Student Portrait

Life is not a fairytale that always provides happy endings; rather it provides endless obstacles to everyone. My life has been filled with many hardships from which I have learned to overcome.

I come from a middle-class family with five family members. My parents have had hard times supporting my two siblings and me. When my parents moved to Yangon for better economic opportunities, my twin sister and I grew up in the hands of our grandparents and relatives. Until we were six, my grandparents sent us to a primary school in a quiet, rural place of Mawlamyine, Mon State where my grandparents settled, but it wasn’t an effective education.

Despite moving to Yangon at seven years old to reunite with our parents, we rarely got a chance to live with both parents. We were mostly left with my father whenever my mother had to travel as a merchant. I still remember vividly that I sold pictures I drew to my classmates to earn pocket money for me and my sisters to spend in emergency situations, like if my father forgot to pay us.

Moreover, we had to try memorizing the directions to our school and understanding my father’s instructions of how to ride the city buses ourselves on the first day of school in Yangon, which was an unfamiliar place. One time, we rode on the wrong bus and lost our way back home. We spent many hours figuring out which bus was the right bus and arrived home at 10p.m. Although these experiences were unbearable memories of my childhood, they strengthened my maturity to be an independent person.

During that time, the education I received was totally ruined because it was in the hands of the Burmese military government. The teaching was based on teacher-centered teaching, which has very narrow and limited knowledge. There were not enough books provided at the school and some books went through strict censorship or were even banned. Other than trying to search for knowledge by reading some books that my father provided, there was no freedom to criticize and expand my ideas. Moreover, being a daughter of a politician, most of my freedoms were taken away by the secret agents of military government as I was watched over by them often.

 About May

  • Age: 24
  • Ethnicity: Burmese
  • Country: Myanmar

 School & Program

  • Education University of Hong Kong
  • Bachelor’s, Global & Environmental Studies
  • 3rd Year in Program

Goals & Dreams

  • To help bring about unity among different ethnic groups
  • Become a member of parliament

 Loan Details

  • Loan Amount: $9,100
  • Amount Left To Fund: $6,250
  • Contract Duration: 14 years
  • Status: Prefunded by Zomia
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Quotable

May, in her own words

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Due to that, my siblings and I were ignored and discriminated against by teachers and friends. For example, we were never recognized as good students though we earned good points in different subjects. Thus, there was no other way to fight the depression we felt than trying to motivate ourselves by encouraging each other and understanding the situation of our family.

When my family and I migrated to the Thai-Burma Border, Mae Sot, for the safety of my family, I learned many differences between life along the border and in the city. These differences included the education system, students’ rights, freedoms, and many other developments. As I tried to compare and analyze these differences, I felt sympathetic and frustrated for people in Myanmar who didn’t have the right to learn and participate in any issues they wanted. Foremost, I found that many exploitations and faithless actions of the military government created misunderstandings between ethnicities and that the discrimination and hatred among diverse groups were usually in migrant areas. Therefore, I realized that my ultimate aspiration and goal is to work for my country’s development in terms of education and politics.

Education plays an essential role in fulfilling my dream. However, as migrant education is not recognized either in Thailand or Burma, I needed to get my GED. I tried to enter the GED preparation program through Minmahaw Higher Education Program (MHEP) three times. Minmahaw helps students gain internationally accredited high school diplomas in order to pursue further education. During the two years I wasn’t accepted at MHEP, I committed myself as a volunteer teacher, facilitator, and office assistance in needed areas while waiting for another chance. When I got into the program on my third try, the Education University of Hong Kong provided me an offer to study in their university, although a scholarship was not granted. Thus, I don’t want to give up on the offer that I choose to study social science in global and environmental studies as I think these subjects are very important for a nation’s development from many angles of society. Furthermore, it fulfills my answer to achieve my goal and aspiration.

After I graduate from The Education University of Hong Kong, I will apply the knowledge I learned in various needed areas and take my goal into action. My main goal is bringing unity between ethnicities since it was fragmented during the military regime. To achieve that mission, I would form a youth political organization with diverse ethnicities, which would implement equal rights, and development in needed areas by cooperating with respected non-governmental organizations and ethnic organizations.

Hence, I have and will always untiringly keep learning while working to gain my goal. Life provides endless opportunities to learn, even during the difficult times and challenges.

Written by May with editing assistance from Zomia’s volunteer editors.

May

May

“When I’ve entered a workplace, I’ve come to know the importance of having a degree. No matter how capable and passionate I am about my work, people who have degrees tend to have more rights.”

Q&A With May

Survey Fun

What is your favorite memory?
Childhood memories, when my grandparents were still alive
How would your friends describe you?
Strong and independent woman, funny
What is the one thing that isn’t taught in school but should be?
Critical thinking (Burma)
What skill or ability do you most wish you had (but lack today)?
Singing high notes
If you could do anything you wanted now, what would it be?
Buy a house for my parents
Where would you most like to travel?
Myintkyina (Kachin State, Myanmar)
What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?
Meatballs
What’s your dream job?
To be a professor in the field of politics
Where do you see yourself in 20 years?
In my country’s parliament

You can also lend using the pink button atop every student profile.

May

Hard at Work!