University of Southern Maine

Kim Lim (2012)

My First Generation Story

Three years ago, my parents, older brother and I moved from Cambodia to South Portland, Maine. My parents chose South Portland not for the scenic coastline or the abundance of lobsters, but on the testimony of family members who were already there. They took advantage of the opportunity to migrate to the U.S. because they wanted a superior education and greater career opportunities for my brother and me. I’m now a sophomore at the University of Southern Maine and this is my story.

I arrived in the U.S. with minimal English reading and writing abilities. But through perseverance, I was able to graduate in the top 10 percent of my class at South Portland High School, despite the language setback. Additionally, I held a part-time job throughout high school and was an active contributor to the yearbook staff.

When I started applying to colleges, I focused my attention on a community college in South Portland and two other in-state universities. The first university was eventually ruled out because it was more than two hours away from home, where I planned to commute from. I was about ready to enroll at Southern Maine Community College when I received notification that I won a Creating Maine’s Future Presidential Scholarship from the University of Southern Maine, a mere 15 minutes away. In the absence of the scholarship, I would have had to fund my education through student loans, and would have graduated with the burden and anxiety of debt. Fortunately, this scholarship empowers me to invest in my education without the fear of debilitating loan payments. This award is definitely one of the major achievements of my life.

At USM, I find myself adjusting to a culture that is simultaneously challenging and compelling. In Cambodia, students rarely expressed their opinions in the classroom, and mostly follow textbooks and their instructors’ lectures. But at USM, students are encouraged to express their opinions and critical thoughts. I found it quite challenging to engage in class discussions. Over the course of my freshman year, however, I overcame this challenge by participating in classroom conversations. As a result, I feel much more confident expressing myself both inside and outside the classroom.

As a business major with an economics minor, I’m using my second year to focus on getting past my core undergraduate requirements. I’m ready to delve deeper into my major, to make sure that it’s still the route that I want my education to take. I’m continuing to work at a restaurant near my home in South Portland and am interested in the hospitality industry. After graduation, I hope to somehow incorporate travel into my career, perhaps on a cruise ship or managing a hotel somewhere.

My education was the main reason my parents moved our family to the U.S. My parents are proud to have raised children with a good education; one that they'd never had a chance to experience themselves. And for as for me, I’m like the embodiment of their dream. It’s incredibly gratifying to be able to make my parents proud.

About the Student

Kim Lim

Kim Lim came from Cambodia to South Portland, Maine about three years ago with his parents, who chose Maine to give Kim and his brother the educational opportunities they did not have.  He arrived with minimal English skills but was able to graduate in the top 10 percent of his high school class. His older brother and he are the first in their family to attend college. Kim received the 2010 Morton K. and Jane Blaustein Pioneer Scholar Award, recognizing first-generation college-goers and students from recently immigrated families, awarded by the Mitchell Institute (founded by former Maine Senator George Mitchell). He is also the recipient of a University of Southern Maine Presidential Scholarship. He is the son of David Doung and Siem Mouy.

Student Stats

Name: Kim Lim (2012)
Age: 19
Year in School: Sophomore
Major: Business
Favorite Course: Marketing (with Professor Warren Purdy)
Dream Job: Managing the hotel on a cruise ship

About the School

FGV: University of Southern Maine

The University of Southern Maine is northern New England's outstanding public, regional, comprehensive university, dedicated to providing students with a high-quality, accessible, affordable education. From our campuses in Portland, Gorham and Lewiston-Auburn, USM offers baccalaureate, master's and doctoral programs, providing students with rich learning opportunities in the arts, humanities, politics, health sciences, business, mass communications, science, engineering and technology. Our students will be the artists, business people, engineers, health care workers, public servants, teachers and others whose talents will fuel our economy—and shape tomorrow's world.



  • Kellee Edmonds
    Vice President of Communications and Public Relations
    (202) 478-4662