Student Portrait

I saw my mother through the window standing in front of my kindergarten classroom. I figured she was talking to my teacher about the bruises on my cheeks.

The day before, the school bully squeezed my cheeks as I completed her homework for her; she claimed I wasn’t doing it fast enough. She only let go when a witness reported her to the teacher. I remember tearing up, not because I was in pain, but because I pitied her for being scolded. I felt no anger or fear, but pure sympathy towards the person who was imposing physical pain on me.

I was a cheerful child who was never clingy, but I tended to cry often. Every time I saw a kid in a music video of my favorite lullaby falling off her bicycle, my heart felt heavy. It was too painful for me to watch my grandmother hobble around on a broken leg. I tended to her daily, which caused me to miss many days of school. I might not have been helpful, but I was there for her.

As I grew older, the tender heart I had as a child never hardened. In high school, I found a best friend who was more of a tough parent than a sweet friend. Whenever he told me I was “too sensitive” because I cried for the tiniest reasons, I would get furious at him and at myself. I hated being judged for an inability to control my feelings.

After joining a psychology club in high school, analyzing feelings became a hobby. I discovered that I identify as a Highly-Sensitive Person (HSP) with a genetic personality trait called sensory-processing sensitivity. It explained everything: why I take everything to heart, why I tend to be empathetic, why I can deeply connect with others, why I can’t drink coffee, why I can’t multitask, why I avoid violent scenes in movies, and so forth. I read text after text about HSP and came to the realization that I’m not “weak” and do not need help.

Recently, my friends and I started Yellow Notes, a community organization that seeks to share knowledge and address social injustice. In dedication to fellow HSP, I wrote an illustrated article based on my research and published it on Yellow Notes.

 About Nan Nan

  • Age: 21
  • Ethnicity: Karen
  • Country: Myanmar

 School & Program

  • DePauw University
  • Bachelor’s, Computer Science
  • 3rd Year in Program

Goals & Dreams

  • Become a counsellor or a therapist
  • Travel to Venice

 Loan Details

  • Loan Amount: $6,750
  • Amount Left To Fund: $5,400
  • Contract Duration: 13 years
  • Status: In School
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What Others Are Saying About Nan Nan

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In my article, I emphasized the fact that being an HSP is not a weakness or a mental illness. I wrote that HSPs are gifts to the community who tone down the negative, violent forces with our gentle, empathetic nature. We create space where everyone can express their vulnerable sides without the fear of being judged. I strive to seek more acceptance of HSP and to eliminate misunderstandings around sensitivity.

Within just a few days, the post reached more than 42,000 people with over 6,700 engagements. My best friend, who read the post, apologized to me for not being able to understand earlier. It gave me so much joy to see hundreds of other HSPs sharing the post, claiming that they finally felt understood. I felt my post was more than an explanation for the way they felt. It was also a weapon to fight off negativity and a shield to protect our community from false accusations.

I’ve never been prouder to be a crybaby, to be that one friend who waits as long as it takes for the other to tie their shoelaces or pay their bill. I am proud to be the reason someone feels heard, understood, and seen. I now have the confidence to nurture my strengths and weaknesses and turn them into superpowers. At university and beyond, I’ll strive to help others do the same.

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

Nan Nan

Nan Nan

“Ever since I began high school, I’ve been inspired by the work of therapists. My career goal is to become a counselor or a therapist who can effectively help others by making use of my psychology knowledge.”

Q&A With Nan Nan

Survey Fun

What is your favorite memory?
Spending time at a board game cafe with my friends for six hours straight!
How would your friends describe you?
Supportive, loyal, kind, friendly, outgoing, considerate
What is the one thing that isn’t taught in school but should be?
Morals and ethics
What is/was your favorite subject in school?
What skill or ability do you most wish you had (but lack today)?
Driving skills
Where would you most like to travel?
What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?
Rice with fish paste and oily pork curry
What’s your dream job?
If you won $1 million in a lottery, how would you spend it?
I would give 20% to my parents, donate about 30% of it to different causes, and invest the rest.

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