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Celebrating Cambodian culture with my Minnesota community: A Q&A with SHE-CAN Scholar Sreytom Tim

Celebrating Cambodian culture with my Minnesota community: A Q&A with SHE-CAN Scholar Sreytom Tim

The SHE-CAN staff chatted with scholar Sreytom Tim, sophomore at the University of Minnesota, about the Cambodian Student Association of Minnesota’s 2018 Khmer New Year event she organized on campus. The free event took place on April 7 from 6-9 p.m. at the St. Paul Student Center in the North Star Ballroom at U of M’s St. Paul campus. Sreytom’s been on the CSAM Board for two years. Last year, she was the Internal Public Relations Officer. She’s currently an Event Coordinator.
SHE-CAN: We heard this is CSAM’s biggest event of the year. How did it go?

Sreytom: The event was a great success. It was open to the public and around 500 people came! Everyone enjoyed the food and performances and had a great time with their families and friends. We got good feedback from the audience.

SHE-CAN: That’s great news! Congratulations. Can you explain the importance of this annual event?

Sreytom: The purpose of this event is to celebrate the Cambodian New Year by bringing the community both inside and outside of U of M together. Also, it’s a chance for us to share our culture and tradition with others. Typically the Khmer New Year is three days and each day is devoted to different festivities. So for this year’s celebration we decided to combine the festivities from all three days into one evening. Everyone came together to celebrate the common good at the home, temple and community. We reflected on the past year and received blessings for the new year! 


SHE-CAN: Can you describe the fun activities that took place throughout the evening? 

Sreytom: Guests were entertained all night! We did three skits to reflect the meaning of the three days of the Khmer New Year. Two groups from our Cambodian community performed two traditional dances and one folk dance. The CSAM Board performed a modern dance. We held a HQ trivia game about Cambodia called KhmerHoot, and at the end of the night everyone danced to traditional Cambodian music.

SHE-CAN: What was your favorite part about the event?
Sreytom: I was able to meet with elder Cambodian people in the community and share my culture with others. The event made me feel like I was back home.

SHE-CAN: Is this the first time you’ve ever organized an on campus event? Can you describe what it was like? 

Sreytom: I’ve organized events in the past, but this is the first time that I was in charge of a big event. I was excited and nervous at the same time. I was so confident with my decisions, but at times I still felt scared of failing. I started planning this event back in November 2017 and was grateful to have 42 people help me out including CSAM board members, volunteers and interns.
Also, working with a team normally presents challenges because everyone has conflicting schedules and different perspectives. Although everything didn’t go 100% as expected, such as only half the performers could make the dress rehearsal, everything turned out great at the end of the night.


SHE-CAN: Did organizing this event help you strengthen your leadership skills?
Sreytom: ​Absolutely! I learned how to work with a team more effectively and how to assign tasks based on people’s interests and skills. Also, I learned how to manage my schedule so that it was easy for me to make time to coordinate with everyone on my team.
SHE-CAN: What’s it like to celebrate the Khmer New Year in the U.S. with both the Cambodian community on your campus and in Minnesota in general?
Sreytom: It is totally different. Of course, we did not have all the materials that we needed but we managed to make the event similar to how people celebrate back home. 
I’m really proud that the event went well. The successful turnout and response showed me that everyone from the community really values Cambodian culture and they are not afraid to show it to others. Most of my Cambodian American friends were born in the U.S, so they don’t know much about Cambodia. But I’m happy to see how at my age they’re trying to learn and practice Cambodian culture.