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Ben Van Son ’13 Awarded Princeton in Asia Fellowship

Ben Van Son ’13 is the latest Haverford College graduate to be awarded a Princeton in Asia Fellowship. Under the auspices of the fellowship, Van Son will be travelling to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where he will take a post at the Royal University of Phnom Penh teaching English to low-income students on scholarship. “From what I have heard, English proficiency is one of the few ladders in Cambodia that can lead to upward mobility career-wise,” says Van Son. “There is a big need for fluent English teachers in Cambodia, so I’m excited to begin working there.”

Since his graduation, last May, Van Son has been participating in the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship’s Haverford House program, which provides group housing and job placements with Philadelphia social service organizations. As a Haverford House fellow, Van Son received a placement as a refugee housing and basic needs coordinator with the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) of Pennsylvania, a resettlement organization in Philadelphia. “My main goal is to find each refugee family safe and affordable housing before they move to the United States,” he says. “Post-arrival, I provide housing case management services, mediate disputes between landlords and tenants, help refugees pay rent and utilities, and resolve issues between my clients and utility companies.”

Van Son says that the Princeton in Asia program (PiA), which is aimed at “providing transformative, service-oriented experiences for bright, talented graduates,” interested him for both personal and professional reasons.

“From my time at HIAS, I have gained a deep appreciation for the impact that culture and culture shock can have on my clients’ daily lives,” he says. “ I decided I wanted my own immersion experience to gain a new insight on exploring a new culture.  In addition, my time at HIAS and my Haverford concentration in Peace, Justice, and Human Rights developed my interests in conflict resolution and direct service. The PiA Fellowship provides me an opportunity to continue performing direct service work while also gaining international experience, which is crucial for a career path in international conflict resolution.”

In addition to his work with the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, Van Son, a former member of the Haverford fencing team, has been helping out at the College as an assistant fencing coach.  “I also began an athletic enrichment program at Puentes de Salud, a non-profit [started by Steve Larson ’83] that supports the Latino community in Philadelphia,” he says.  “We just finished a five-week fencing program for the 6th through 8th graders, and I’m hoping to expand to other sports as the program grows."

Van Son credits Haverford’s Dean of Academic Affairs Phil Bean with alerting him to the opportunity presented by the Princeton in Asia program.  “Dean Bean was my mentor through the application and interview process,” he says. “He was instrumental in my acceptance to the Fellowship and helped guide me as I made my decision to accept Princeton in Asia.  I cannot thank him enough.”

—Eils Lotozo

Read more about Fords earning awards, fellowships, honors, and scholarships.

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