My name is Chase. As a member of the ’90s generation in the Myanmar education system, I was like many others—unclear and unwise about choosing a major at the age of 16.
My dreams always related to art, crafts, and design. Due in part to my own immaturity and the education system itself, I was not able to pursue architecture as a major because of gaps in my matriculation exam marks.
As a result, I chose to study electronics engineering instead. At the time, I felt I had no other option and was force to stick with the program; it was a mindset that had become ingrained, as I was influenced by the system and my personal environment. Still, I studied hard and did very well on the exam. I graduated with a cumulative GPA of 4.85 after a five-year journey.
During my second year of university life, I met a friend who changed my life forever. He introduced me to new concepts apart from boring lessons. We learned things together at a library and started participating in extra-curricular activities such as leadership and debate trainings.
We joined the Future Youth Association (FYA) and initiated a debate club. The FYA, an association founded by students at Technological University (Mandalay), conducts six main activities: Library, Debate, Environment, Story-Telling, IT, and Research Club. Our aim was to create better learning environments.
These experiences allowed me to develop a healthier community, increase my global awareness, maintain a critical mindset, and become a well-rounded citizen. Beyond the university, we visited rural villages such as Aung Thar, Kan That Kone Village and Shwe Bo to do community sharing and contribute to grassroots organizations. This was among the highlights of my university life and is an experience I won’t forget.
- Age: 28
- Ethnicity: Burmese, Chinese
- Country: Myanmar
School & Program
- King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi
- Master’s, Design & Planning (Architecture)
- 2nd Year in Program
Goals & Dreams
- Become an architect
- Become a professor or lecturer of architecture or design
- Loan Amount: $8,400
- Amount Left To Fund: $7,100
- Contract Duration: 14 years
- Status: In School
What Others Are Saying About Chase
Later on, while working in my first job, I realized again that electronics engineering did not fulfill my mission on Earth. But by this time, my courage to pursue design education had increased. I began with zero knowledge of the subject at the age of 23. My family constantly suffers from financial instability. Given this pressure, I saved up money from work and earned a one-year part-time architectural interior design diploma at the Yangon School of Interior Design. After that, I worked for three years in design firms to build up my skills and experience.
A year of learning at design school was not enough, which is why I plan to pursue a Master’s in Design and Planning (Architecture) at the School of Architecture and Design, King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi (KMUTT) in Thailand. From my experience as a designer, I have learned that many people perceive interior design and architecture as unimportant and mere decoration. In fact, this is not true. They are important not only for aesthetic reasons, but also because ideas come from a well-balanced human center: lifestyle, safety, hygiene, circulation, sustainability, green environment, community, and so on.
Studying in a foreign university will allow me to learn not only about architecture itself but also about critical issues of 21st-century architecture such as disaster shelter design, environmentally friendly construction, building technology and innovation, design management for urban strategies, and social planning. I will gain a wider and deeper context of how to foster better and safer living using creativity and science. As a developing nation, Myanmar needs more thoughtful architects and designers to sustain the country’s environment and communities—just as we need more doctors, social workers, educators, and politicians.
After finishing my program at KMUTT, I aim to contribute to the development of community buildings, schools, and public places that are responsibly and sustainably designed for people throughout Myanmar. From how we live to how we think, our spaces shape us as people.
As another goal, I plan to establish an institute or program to improve design and architecture education. Since only a few can access design education, this will open doors for more people like me who need opportunities and will help create an open, accessible, resourceful, and sustainable design network in the region.
To conclude, it has not been easy to be a career-changer at the age of 23, given the pressures of society and reality. Still, I am determined not to give up on my dreams and will serve my community using my passion, talent, and understanding of architecture and design.
Written by Chase with editing assistance from Zomia’s volunteer editors.
“[M]any people perceive interior design and architecture as unimportant and mere decoration. In fact, this is not true. They are important not only for aesthetic reasons, but also because ideas come from a well-balanced human center: lifestyle, safety, hygiene, circulation, sustainability, green environment, community, and so on.”
“I am determined not to give up on my dreams and will serve my community using my passion, talent, and understanding of architecture and design.”