I Younan An
#PeopleofNIU Photo by Scott Walstrom/Institutional Communications
Hometown: Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Major: Political Science
Are you attending NIU on any scholarships? Which one(s)?
Yes. The Southeast Asian Youth Leadership Program Scholarship, John G. and Barbara Peters Public Service Scholarship, and Kevin D. Knight Leadership Award.
What is your major, and why did you choose your field of study?
Political Science, emphasis in International Politics. I chose this major because I wanted to learn about the global world and how different countries interact with one another to promote peace and prosperity. My goal is to work somehow in those fields promoting peace and development in the developing counties, either as a researcher or an activist or policymaker.
How did you learn about NIU, and why did you choose to attend?
In April 2014, I participated in the Southeast Asian Youth Leadership Program funded by the U.S. Department of State and hosted by NIU’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies. From the program, I had a chance to glimpse the NIU experience and was encouraged to go to school here.
Are you involved in any activities at NIU? What else do you do for fun/hobbies in your spare time?
I am the current president for the Southeast Asia Club, and I dedicate the majority of my free time serving on the Huskie Food Pantry leadership team. The hobbies I enjoy are playing badminton, riding my bike at the lagoon and Hopkins Park and taking photos around campus.
What do you like about our campus and community?
I really like the interactions of NIU staff and students on campus because it makes me feel like I belong here. People at NIU always look out for me and care about my well-being. I am happy, and it is very easy for me to find someone to talk to and get advice.
What has your experience inside the classroom been like at NIU?
My experience has been amazing in the classroom. The professors are very engaging and care about student academic performance. I also have close interactions with my classmates, as we often help each other out in class.
What is something you have experienced at NIU that you will be able to take with you into future endeavors in your field?
My research experience through Research Rookies and my senior thesis. I will be able to use these experiences in different places, either in the working field or as I pursue my Ph.D.
Would you recommend NIU to others and why? What’s a general piece of advice you’d give to someone starting college?
Yes, I would recommend NIU to others because this school is a great place that will help you create a future. My advice: “Don’t be afraid, and always believe in yourself.”
What is up next for you after your time at NIU? Any career aspirations you would like to share?
My career aspiration is to become a diplomat working to promote peace development between my country and other countries. Before I get into that position, I want to work as a project coordinator in a U.S. Embassy, a non-governmental organization or a United Nations agency to develop and implement programs to impact people’s lives in developing countries. These programs include women’s empowerment, educational training, health care access, community leadership and engagement, and more.
Where is your hometown? Is there a place you hope to call “home” long-term that you'd like to share?
My hometown is Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia. I do not have a specific place that I would call home because, with my career aspirations, I will be required to travel a lot. Therefore, my home is wherever I have my family and friends with me.
Any family or other loved ones you would like to mention?
To my family, including my parents and little sister who live 10,000 miles away from me, I hope you are doing well, and thank you for everything you have done for me. My parents are both tailors and have worked very hard to support my life the past 21 years. Although both dropped out of school at a young age, I am proud to have seen their hard work pay off as I continue to make them proud.
What is your favorite place to hang out in the DeKalb area and why?
I like to go to Ollie’s to get frozen custard and especially Hopkins Park. It is such a great place to hang out and ride my bike along the Kishwaukee River.
What inspires you?
The younger generation of my country inspires me because we are the cornerstone of my society. Our voices have meant so much to the community. I have the ability to make so much change to help develop my country in the future.
Who are your role models?
Both of my parents are my role models because of their hard work and their sacrifices. They went through the Khmer Rouge Cambodian genocide from 1975 to 1979. They dropped out of school and moved into the city to work and find better lives. They work very hard to send me to school.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced?
Coming here to study at NIU as an international student. I haven’t been home yet since I started, so it has been very a tough journey.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
“Remember, you love yourself more than anyone else.”
I Younan An, a December 2018 graduate, is the 2018 Student Lincoln Laureate.