Student Portrait

I belong to the Chin tribe and my name is A Tan. People who can’t pronounce my native name call me by my nickname, Carolyn. Both of my parents are school teachers. I have two younger sisters—my middle sister is studying nursing in the Philippines with me, and our youngest sister just passed her high school exam this June 2016. I finished my high school in 2007, and after I finished exams I went to study English from the missionaries.

I have always loved languages and medicines but sadly I did not make it to any universities in Myanmar that offered languages or health studies. At that time my parents were not able to support me for my college with their small incomes so I decided to not waste any time crying over something that I can’t reach anymore. I applied to several schools in Myanmar as well as abroad in the hope of getting a scholarship.

After a year of waiting in 2010 I decided to go to a seminar in the Philippines to study Cross Cultural Communications and got a chance to be a working scholar where, every day, I have to study for half the day and work for half the day to afford my tuition fee. When I first arrived, I was having a hard time with the local language and food and culture but I never regret coming here. It has taught me so much in life to cope with hardships. I also discovered other passions and my love for things like music and public speaking. Most of all, I am so satisfied that I worked while in school and had some good people helping me out with my finances so my family did not have to worry about my expenses.

After I graduated I came back to Myanmar hoping to throw myself completely in the ministry and to work on the spiritual needs of the people in my community. Just about that time I got a chance to visit some outskirt areas of Yangon City where people live in makeshift housing without access to electricity or sanitation. I saw that most of them are uneducated and could not read at all.

 About A Tan

  • Age: 33
  • Ethnicity: Chin
  • Country: Myanmar

 School & Program

  • Philippine Women’s University
  • Bachelor’s, Pharmacy
  • Graduated

Goals & Dreams

  • Become a pharmacist
  • Run a free medical center and pharmaceutical company

 Loan Details

  • Loan Amount: $16,775
  • Amount Left To Fund: $9,625
  • Contract Duration: 18 years
  • Status: In Repayment
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A Tan, in her own words

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Even worse, when they are sick they could not afford doctors so they just go to drug store owners and ask for a prescription.

Family owned Myanmar drugstores are primarily focused on profits and they don’t really bother to have a licensed pharmacist. I see that some prescriptions they give out are not really proper for the given disease. I saw a lot of cases where the patients took too many antibiotics that the medicines no longer work in their body.

My passion for medicine studies rose up in my heart again in 2014 and I spent about three months reviewing for pharmacist entrance exams in the Philippines. I passed the exam but I did not get the scholarship I was applying to so I was not able to go to school for a year. In 2015 my parents again decided to support my passion despite the fact that I am old enough to work and support my family already in our cultural settings. Much opposition came from my other relatives regarding our decision. They blamed my parents for letting me and my sister go to Manila to study.

Unfortunately, in secular schools foreign students are not eligible for local scholarships and we are not allowed to work either so it became very difficult to pay for my tuition and living expenses. My uncle who used to send me an allowance can no longer help me since his business is experiencing downtime this year. I work small volunteer jobs at church to support myself but they are not consistent. My parents can only help me with small amounts. I am in need of help for my studies, especially for this coming school year. I am applying again for the scholarship I did not get last year and staying hopeful for the result.

I am so grateful to my parents for not giving up on us and for never stopping believing in us. Now that I am enrolled in pharmacy school I have found that I really love the course, despite the difficulties I have in many aspects of life. I have decided and am determined to push on to finish this course and to have a bigger impact in the Myanmar pharmaceutical society. I want to see that every drug store has its own pharmacist to check the prescriptions and that all pharmaceutical industries are supervised by a trained and licensed pharmacist to promote rational use of medication and medicine safety. I also want to conduct research for generic and alternative medication, for cheaper medication and health economy someday. I am hopeful and determined for a better future, for me and my country.

Written by A Tan with editing assistance from Nick, one of Zomia’s volunteer editors.

A Tan

A Tan

“As a Southeast Asian student who studies abroad with no good financial background, this loan system is a big opportunity and portal for us to achieve our goals and fulfill our dreams.”

Q&A With A Tan

Survey Fun

What is your favorite memory?
My childhood and my graduation day
How would your friends describe you?
Reserved but caring
What is the one thing that isn’t taught in school but should be?
Financial wisdom (budgeting your income)
What is/was your favorite subject in school?
Moral subjects and biology
What skill or ability do you most wish you had (but lack today)?
Organizing events to spread awareness or introducing new methods and findings
Where would you most like to travel?
Anywhere I can learn about new cultures and gain new perspectives
What’s your dream job?
To be a medicine expert who serves people
Where do you see yourself in 20 years?
Running free med centers and pharmaceutical companies

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