A Business Fellow and human service studies and project management graduate, Thida Kim '21 is returning to her native Cambodia to work with students in rural communities like the one where she grew up.
Growing up in rural Siem Reap, Cambodia, Thida Kim’s chances of going to college were slim. If not for a full scholarship to high school, she wouldn’t have even heard of Elon, let alone had the opportunity to attend. When Kim found out she was accepted to Elon and received an Odyssey Program scholarship, she knew her life would change.
“I just didn’t know the details of how or in what way,” says Kim, who graduated in May 2021. “I just knew I would be getting educated and that would open doors to more opportunities for jobs and a future career.”
Her mentors and fellow scholars in the Odyssey Program became her second family, helping her adjust to the culture shock of being so far from home. She quickly got involved in student organizations to meet people and soak in the American culture. She eventually served as a member of the President’s Student Leadership Advisory Council and vice president of the Asian-Pacific Student Association. She worked with the Division of Student Life as an Elon Executive Intern and received a John Belk Impact Fellowship, with a placement in the College Advising Corps.
Outside of Elon, Kim volunteered with an organization in Greensboro, North Carolina, working with Cambodian refugees in a language class. The summer before her senior year, she interned for Caring for Cambodia, serving students in rural communities like the one where she grew up.
“I want to bring what I have learned here to improve situations in Cambodia.”
Like many students, Kim also held a part-time job. She didn’t make a lot of money, but those paychecks made an impact. “I would think, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m actually making more money than my parents make.’” It was humbling, and she never hesitated to send some of her earnings home. Giving back was always part of her plan. “I want to bring what I have learned here to improve situations in Cambodia.”
A Business Fellow majoring in human service studies and project management, Kim hoped to one day work for a non-governmental organization, a goal she’s been able to realize much quicker than she anticipated. She returned to Cambodia in August to begin work as a high school adviser at Australia-Pacific International School. “I’ve always wanted to work with children,” she says. “Being able to provide an education to children is a step in breaking the cycle of poverty. I come from an impoverished community and being able to have access to education has really changed my life.”
Learn more about “Theme 4: Rise” of the Boldly Elon strategic plan.