Sokngim Kim is on the path to becoming the first woman engineer in her home country of Cambodia who was educated in the U.S. She plans to return to Cambodia to improve its infrastructure and boost its economy.
Javaraman VII High School
B.S. in civil engineering
University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:
I believe I will be the first woman engineer in Cambodia educated in the United States.
After I graduated from high school, I received a full scholarship in mathematics from the Royal University of Phnom Penh. I also received a scholarship to the Institute of Technology of Cambodia, but my scholarship at ITC did not cover the additional $225 more it cost and my family did not have the money. I am the youngest of five children. My parents are illiterate, and my siblings have only some education. I was fortunate to be one of 20 high school women out of over 400 applicants identified by the Harpswell Foundation (www.harpswellfoundation.org) as a future leader of Cambodia. The foundation provides full housing, board, leadership training and English language classes. To be awarded this, a woman must commit to making a difference in Cambodia. I was only able to get a college education because I was awarded a tuition scholarship at RUPP and the Harpswell Foundation scholarship for room, board and leadership.
At the end of my senior year at RUPP, I was identified as one of the top five students at the Harpswell Foundation and awarded a fellowship for a post-graduate year of study at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia. I took a rigorous course load of advanced physics, math and science in the hopes that I could use those courses in an engineering program.
I found that I like the method of teaching in the U.S. I learned that the University of Georgia College of Engineering was building a program in civil engineering, and so I applied. My career goal is to build roads in Cambodia, especially in the provinces where I came from so that children can get to school and the economy can succeed.
I was just offered a chance to work with my civil engineering professor and some graduate students at the civil engineering lab. They are working on their project on making good concrete and testing the strength of the concrete. This will be a good thing for me to know when I go back to Cambodia and build structures myself. I am applying to the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities for a research project related to my major. I am interested in working on a structural design project of a bridge. In fact, I have taken the project from my first class to build a bridge out of spaghetti and continue to build them! This summer, I built a replica of the Jekyll Island bridge out of spaghetti.
I am a member of the Society of Women Engineers and American Society of Civil Engineers, helping to prepare activity fairs for new students to get to know about our SWE and prepare for upcoming events for the club, including guest speakers, conferences and other campus events.
I currently work for the UGA Student-Athlete Academic Center with the tutoring program. I tutor math, physics and statistics for two student-athletes. I help them go over materials covered in their classes, review sample problems and work with them on the exercises at the back of each chapter in their textbooks. I enjoy sharing my knowledge with those students. Tutoring helps both the students and me to succeed in the subjects we are working on.
Before I came to UGA, I worked in my home country of Cambodia with Heifer International Cambodia to improve the economy of people in the countryside.
Family Ties to UGA:
I am the only child in my family who has obtained a college education. I am the only one in my family to travel outside of Cambodia. I have five siblings. My oldest brother and sister did not get much school education because they had to help my parents at the farm to support the other three younger siblings. They are rice farmers in one of the provinces about 40 miles from Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, and my house has no electricity and only some water access.
I chose to attend UGA because…
… UGA just offered the civil engineering program in the last two years. I like being part of a new program because what I want to do is new to Cambodia. We can be the first together! We can grow together. The professors at UGA have good experience and skills in helping students to reach their goals. So many people at the UGA College of Engineering, including faculty and staff, encouraged me to come to UGA to achieve my goal of becoming an engineer that I knew it would be the right place for me to study in the U.S. I have also adopted a family that lives in Athens and Atlanta, and so I am close to people who care about me.
My favorite things to do on campus are…
… working out at Ramsey with my friends, riding my bicycle around campus and places downtown, cooking with my friends at my dorm, and participating in social campus activities.
When I have free time, I like…
… to cook Cambodian food and share with my friends when we hang out and chat. I am interested in sharing my culture with my friends and hearing from their cultures. It is very interesting to know how people live in different places. Sometimes we find that we have some similar cultures and interests.
The craziest thing I’ve done is…
… walk to the Social Security Administration office from the UGA Student-Athlete Academic Center. It was at 2:30 p.m. on a Friday after I met with the people in the athletic department Human Resources for my tutoring paperwork. I had to apply for my Social Security card before they closed at 3:30 p.m. I had an hour to get there. While I walked and ran on South Milledge Avenue, I saw a Milledge Avenue bus but I could not get on it because I was not at the bus stop. Then I got to a point where I could catch the bus. After I got on the bus, I asked the driver if she goes to Prince Avenue. But she did not, so I needed to take the Health Sciences bus. I got off and waited for the Health Sciences bus. It was 3 p.m. and there was no bus, so I decided to walk from there. I walked on East Broad Street back to Milledge Avenue. It was 3:20 p.m. and I still could not find the place. I asked two people who were standing in their front yard if they knew where the Social Security Administration office was. Unfortunately, they did not know it either because they just moved here. Finally, I missed it. I got a ride with a friend the next time I went!
My favorite place to study is…
… the science library. Going to study at the science library with my friends is one of my favorite things. I usually work on my homework problems with my classmates there, and it is close to our dorm.
My favorite professor is…
… Ron McClendon. He is one of my engineering professors who taught statistics. I liked his teaching strategies. He always explained to students the different ways to do the problems but he never actually did the problems for students. He taught fast but clearly and to the point. Sadly, he just retired this semester.
If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…
… a graduate student who is currently working in structural design with a company. I would like to ask her or him about their experiences at work and at school. That would help me to prepare while I am a student so then after I graduate, I can do well at work.
If I knew I could not fail, I would…
… start my own civil engineering firm in Cambodia and build roads and bridges. My roads and bridges would propel the economy and Cambodia would have the strongest economy in Southeast Asia. My roads would also mean that children in the provinces could ride the bus to school and so they would receive education and help Cambodia in the future.
I would also like to share my knowledge and experiences with the next generation of students who want to be engineers like me. Also, I would like to share with them my experiences of studying in another country.
If money was not a consideration, I would love to…
… share things instead of money. I would make sure that others have food and the things they need to live a good, healthy life.
After graduation, I plan to…
… go back to my country, Cambodia, to work with a structural engineering company. I want to develop infrastructure in Cambodia. It was my dream since I was young because I grew up in the countryside in Cambodia where people do not get enough access to the infrastructure. There were days that the high school kids in my province and I had a difficult time traveling to school because the roads were so muddy. I want children to go to school.
The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…
… my first UGA football game. I woke up at 8 a.m. on a Saturday, the day of the first game of the season, looked out through my window and saw a lot of people on campus setting up their tents and chairs. It looked so fun with the noise of music and the sound of people laughing. I had never experienced a football game or really such a sporting event in my whole life. I did not know that was part of being at a big university. I put on my UGA shirt and joined in. It was so much fun on the game day!