Where Are They Now? – ISPP – International School of Phnom Penh



Alumni Interview: Enya Pangilinan
Class of 2012 | Years at ISPP 2009 – 2012
Hey everyone! I’m Enya and was a student at ISPP from Grade 10 to 12 (class of 2012). I grew up in the Philippines and my family moved about five times, which meant going to different schools and making new friends again. ISPP was my fifth school but the first international school I’ve been to. Cambodia was also a country I’d never visited prior to our family moving. Although moving and making new friends was not something new – I was excited, intimidated and vulnerable all at the same time at the thought of starting afresh in a foreign city and a new school. I remember my first day and immediately, ISPP welcomed me with open arms. It didn’t take long to feel like a part of the whole picture.
ISPP and Cambodia hold a special place in my heart as cheesy as that may sound. Although IB was a total [email protected]#$, after going through that I realised that it’s still by far the hardest and most rewarding thing I’ve done up to this day. IB was worth it. I meet fellow IB “survivors” in the cities I’ve lived in and there’s already that instant connection.

Growing up, I figured I’d take up nursing and go abroad as most Filipino kids do, which is in line with what my parents wanted but I found my love for the arts and creativity while in ISPP. I was torn between going with what my parents wanted, which was a more secure career path or pursuing the Arts not knowing whether it’ll take me anywhere. Inspired by my dearest friends who pursued what they wanted to do, I spent almost two years persuading my parents to let me choose a creative path. The struggle was real.
I did my Bachelor’s in Design Communications specialising in Advertising at LASALLE College of the Arts in Singapore. It was a very blurry line between graduation and getting my first job. The unemployment period was a struggle – from needing a work visa to retain in Singapore, to the doubts of choosing the wrong path, to the unspoken pressure from the parents, to the pressure I felt being the eldest sister as I wanted to be a good role model, and the pressure when you see your friends are getting jobs and internships.

Fast forward to now – I’m currently based in Hong Kong and it’ll be my fifth year this May. For my first two and a half years, I worked as an in-house graphic designer but I didn’t feel like it was something I wanted to do long-term. Then I transitioned into UI & UX Design. I’ve been in this field for almost three years now and I can finally say I’ve found something I see myself doing and enjoying for at least the next five years.
I’m currently a UX Designer at a Blockchain firm for over a year now. Before diving into the world of crypto, I was working as a UI & UX Designer at a BioTech firm for 18 months. The products I got to work with were really cool ranging from DNA to COVID-19. I don’t want to dive into what I do too much as I can really go on and on about it. I’m more than happy to discuss UI & UX Design with anyone who is interested!
On the side, I spend some time behind the lens @snapsbyenya – I shoot intimate weddings, engagements and lifestyle portraits. 
To ISPP students, my email address and the door always remain open. You can reach me at [email protected].

Which countries have you travelled to?
I’ve been to Cambodia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, the United States, Hungary, Austria, Spain, Indonesia and the Philippines.
What are your tips for those moving to new countries?
Be curious and explore. Make the most of your time in that city – eat local food, try new activities, learn a few phrases in the local language, do touristy things, explore areas other than your own neighbourhood, take photos and videos to look back on, and make new friends. Moving to a new city/country can be intimidating especially if you start from scratch with no friends and family there. It helps to be open-minded and allow yourself the time to adjust to a new place. It’s only normal to feel a lot of excitement and uncertainty at the same time. 
Has your international school experience shaped your worldview – How? How do you feel your time at ISPP contributed to where you are now?
Most definitely! Before going to an international school, I was only thinking of living/working back in the Philippines or the US. I wasn’t thinking about cultural experiences so I had quite a tunnel vision about my future. During my time at ISPP, it made me realise that I wanted to live in different cities/countries and not just visit them as a tourist. I became more open-minded. I was a shy kid when I went to ISPP but after the experience and exposure, I was able to build confidence in self-expression, embrace my individuality and appreciate multicultural friendships. My time in ISPP has really helped shape who I am today.

