When Your Mom is Your Schoolmate


When Lawrence Lim ’25 left home in New Jersey and flew to Shanghai to start his university life, he probably didn’t expect that his mom, Adele, would soon become his schoolmate.

Adele, first-year graduate student in NYU Shanghai - NYU Silver's Joint Master of Social Work Program, and her son Lawrence, Class of 2025 student, majoring in Computer Science.

“It's purely coincidental, but definitely a bonus!”

Neither the mother nor the son had planned to attend NYU Shanghai together. Born and raised in New Jersey, Lawrence was drawn to Asia, especially China, where his mom is from. “NYU Shanghai expanded my world and opened doors to opportunities,” he says. “The school’s curriculum and location were a perfect fit for me.” 

For Adele, attending NYU Shanghai signaled a career change. Having spent over two decades in research and advisory roles in the financial services industry, she wanted to transition to a profession that enables her to contribute to the community. Adele explored various options and ultimately chose NYU Shanghai - NYU Silver's Joint Master of Social Work Program (MSW), as this is the only MSW program that offers fieldwork and clinical practice in both China and the U.S. Having left Shanghai almost 30 years ago for college in America, Adele returned to her hometown to embark on a new chapter of personal and professional growth.

While some young adults may cringe at the thought of attending school alongside their parents, Lawrence finds it cool to have his mom on campus. “It doesn't really change the way I do anything, really,” he says. “It’s nice that my mom can watch me play soccer, something that would be impossible if she were in the States.” Lawrence says being able to have his mom nearby to turn to for advice and support has been hugely helpful. “I feel lucky,” he says. “It allows for meaningful conversations that have helped me learn and internalize life lessons as I transition into adulthood.” 


 One campus, two experiences

Although Adele and Lawrence are both students at NYU Shanghai’s New Bund Campus, they say their paths don’t cross as often as you might expect. Studying in two very different programs, each has their own unique learning experience. A Computer Science major, Lawrence’s days are spent at the computer learning coding and participating in school activities. Currently, he serves as the President of Undergraduate Business Association (UBA) and co-captain of NYU Shanghai men’s soccer team. Meanwhile, Adele divides her time between attending classes on campus and conducting fieldwork at Fudan International School. She works with elementary school children and integrates social-emotional learning curriculum into their daily activities.  

While Adele and Lawrence do not see each other often, Adele says they make an effort to catch up every couple of weeks by having lunch together or meeting between classes.“Even though it can be challenging to coordinate our schedules, we are able to make it happen when we want to,” says Lawrence.


Adele describes returning to school as a transformative opportunity for her. Upon reflecting on her prior education, she felt that she had been going through the motions without fully considering her true aspirations. This time around, she’s eagerly embracing the opportunities and challenges in this multidisciplinary profession, with a desire to make a meaningful impact. 

Lawrence says he finds inspiration in watching his mom unlock her academic potential and expand her horizons. He considers himself fortunate to be pursuing his genuine interest in computer science. “I think societal pressures and expectations can sometimes constrain young people from following our true passions,” he says. “I’m doing my best to block out these pressures and prioritize doing what I truly enjoy.” As a parent, Adele values the independence that NYU Shanghai offers students like her son to find their path. “I think it’s important to help our children develop abilities to embrace uncertainty out there and grow confidence to deal with the complexities in life which at some point, everyone of us will encounter,” she says.

Currently engaged in an independent study project, Lawrence is conducting research on computer networking and security. He hopes to explore various AI-related areas, such as machine learning, deep learning and natural language processing. A sophomore, Lawrence plans to further consolidate his math fundamentals to support a potential future career as a machine learning engineer. 

In the fall, Adele will be in New York for her second year in MSW program, where she will specialize in healthy aging as an inaugural student at NYU’s Center for Health and Aging Innovation (CHAI). Her goal is to promote meaningful engagement for older adults, improve intergenerational communication and help create age-friendly environments that foster dignity and purpose in later life. 

Even though Adele and Lawrence’s time together at NYU Shanghai is coming to an end, the mother and the son may cross paths again, this time on NYU’s campus in New York. Lawrence says he will spend a year studying abroad there. But no matter where they find themselves, he says he aspires to be a lifelong learner, just like his mom.