Future Cast on World Stage

July 11, 2007
Lee Schellenberger

Before me, wearing a paint-splattered Pink Floyd tee shirt and a bright smile, sits the Academic Connections student, Nettra Pan. The tall 17 year old from Cambodia has a strong sense of who she is and what she intends to accomplish. She is established as a talented young artist and leader in model UN meetings and battle of the bands around the world. She was in the top three delegates at the 2005 Harvard Model Congress in Bangkok and was Delegate of the Day at the 2006 Model UN in Singapore. At her local school, The International School of Phnom Penh, Nettra and her band won the 2005 Battle of the Bands.

“I’ve always had high expectations of myself,” Nettra says. With all her accomplishments she continues to challenge herself. Thirteen years ago her father received a job with United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), and moved the family overseas. Every Summer Nettra travels back to her former homes, the United States and France. One would think the constant movement would be enough of a challenge, but Nettra insists her biggest problem is keeping up to date on the regional slang.

Nettra is somewhat an artistic celebrity in her small school of 400 students in the country’s capitol. This singer, songwriter, and guitarist teamed up with her fellow classmates to form a classic rock cover band. “We’ve played TNT, Voodoo Child and Seven Nation Army,” she says.

She has also written a collection of short stories called Rippling Reflections, influenced by her cultural surroundings. Nettra says, “With all the political problems, people overlook the cultural and artistic aspects…it’s my responsibility to rebuild it.”

That is just the beginning of Nettra’s devotion to her homeland. She aspires to be a diplomat and work in foreign relations to somehow benefit Cambodia’s slowly recovering politics and economy. “Poverty is a big issue,” Nettra says. In addition to the increasing separation of social classes, she explains the corrupt rule and poor law enforcement that her country has suffered.
Whatever career path she takes, whether it’s in medicine, law, or politics, her underlying purpose will be the same. “I want it to best help me help Cambodia.” Her eyes tear up and reveal the strong connection and responsibility she feels towards her country. There is no doubt that she will prove herself as an effective world leader in the future.

“She has a very big heart, very big dreams, and doesn’t let people tear her down,” says her cousin, Eleni Kapoulea, 15. Remember the name Nettra Pan, because she will most likely appear to be a performer on the world stage in more ways than one.

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