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ELC Offers Opportunities for Cambodian to Serve His Country

Learning a language is not always easy, especially when it affects your future, but Chhour Kim has decided to fight the odds to learn English so he can serve his home country, Cambodia.

Cambodia Photo by Daniel Lazarov Pexels

America has been a land of opportunity for many, and Chhour Kim is not the first to seek education opportunities within its borders. Chhour Kim is from Cambodia which is located in Southeastern Asia, sandwiched between Thailand and Vietnam. Cambodia is a beautiful country with sunny beaches, mountains, and rich history.

Ever since he was little, Kim loved Cambodia’s culture, food, religion, and people. Although Cambodia has rich resources and opportunities, Kim wanted to seek an education in America to better diversify and benefit his country. Even when he was little, he understood that more education creates a better society and a better life for his family and his country. His dream and purpose for coming to America; to get a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at an American university that would enable him to return home to Cambodia and help serve his country with his newly attained knowledge and skills. This made learning English to Kim a necessity for his success in America.


When Kim was born his family lived in a province far away from the city. Kim’s mother understood that living far away from a city meant not as many education opportunities and, although she had never had the opportunity to receive an education herself, she understood the importance of making it possible for her children to recieve an education. She knew it would benefit her children’s lives, their families’ lives, and their country’s society. When Kim was 6 years old his mother decided to move her family into a bigger city so her children would have the chance to obtain a better education. This meant long hard hours of work, often more than 10 hours a day, to support her family in a big city, but her hard work motivated her children to study hard to obtain a good education. It also helped her children understand the privilege of a good education and what it can do for society.

Around the same time Kim and his family moved to the city Kim’s relative received a scholarship to study his master’s degree in an American university. Kim came to realize the importance of English in the education world and how English could enable him change his life for the better in Cambodia. Ever since this experience, Kim knew he wanted to further his education in the United States.

Starting to understand the value of education, Kim started to make goals to achieve his dream of benefiting his country with a degree from an American university. Kim started by studying English and has been studying English for the last 12 years on his own in the hopes that one day his dream will be realized. He also had several other opportunities to practice English while serving as a missionary with English-speaking companions. Kim mentioned that even though he was grateful for the time he had to study English with his companions, it wasn’t their focus as missionaries to learn English so it only provided a little English practice. He knew he would need more opportunities before he could reach a language proficiency level that allowed him to attend an American university, but Kim trusted that it would all work out and had faith that doors would be opened for him to be able to reach his goal.


When Kim was little, his sister met with missionaries from The Church of Latter-day Saints and was baptized. After further personal study and prayer Kim also joined the church and served a full-time mission in his home country Cambodia. Being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, although not necessary, allowed Kim to be in a position to hear more about the English Language Center (ELC) from friends he had met at church. His friends had connections and knew people who had studied at the ELC. This knowledge helped Kim start putting the pieces together of how to attian his goal of learning English and helping his country.

The process was not easy and it included stressful planning, saving lots of money, filling out many documents, and moving a family; Kim, his sister, his wife, and his two children. Through it all, Kim kept going with the knowledge that an education would change his life, his country, and society. With the Lord’s timing and many miracles, Kim and his family safely moved to Provo, Utah to further achieve his dream.

Chhour Kim ELC Student from Cambodia


The ELC was a starting point for Kim’s dream with affordable tuition and opportunities to speak English everyday. The ELC is also a school, though, and requires tuition and hard work. Kim wakes up early everyday, goes to school, goes to a part-time job after school, and then returns home only to start again the next day. Even in the monotony, Kim stays motivated by his dream. Although the ELC requires hard work, Kim does love the environment and people at the ELC. One of Kim’s favorite parts about the ELC is their focus on the Savior. He explained that at the ELC they start every class with a prayer and focus on the inclusion of everyone at the ELC understanding they are all children of God. The ELC has students from all around the world and Kim loves becoming friends with each of them and learning about their personal stories and dreams.

Beyond just the ELC, BYU has also provided opportunities to learn English. Kim has used jobs he has had at BYU to make friends, to improve and practice his English, and to better understand American culture. Kim explained that BYU had many job options, but keeping his goal in mind, he chose to work a job that would help him improve his English rather than just choosing a job for money.


Through understanding his goal and working hard to reach it, Kim has had two successful ELC semesters that have prepared him for applying to American universities and starting his next big step to achieve his dream. Kim still has more of his dream to accomplish, but because he is willing to trust the Lord, focus on his goal, and work hard he is step-by-step accomplishing hard things that will allow him to bless not only himself and his family, but also his country Cambodia.

Kim stays motivated to continue accomplishing his dream knowing many people are counting on him to make a difference and change their lives. When Kim left Cambodia he was left with the image of his friends and family crying for joy knowing that he will work hard and won’t give up his dream. Kim has seen the many equal opportunities and wonderful things America has to offer and knows if he tries his best he will be able to return back to Cambodia with more things to offer his family, country, and society.