Farrorza Lim moved to Lowell from Cambodia, then enrolled at MCC. He graduated last month.
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For Farrorza Lim, Middlesex Community College offers opportunity.

Lim came to the United States from Cambodia to go to college and to be closer to his father.

is initial interest was due to the efficient customer service the college offered him in his search process. When he called, Middlesex answered. When he had questions, MCC guided him to the right places.

Once he arrived, Lim soon learned to call the college a “hub” for students from Cambodia to “start their journey.”

“I like the way they treat and help students,” he said. “For people who left their home and comfort zone to go to a new environment, it’s not easy. It’s something so hard to adapt to, but the lesson I learned from that was things will get better from day to day.”

During his time at Middlesex, Lim devoted a lot of time to helping others. As part of the Helping Hands Club, he volunteered throughout the local community, including at the Greater Lowell Boys & Girls Club. Having access to the club, and being part of the community, helped him adjust to this new chapter in his life.

Another place of comfort for Lim was the Asian Connections Center, where he could talk to friends in his native language and learn about the culture and ethics of the U.S. He also held a work-study job at the center, where he helped organize events and kept the area clean.

“I learned from them,” he said. “MCC — the Asian Center, the school — I always hang out there when I’m free because that’s where I get my mind away from homesickness. With the large Cambodian community at MCC, I feel like home.”

MCC’s Asian Connections Center is funded with support from the college’s AANAPISI grant — a five-year, $1.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Asian American Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution program in 2017. The center provides Asian American students a range of support services and co-curricular activities to improve their experience at the college, as well as completion and transfer outcomes.

Lim believes learning from other students was essential to his MCC experience. One of the more rewarding parts of his time at the college was with the Academic Enrichment Center. His first experience with ACE was during his first semester when, he needed help writing essays. The next semester, he was recommended for a job by one of his professors, and Lim became a writing tutor.

For him, being on both sides was a perfect give-and-take of learning.

“You feel close to the students who teach you,” he said. “It’s not about me teaching people, but talking with people to learn from them and sharing knowledge with each other.”

Although he was nervous when he first started tutoring, Lim said faculty and staff were supportive and guided him to succeed. That support was a constant during his time at Middlesex.

“Instead of email, I could just go and talk with them directly,” he said. “The people from ACE and where I would study at the Asian Center, they are very helpful. It was hard for me to find recommendations back home, but here people reach out to you when you need help, and I am very thankful.”

When he first arrived at MCC, Lim said his adviser offered him support, recommending an initial course load, following up with him as he got started, and telling him about a free English class he could take over the summer. His adviser also helped him with his plans to transfer to a four-year school.

In his final semester at MCC, COVID-19 forced a transition to remote, virtual and limited-contact systems, and Lim was once again thankful for MCC’s quick response to his needs. His adviser ensured they continued to meet virtually and checked in to make sure he was doing well.

Before COVID-19, Lim relied on the college’s resources to do work online, and he did not have immediate access to wi-fi. Once social distancing went into effect, he reached out to MCC’s library, which provided him with a hotspot so he could complete his work from home.

Lim graduated last month with an Associate Degree in History, Global Studies and Political Science. A Commonwealth Honors student and member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society, he will continue at UMass Lowell to get a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science with a Concentration in International Relations.

He hopes to get a Master’s Degree and work for the government at the state or federal level. Lim’s advice to current and future students at Middlesex is to play an active role in the campus community.

“Take opportunities at Middlesex,” he said. “Instead of just taking classes, take other opportunities and try different activities. Try to engage in school. Playing games or going online to check for scholarship activities, those are two different things but they all engage in school. They offer a lot.”