“You are like a frog living in the well!” is one of the most common phrases that many Cambodians use to criticize a person who does not know what is happening outside his/her world. The frog is living in such a very tiny world. However, what else can we interpret from this metaphor? I used to be terrified when I heard it. I do not want to be that frog.

In order to pursue higher education, I had to move from my hometown in Kampong Thom Province to Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia. I lived there for four years in the Harpswell Foundation Dormitory with 47 female students from different provinces. I felt more isolated from home year after year. I rarely visited home during the weekends or holidays. Also, I called home only when I had to. I did not even talk to my parents about my personal life. I did not even hug them when I left home. What I did differed from my other classmates. However, a sense of love to my family is always in my heart even if I do not know how to interpret it.

I discovered the meaning of love when I lived in Harpswell dormitory. I started to communicate with new people in a new world. l learned many things from them. They welcomed me as their sisters. They said sweet words to me. They hugged me. They kissed me. They played with me. Soon after, I behaved toward them as they did to me. I should have done these sorts of things to my family too. Still, I keep doing the same things toward my family.

This year I moved even further away from the love I explored. I have never trained my heart to live in this very huge world; as a result, it had a serious impact on me. I deeply understand that distance makes the love even stronger. After arriving for two days, I had to go on an Orientation Trip. It was the hardest time for me. I went to Pleasant Point with the other nine American students. To me, being with them in a new environment was like being the frog that just got out of the well. They were talking with each other. I did not know how to talk and how to join in the conversations with them. What they talked about was not about something I heard about “in the well,” my world, but it was something they knew about in their world. Sometimes, I did not understand what they were talking about. I just listened to them and pretended to laugh when they laughed even if I did not know what they were laughing about. I followed what they did. I was kind of adapting easily to all activities, however, my heart was unable to handle the new environment.

Along the road to Pleasant Point as well as during the hiking, there was such a beautiful view that I had never seen before. The view was amazing, but it was not able to thrill my heart. I was still calm without any sense of love. I imagined I should have been able to bring those I love to enjoy this view together. I heard the voice of happiness from my parents, my sister and my friends. Then I discovered that true happiness is really in the heart, it is not in the outside world.

However, I believe that the hardest times always lead to positive change. Most obstacles I will encounter in the future will make me stronger. And finally, I hope I am a winner. I am really thankful from the bottom of my heart to all my orientation trip friends. They were the first warm welcome I had at Bowdoin. Even though I did not have much to talk to them about, their smiles, friendliness and kindness were enough for me. Their hearts are like the dew in the morning that blossom me and guide me to find new love in a new world. I have also been welcomed by everyone here in the same way and the more I interact with them, the more I have been aware that I will find a new love. I strongly believe that I can explore a new love the same as the love I have for my family and my friends in Cambodia. I will leave next year with sweet new memories that come along with me wherever I go.

Samphors Khean is an exchange student from Cambodia for the 2015-16 academic year. Read more about the Harpswell Foundation here.