled a belief that anyone can learn how to code. His passion for STEM education is demonstrated here, in a TEDxISSP talk Vey delivered in 2016, titled “Coding Education in School.” The same year, the Cambodian Minister of Education Hangchuon Naron visited Liger Leadership Academy. Vey had the opportunity to show the Minister a video game he had developed using Scratch. The Minister even played a round.

Following Minister Naron’s visit to Liger Leadership Academy, the Cambodian government oversaw education reforms that emphasized STEM, ICT, and critical thinking skills in school. Just a couple years later, Vey attended the Cambodia STEM Festival, where he met students who had advanced through the government’s new programs. “I saw a group of high school students made a maze game from Scratch,” Vey says. “I thought, ‘What I have done two years ago has shaped Cambodia, I made a change in Cambodia!”