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Alumni Interview: Sreyneath Poole
Program Coordinator for New York Southeast Asia Network
(Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University, New York)

What years and grades did you attend at ISPP and when did you graduate?
I was first enrolled in the ISPP summer school program in 2000 and entered 5th grade right after that. I left ISPP at the end of 8th grade in 2005 and so I never had a chance to graduate from ISPP.

Where do you reside now?
I live in New York City, US.

Name the places you have lived in.
Dobbs Ferry, New York; Redlands, California; Beijing, China; Jeonju, South Korea

What have you been up to since graduating from ISPP?
I will try to keep this short. When I left ISPP in 2005, my family and I moved to New York where I attended high school and received both my high school and IB diplomas. From there, I moved to California to do my undergraduate degree where I received a self-designed Bachelor of Arts degree emphasis in “The Nature of Imbalance: East Asian Politics and Media” (this is the name of my actual degree) at the University of Redlands. Upon graduation, I returned home to Cambodia in order to get some work experience and I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to intern at the Documentation Center of Cambodia and Oxfam US. Through my work in Cambodia, I received a full academic scholarship to study at Rutgers University, Newark, where I received a Master’s degree in Global Affairs. Now, I am working as the Program Coordinator for the New York Southeast Asia Network (NYSEAN), a new initiative with a mission to enhance Southeast Asia Studies in the New York metro area, that is based out of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute at Columbia University in New York City.

What do we need to know about you?
I love spicy food. If it doesn’t burn then it’s no good.

Which countries have you travelled to?
Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, UK, Austria, Canada, South Korea, North Korea, China.

What are your hobbies? What do you end up doing in your spare time?
I like watching movies and playing with my cat.

What are you good at that nobody knows?
I think I’m pretty decent at photography.

What do you miss most about Phnom Penh?
What I miss most about Phnom Penh are my family and relatives. I also miss the different varieties of food and fruit that you can get in the markets!

What are your favourite memories of Cambodia and ISPP?
My first MRISA sports exchange when we went to Hanoi and we were hosted by UNIS. I had so much fun competing, creating new cheers with my teammates, and making new friends.

How do you remember your school years?
The school was very challenging. Prior to ISPP, I was enrolled in the Cambodian public school system that was very different from ISPP. I was lagging behind in school and when I was enrolled at ISPP, I didn’t really speak English either. So there was a lot of catching up that I had to do. I was able to get up to speed pretty quickly because my teachers were there every step of the way to make sure that I reached the goals that I had set out for myself. I owe a lot to my teachers and the staff at ISPP who supported me along the way.

What did you love most about studying in an international school?
I think the coolest thing about studying at an international school is that you have friends from all around the world!

What was your favourite school lunch or snack?
Back in the old high school campus, there was a woman who sold snacks outside of the school gates and I would often go there and get myself some Mama instant ramen noodles during breaks.

Which piece of technology has most contributed to your academic success?
Stating the obvious here and that would be the computer and the internet.

What was your favourite subject or who was your favourite teacher?
My favourite classes were on P.E. and Design Technology. My favourite project that we had to do for Design Technology was to build a model trebuchet and see who can build the best model that would send their projectiles the farthest. I think I came dead last, but it was a very fun project!

Where did you spend your time on campus?
The basketball court was my favourite place to be. I used to love shooting hoops and running around with my friends whenever I could get a chance.

What was the most memorable song in your ISPP years?
It was American Idiot by Green Day. I don’t remember how many hours I would spend listening to the entire album over and over again.

If you were in charge of planning a concert for the school, which artists would you bring?
Probably the Arctic Monkeys. I saw them performed in California and they were great!

Which TV show was most talked about in the hallways?
Among the girls, I think it was America’s Next Top Model but I never watched the show.

What’s your most embarrassing in-school memory? What happened and did you learn anything from it?
In middle school, we put on a Shakespeare play for English class and there was a kissing scene and I had to pretend to kiss a boy in front of everyone. That was a really embarrassing thing to do when you were at that age.

How have you spent your summers while in high school?
My family would often travel, mostly to the UK, to visit my grandparents and relatives.

Which event was the most fun?
For me, it was MRISA and field days.

What was the coolest art project you did?
I’m not the artistic type so I couldn’t come up with anything cool or artsy. However, I did a scratch art of a mountain gorilla that I’m very proud of to this day.

What’s the best game or sport that you played in gym class? Why is it so fun?
Basketball and football were my two favourite sports to play. I love team sports because I would have so much fun playing and laughing with my friends.

In your opinion, what makes ISPP stand out?
I think that one of the most amazing things about ISPP, and its students, is the sense of community that they’re able to create as well as the readiness to give back to the community whether it’s through volunteering or working in a field that contributes to the greater social good.

If you could give ISPP’s current Grade 12 class some advice at their graduation, what would it be?
Never be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

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