Alumni Interview: Victor Byenkya
Class of 2006 | Years at ISPP 2001 – 2005
In this edition of “Where Are They Now?” we had the pleasure of catching up with Victor Byenkya.
Victor is the newest member of ISPP’s Admissions, Communication and Marketing team, where he has taken up the role of Admissions Officer. This is a full circle for Victor, who attended ISPP from 2001 – 2005 and, along with his siblings, has stayed in touch with happenings at our school since moving away.
Something about yourself
I was born in Kampala Uganda, and spent my childhood attending international schools across Africa and Asia. My father was the Deputy Resident Representative for the United Nations Development Program. We moved a lot, so I spent most of my early life living between Africa and Asia, in very diverse cultures and environments. I left Uganda at the age of 2 and attended eight international schools in six different countries through the ages of 3-18.
My first exposure to the international school environment was in Lagos, Nigeria. From there our family moved to Khartoum, Sudan and subsequently Dhaka, Bangladesh. In 2001, my father was stationed in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I had the privilege of attending ISPP from 2001 until 2005 – started in Grade 8 and left at the end of Grade 11. I completed the IB program in Grade 12 at the International School Of Uganda. After that, I went to the University of Toronto in Canada and have lived there since graduating.
During my time at ISPP, I began tutoring international students from multiple schools in Phnom Penh. Tutoring and mentoring students has always been a passion of mine, and one that I maintained throughout high school/university and my professional career.
I am a singer/songwriter who has released five albums, a series of EPs and mixtapes and performed at over 100 venues over the past two decades. I love music, reading and cooking. I have been collecting comic books since I was ten years old. I have two brothers, two sisters and over 61 first cousins. I come from an incredibly large and beautiful family.
Your experience as an IB student
To this day, the IB has arguably been the most beneficial program in setting me up for a successful education and career. My time in the IB not only shaped the way that I see the world but truly helped me understand my place in it.
Memorable moments from ISPP
One of my most memorable experiences was being a part of the school rugby team. Coach Robert Jones was our French teacher at the time and he started a team and registered us to compete locally in the national Under-18 Rugby League. We got to travel around the country and won the championship at the Olympic Stadium in 2004. It was an incredible experience.
This is also when my love for performing music and arts was nurtured. As much as I enjoyed sports and being part of the MRISA basketball and volleyball teams, a defining moment was participating in the Cultural Exchange at ISPP. The people I met during the cultural exchange, the ideas and the pieces we made stay with me to this day. Our music teacher at the time, Ms Fields, was incredibly supportive and pushed me to try out for the end-of-year school production. I played the role of Dr Prospero in The Return to the Forbidden Planet, which helped bring me out of my comfort zone. I started my first band, The Detour, with a few other students at ISPP, and won the local Rap Battle competition held at the Riverside Lounge in 2005. The first album I was ever involved in was a tribute album called Pathways, recorded live and produced in the music classroom at the old Norodom Campus.
What are your favourite memories of Cambodia?
My memories all revolve around the friends and family I made at the school. Our class size was much smaller back then so everyone knew each other. Some of my fondest memories are playing basketball after school and rugby on the weekends. There were not a lot of places to hang around back then, so we spent most of our time at school and the Caltex down the road from the old Norodom campus.
What did you do after?
I returned to my hometown in Kampala, Uganda and completed the IB at the International School of Uganda. I mainly applied to Universities in Canada and chose to attend the University Of Toronto.I graduated with an Honours Bachelor’s Degree in History and International Development Studies.
Where did you work?
After university, I spent about 12 years performing, working on music and pursuing a career in sales and education. I managed an English Summer Camp at St. Michael’s College, which is a part of The University Of Toronto. I helped build a start-up pet supply company that sold naturally shed deer antlers as a dog treat, which took me all across North America. This involved being on the road a lot for work, which I enjoyed, working in and visiting over 300 cities and small towns. Afterwards, I returned to the education industry and worked for a private college and agency helping students find university, high school and summer camp placements across North America.
Have you visited Cambodia since?
I have not had a chance to visit Cambodia since leaving in 2005. Both my older brother and older sister have come back in the last decade to see old friends, but this is my first time returning to Phnom Penh.
How did you hear about the Admissions Officer position at ISPP?