What are your hobbies? What do you end up doing in your spare time?
I don’t have a hobby that I do on a regular basis but during my spare time, I do enjoy trying new things or doing something different than the previous week. I’ve tried dragon boat rowing for a few months with a team and participated in a race, went for some private dance classes for a few months to improve, art jamming with friends, baking classes, etc. Unfortunately, things changed because of Covid and it led me to do more outdoorsy activities despite the fact that I’m not really that outdoorsy. I’ve done a lot of hiking and outdoor climbing – spent almost every weekend of last year doing these two. A hobby that stuck with me since high school, which I’ve now turned into a side hustle, would be photography.
What is your favourite ISPP memory?
The time I went for my first Week Without Walls trip! My friends and I chose to go to Ratanakiri. I remember the long hours of trekking in the jungle and camping by the river. I remember our hammocks falling off the tree while we were in it. The highlight would be when Juliana and I got stung by a scorpion in our tent in the middle of the night! We panicked a little bit but I remember we were laughing it off. I think the whole trip was mostly Type 2 kind of fun but it’s one of the fondest memories I have of ISPP. My friends and I really bonded over that trip that we decided to do Ratanakiri again for our last Week Without Walls.

What was your favourite subject or who was your favourite teacher?
I have two favourite teachers: Ms Nicola Scales (Biology) and Ms Robyn Zellar (Visual Arts). Ms Scales was like a friend to my friends and me. We would hang out sometimes in her classroom during lunch. She trained and biked with us for the Angkor Wat 30km race in Siem Reap as part of CAS [Creativity, activity, service]. She’s also an amazing baker. Ms Zellar was someone I could go to and is one of my inspirations as to why I pursued a creative path.
What would you tell your high school self?
Trust the process because things will work out in the end. To let her know that it’s not about the grades and the university that will determine her future, it does not determine how successful or unsuccessful she will be. I would tell her that by putting a lot of effort into something she cares about, grit, resilience and patience come a long way. To tell her not to worry so much about what the future holds because there’s always going to be a lot of uncertainty. Let her know that it’s best to make the most of the present – enjoy the company of her friends and family, have fun while she’s still young with little to no responsibilities.

What subject did you learn in IB and how did it affect your career?
I took Economics, Biology and Visual Arts for my higher levels and then Maths Studies, Spanish ab initio and English Literature for my standard levels! It wasn’t a particular subject that affected my career but more so the way of teaching and learning in an IB curriculum. IB really challenged me in every way possible: problem-solving, time management, creativity, and critical thinking (add-on: presentations!). These all contributed and helped me jumpstart and develop the needed skills in order to do well in my career. 
What was the coolest art project you did? In Grade 10, my personal project was designing t-shirts for the Cambodian National Volleyball League (Disabled) who were affected by landmines. It was very inspiring to hear their stories and how they bounced back through the means of a loved sport. I sold the t-shirts on campus and donated the money to CNVLD.

What are your career goals?
For the short term, I’m working towards a Senior UX Designer role in my current company. Over the past few jobs I’ve had, I’ve come to learn that a great boss and a great mentor all wrapped up in one comes rarely. So I intend to stay in my current company to learn as much as I can from my boss. In the next five years, I would like to be a Lead UX Designer and have a little team of my own – to be able to share what I’ve learned, to help them grow. When I’m able to achieve that then I think I’ll probably want to do something else like open my own photography studio or be one of those photographers that do destination weddings worldwide.
Advice for students in the Diploma Programme (IB DP)?
First of all, good luck! IB is extremely difficult and when you make it through it – you’ll feel very empowered (I definitely did haha). I’m 28 now and I’ve never felt the same amount of stress and anxiety as I had when I was going through IB. Choose your subjects wisely and try your best not to procrastinate. Know that you’re not alone and that you have friends who are going through the same thing as you. If you need help, ask for it – there is no shame in asking a teacher or a friend when you’re in need. Some may hide the stress better than others but I can assure you everyone in the world going through IB feels the same struggle. When it is all over, you’ll look back and feel grateful that you went through this whole experience. 🙂

This interview was first published in the ISPP Pulse Magazine (November 2021 – January 2022).
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