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Molika Sovann

Molika Sovann
Class of 2014
Business Administration Major

The calculator at says the distance from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to Bridgewater, Va., is 8,985 miles. It takes an aircraft traveling 550 miles an hour 16 and a half hours to make the flight. Sound will go that far in about 12 hours.

For one Bridgewater College student, though, the journey was much longer (and bigger) than that. Consider:

At the age of 16, Phnom Penh native Molika Sovann had to leave her family and friends, travel to the other side of the world and enroll in an American high school. She spoke very little English and knew no one in this country. The cultural gap was immense. Add to all that her goal of attending and graduating from an American college and you have a voyage of epic proportions.

But Molika, who will graduate from Bridgewater in 2014, surmounted all obstacles facing her and recently added one crowning, personal touch to her triumphs. On July 11, in Harrisonburg, Va., she took the oath that made her a citizen of the United States.

“My parents believed that I could achieve greater things in life and obtain a better higher education if I came to the United States,” Molika said. “I, too, wanted to pursue the American dream, and so I was willing to leave everything and everyone behind.”

Accompanied by her uncle, who was instrumental in getting Molika to the U.S., she made the journey and took up her new life as a student at J.E.B. Stuart High School in Falls Church, Va.

“The first couple of months I was here were really rough,” Molika said. “I missed my parents terribly, and there was a pretty big language gap. I’d learned a little English before coming, but not enough to converse.”

Molika said she really didn’t have a choice. If she didn’t learn the language and bridge the cultural gap, she would fail. So she learned through total immersion, and discovered she was a quick study. Soon, she was successfully competing with her American high-school friends and fitting into her new life nicely.

“Even though the culture was so different from what I grew up with in Cambodia, I liked everything about American life,” Molika said. “It was so free here – we have freedom of speech and religion and association – and the U.S. is made up of people from so many different countries and backgrounds. That is very attractive to me.”

In 2008, Molika participated in Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID), one of five programs in the Fairfax County public school system designed to help students complete their trajectories toward a college education. She and other students from her high school visited a number of colleges, one of which was Bridgewater.

Molika, who spent the fall semester of her senior year in Japan through BCA Study Abroad, said she would like to eventually live in New York City or Los Angeles.