A Transformative 2017: Best Year of My First American Decade


My first time flying in a scenic charter plane. Here about to land at Monument Valley, Utah, November 2017.

2017 turned out to be more eventful, gratifying, and transformative than all the nine years that proceeded it in my first decade in America. So many people have helped made this incredible year of so many firsts possible.

Below are my ten highlights from 2017:

1. “Culturally disrupted to help connect the world more meaningfully.” Many circumstances and people this year have helped me see my still-evolving overarching life mission and setting goals for my next decade. Professionally and personally, I am passionate about technology and communication that improves society.

2. The District of Home Away From Home: After four months away from Washington, DC, working for three months in my hometown Phnom Penh and for a shorter time in San Francisco, I came to realize that I have strong attachment to US capital city, which has been my new home for more than eight years. I even made it a statement to stay in the District for Christmas, which is usually the quietest (and possibly most boring) time to be in Washington. Home is truly where your heart is. Nevertheless, the meaning of family, friends, and community took on a new level in 2017.

A Christmas in “home sweet home” DC???? …………………………………… Last DC Christmas, I gave the District my heart, but the very next day DC gave it away (DC didn’t give me any food or love because most places and people I knew were closed or away at their “home”). This year, to save me from tears, I gave it to someone special, a new District called “Home.” (I’m giving DC another chance after deciding that the District is now truly my new home that I cannot run away from and that it has changed enough to be called the District of Christmas!) Let’s see! Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas from #WashingtonDC! ……………………………………. #christmas #potomacfever #thedistrictthatsurroundsme #districtofcolumbia #dclife #dc #home #holidays #vacation #travel #weekend #christmastree #sanfrancisco #cambodia #wharfdc #city #potomac #washington

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3. The Movie Interview (& Selfie): By coincidence, I had a rare opportunity to interview Hollywood star Angelina Jolie about her Khmer-language Netflix film First They Killed My Father and her Cambodian adopted son Maddox. Beyond this film, 2017 also introduced me to many interesting movies and TV shows and generally I have become a more savvy media consumer.

4. Deeper Tech: My overall understanding of the Cambodian and US tech sectors and startup scene has grown with more reporting opportunity and connecting with experts. Some of the most interesting stories I worked on are how Khmerload received the first Silicon Valley investment in Cambodia and how a group of Cambodian girl coders performed at a global app competition at Google headquarters.

5. A Better Voice: With increased political tensions in Cambodia, work at the Voice of America has never been more critical. But despite more pressures, my job has never been ever more rewarding with interesting new projects and collaborations, a stronger and more capable team, a surprise promotion, and a first-time Gold Medal Award.

6. #Sophatrick10 & #Sophatrick: This year’s August 12 marked my first decade in the United States. I have learned so much from living in America and about its values but also feel I still need to learn so much more about her. I also have learned about how it has changed me and my identity over this time and 2018 will mark the beginning of my journey as an American citizen.

7. The License: Finally getting an American driver’s license this year has not only enabled me to drive and better enjoy road trips in Boston, Maine, and Utah, but new ability has even opened my eyes on the simplicity of flying and other means of exploring this vast country.

8. Quality Traveling: The quality of my travel experience have improved in 2017, in part with the ability to drive. In previous years, the focus was more on quantity and air miles, but this year I focused more on the quality of the actual experience, be it traveling to be closer to family and friends, taking fewer but better photos and videos, driving through diverse landscapes, or taking to the skies on my first scenic charter flights to enjoy Monument Valley, or having a better travel companion, the experience is certainly more relaxed and enjoyable. My minimalist experiment throughout the year has also made me become a light traveler. Finally, I have also become more of a home tourist in and around the District while now also enjoying staycations.

9. A Better Me: I personally feel (and others have taken note) that I have become a more mature person through taking on more leadership roles, more risk-taking in relationships, and learning team spirit at work and from sports.

10. Fit & Healthier-To-Be: My long-standing attempt at fitness and healthier lifestyle, while still dismal, has started to pay off this year. I felt physically and mentally healthier this year, which allowed me to be more productive and achieve other goals above. I’m still trying to make most of the gym, but I have done workouts there and swimming more regularly and increase my team sport time by playing in Winter soccer! Perhaps a symbolism of my investment in health, I also bought an Apple Watch that I can use during swimming.

What are the major highlights of your 2017?

I look forward to take on new meaningful challenges in 2018. Happy new year!