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10 March 2017ASEAN Astronomy Camp Written by Soliday

Foreword: Soliday, one of Liger’s fifteen-year-old students, applied for the ASEAN Astronomy Camp along with a few of her classmates. When they heard their results, none of the girls had been accepted; however, Soliday was the only student to be added to the waiting list. We considered this a success, as the camp was for students between ages 15 and 21, so the competition was fierce. After a week or so we got the final results and she had been accepted! Unfortunately, because of the last-minute notification, we were unable to send one of our Liger Learning Facilitator’s along with her – undeterred, Soliday used her collaboration and communication skills to befriend a group of Cambodian government school students who had also been accepted. Thus, Soliday took her first overseas trip without the safety net of anyone she knew. Not only did she succeed, she soared! Below, in her own words, you can read Soliday’s experiences and challenges in Chiang Mai.

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On the 24th of January, 2017, I got the greatest opportunity ever: to attend the ASEAN Astronomy Camp 2017, which was held in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I got this opportunity because in November, I entered this competition in order to get this amazing experience. Unfortunately, I had to travel abroad alone for the first time, without any of my friends nor teachers, and I was the only student representing Liger. Thankfully, there were some other Cambodian students who came from different schools, who were also attending, so I was able to travel with them; it was really fun and I felt more comfortable knowing that there would be other people to travel with.

The ASEAN Astronomy Camp is an event organized by NARIT (National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand), which is a public organization. The Camp welcomed 37 high-school students and 9 teachers from a wide range of schools across Southeast Asia. It is comprised of seven national representatives from Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. I represented Cambodia, obviously, and there were 10 other Cambodian students as well. So, the idea of this camp was to introduce students to the science of astronomy, gain technology skills and give the students the greatest opportunity to experience a new reality.

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This camp was held over four days, and each and every day was busy. There were always loads of fun activities and exciting presentations from scientists, astronomers and telescope experts. We were divided into five groups and always worked with this group for the duration of the camp. The five main activities we did were:

1. Make a sextant – We got to listen to a scientist who talked about the stars’ altitude and the directions of stars. Then he instructed us on how to make a handmade sextant and how to use our sextant to measure altitude at night when we went star-gazing.

2. Planet Walk – We had another talk from another scientist, who presented to us about our solar system. We started our activity by calculating the distance between each planet (example: the distance from Earth to the Sun) with a demonstration model.

3. Making a comet – This was my personal favorite activity because we got to make our own model comet using real equipment and ingredients.

4. Solar observation – For this activity, we used a reflecting telescope to see the Sun. If we put a paper through the reflecting telescope, it would actually burn the paper because the sunlight is so strong. In order to observe the Sun, we needed to put a paper close enough, but not too close to the telescope; then we could see some dotting point on it.

5. Using Dobsonian Telescope – This was the most challenging activity. We got to listen to a real telescope expert, who told us how the telescope works and it’s different functions. We then learned how to use the telescope with help from experts, but at night, we used the telescope to see the stars without help from anyone at all. It was challenging because the function of the telescope is complicated.

Talking about star-gazing at night and in the morning is fabulous. It was the first time in my life that I got to identify stars using my naked eye, and also the first time spent looking at different planets, stars, constellations, and galaxies through a strong telescope. Before this camp, I had no experience with a telescope! It was so cold up on the mountain that at times I could not feel my fingers, but I still made it through because I was curious and I wanted to talk and learn from the astronomers, scientists and everyone else who was there with me.

My first impression of this event was I was so excited about getting to exchange cultures with other people from Asia who participated in the camp. It was so delightful to make friends with them and there’s nothing better than creating a new friendly relationship with other people. These students who joined this event are talented, smart and very interesting to communicate with because of their diverse cultures. The food in Thailand was so spicy, but so delicious. I miss the food there a lot because whenever I think of it, it makes me hungry!

Another challenge I had was being the only representative from my school. However, I am so thankful to the other 10 Cambodian students and staff member who went with me; they are very intelligent, too. At first, I was scared traveling with them because they all knew each other and I might be left alone, knowing no one. But, it turned out that they were a pleasure to be with, very kind, generous and funny for sure. I’m so pleased to be friends with them and I hope we will still be connected in the future; maybe we will go back to the camp next year together!
What I noticed the most about this camp was that most of the people who joined are very passionate about astronomy and now I can see why they like to learn and explore this topic; to me, the idea of astronomy is very fascinating. It makes people wonder and want to discover more and more about the world.

This was one of the best experiences that I’ve gotten in my life so far.

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