I heard about the job from my little brother who saw it through a posting for ISPP Alumni. He knew how much I would love to come back to Phnom Penh and encouraged me to apply.
How does it feel to come back?
It feels amazing and quite surreal to be back. There is a warmth here that’s incredibly hard to describe. I only spent four years in Phnom Penh during my childhood, but those were easily my most memorable and formative school years. The city has changed significantly in that time and I don’t recognise a lot of the buildings, but the streets still feel like home.
How much has Phnom Penh changed since you attended ISPP?
Phnom Penh has changed a lot. When I left in 2005, we only had one mall in the city back then, it was the Sorya Shopping Centre. There is not much left that I recognise. The roads have changed completely and there are many more tuk-tuks. Back then, it was only motos we used to get around.
Which countries have you travelled to?
I have travelled to a few countries in Africa and Asia, as well as all across the USA and Canada. The countries I have travelled to are Kenya, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Sudan, Nigeria, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Singapore, Canada (5/10 Provinces), USA (23/50 States) and Dominican Republic.
It’s hard to pick a favourite place in the world. My top five favourite places to recommend for a visit would be Zanzibar, Dominican Republic, Kampala in Uganda, Cairo in Egypt and Toronto in Canada.
What are your hobbies? What do you end up doing in your spare time?
I love writing. I have been writing lyrics/music for myself and others for almost two decades. I started experimenting with rap and singing when I was in Grade 9 at ISPP. I have been a member of quite a few bands since then, as well as released solo music under the pseudonym 3-Card. I also really enjoy cooking, video games, basketball and reading.
What’s the next place on your travel bucket list?
The next place on my travel bucket list is the Philippines and Japan. These are both places I’ve dreamt about going to since I was a kid, and haven’t had the chance to yet.
Name some of your favourite foods
My favourite food is probably a Ugandan dish that isn’t seen outside of East Africa. It is called katogo. My favourite type of katogo is matooke ne binyebwa, otherwise known as plantain and peanut sauce. My other favourite foods are chicken shawarma, rolex (chapati & fried egg), lentil soup, jjajangmyeon, jerk chicken, smoked tilapia, moo dad deaw, chicken tikka masala, roti and peanut butter chickpea curry.
Tell us more about what you’re doing in school now
It’s been a very exciting return to Phnom Penh. It’s hard to believe it’s been 18 years and so much has changed around the city. Phnom Penh has always been home to me. Even though I don’t recognise it, the energy and the feeling remain. The environment at ISPP is even more welcoming and vibrant than I remember.
I have returned to ISPP in the role of Admissions Officer. I provide information and tours for prospective families and assist with introducing new families to our community. The role of admissions and the international school environment provide me with a sense of accomplishment and community. I love this role because it offers a unique blend of cultural richness and professional fulfilment. Interacting with students, parents, and educators from diverse backgrounds reminds me of my childhood, and allows me to contribute to a global educational community. Building relationships with families and being part of a multicultural environment fosters a strong sense of connection and contributes to a broader mission of providing quality education on a global scale.
The values and ideals of this diverse community are on full display during International Day. This was always one of my favourite events to participate in growing up. My mother was usually very involved and went above and beyond sharing aspects of our Ugandan culture with our community. Even though I didn’t grow up in Uganda, it helped establish pride and acceptance by sharing my own culture.
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- Joseph Surivong (2002 – 2014)
- Visakha Som (1991 – 1996)
- Yoobin Kim (2012 – 2015)
- Gaurav Raul (2005 – 2007)
- Meghan McMurray (2015 – 2017)
- Enya Pangilinan (2009 – 2012)
- Vimuolea Hang (2006 – 2013)
- Frank van Zoggel (1991 – 1993)
- Sharlynn Ng (2005 – 2010)
- Brian Webster (2002 – 2016)
- Thida Leiper (1991 – 2005)
- Armando Abrahamsson (2010 – 2012)
- Luca Fleschler, Fraya Fleschler, Ximena Herrera (2011 – 2017)
- Dany, Soriya and Kalyane Warren (1996 – 2001)
- Nadia Fernando (1999 – 2015)
- Lotta Urban (1998 – 1999)
- Sreyneath Poole (2000 – 2005)