For generations, my family worked as farmers in Myanmar, a country in Southeast Asia, in the rice paddy fields. There was a conflict between Karen people and the Burmese government which led to the Civil War. The Karen had to fight the Burmese in their own country, and many villages were destroyed. Many were killed, people’s homes were taken away, and many people were hurt. Since the Burmese had been at war with Karen, they both hated each other. This made it very difficult for my family to live in their own country. My family immigrated to a Thailand refugee camp because they didn’t feel safe in Myanmar.
While growing up, my family lived a hard life in the Thailand refugee camp. My parents were not legally allowed to work or leave the camp except for specified reasons. There was a lack of many resources and opportunities including the most important thing, an education. Living life in a Thailand refugee camp was difficult, but my parents made the best of the situation. My parents decided to come to America, which is known as a third country for us. They wanted to have an opportunity to pursue happiness for a lifetime. The most important thing is an education. My parents believe that education is the first door of success for my siblings and me.
When I was in Thailand, other people were scurrying around like roaches. When I arrived in America, it seemed as if everything slowed down to a snail's pace, and suddenly the streets outside were quiet and so was the inside of my house. My whole world changed, and everything was new. I came to Idaho when I was about nine years old. Coming to a new country with a new language was very difficult and terrifying. I remember my first day of school and not knowing any English. I wanted to use a restroom but couldn’t ask my teacher because I didn’t know how to speak English. I had faced many challenges such as not knowing how to read or write. I felt uncomfortable whenever I spoke with my teacher because she didn’t understand what I was saying. I had to repeat myself every time I tried to speak to her. As the years go on, I continue to overcome the challenges.
Currently, my brothers and sisters work very hard jobs to make money. My older brother works in a meat packing plant, and my sister works in a cafeteria. I have seen them struggle, and this makes me want to get an education and help them out financially. My parents are currently unable to work due to their health problems, so I want to be able to take care of them. My mom has diabetes, and my dad has heart disease. I see them struggle and in pain every day. Their medication is the only thing keeping them alive.
My parents told me I have the greatest opportunity, and I must use it. Hearing these words from my parents makes me want to work harder than I sometimes can, and it motivates me to study more. As the youngest of six children, I have had the greatest opportunity to get an education and learn how to adapt to American culture. This year will be my second year at College of Western Idaho. I’m currently majoring in Sociology. After I get my associate degree, I plan to transfer to Boise State University to pursue a bachelor’s degree in social work.
After the struggles I've been through and seen, I am determined to make the most of all that is offered here in America. I know receiving an education is the key to my success. I have come this far, and I am excited to get a degree I’m passionate about so I can help myself, my family, and others.
Written by Kaw Paw
Paw is a CWI student studying Sociology. Following graduation, she plans to attend Boise State University.