Student Portrait

I was born a member of the Shan minority ethnic group in the eastern region of Myanmar, which has been seriously affected by conflict and civil war for decades. Every year, many innocent civilians in our region are killed due to landmines, indiscriminate airstrikes, and gunshots.

Because of the ongoing civil war and poverty, neither of my parents had an opportunity to finish their high school education. Throughout my childhood, I believed that attending university was a luxurious dream, something my family could never afford.

Despite these circumstances, I consistently ranked among the top students in terms of academic performance. In 2017, I finished high school and the Myanmar Matriculation Examination with distinctions in all six subjects, earning me the top prize among 700 students.

During high school, I actively participated in various essay competitions and achieved notable success, not only within the school contests but also at the regional level. Among the most significant achievements, I was awarded first prize in the International Letter Competition, as well as in the English Writing Contest at the regional level.

After high school, I was accepted to the University of Medicine in Mandalay, one of the top universities in Myanmar. However, after studying medicine for two years, my interest in the field began to wane. Eventually, I left to pursue my passions and do what I love.

I volunteered as an advocate at the MY World 2030 Asia Pacific Field Advocacy Program. My campaign strategy was named one of the top seven proposals among those from the Asia Pacific region. With support and limited funding from the program, I organized three events and conducted training for 600 high school and university students, focusing on the role of youth in community development and the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

 About Sai Sai

  • Age: 23
  • Ethnicity: Shan
  • Country: Myanmar

 School & Program

  • City University of New York
  • Bachelor’s, Business
  • 1st Year in Program

Goals & Dreams

  • Become an education technology entrepreneur
  • Work at the United Nations

 Loan Details

  • Loan Amount: $7,025
  • Amount Left To Fund: $5,675
  • Contract Duration: 13 years
  • Status: In School
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Sai Sai, in his own words

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Unfortunately, due to internet shutdowns and restrictions in some conflict zones in Myanmar, many social issues such as rape, physical assault, torture, imprisonment, and loss of livelihood and property remain hidden or underreported. Some civilians resort to migration as a survival strategy to escape the threats posed by the armed forces, often resulting in separation from family members, robbery, and even death. My own family has experienced such inhumane hardships.

In 2019, I was selected by World Learning to represent my ethnic group to participate in the “Tolerance & Coexistence Forum” in Bangkok, funded by the US Embassy in Thailand. The forum focused on effectively utilizing social media tools to promote peace, tolerance, digital startups, and social network campaigns. Upon completing the program and returning to Myanmar, I realized the crucial role of digital startups and entrepreneurship in community development, especially in developing countries. This realization further strengthened my passion for becoming an entrepreneur.

My commitment to becoming an entrepreneur grew stronger after attending the week-long “LAMP Practical Leadership Program” in Tokyo at the end of 2019. The program, held at the Nippon Foundation Head Office, gave me an opportunity to learn about various issues in Japan such as entrepreneurship in the face of natural disasters, LGBT empowerment, and Paralympic sports. Having grown up in conflict-affected areas for much of my life, I was struck by the fact that Japan has not experienced civil war. This is among the reasons I was drawn to study in Japan, as I have never lived in a peaceful and safe environment.

As a result of my extensive community activities, I was chosen to be the youngest delegate to participate in the “Erasmus Global Partnership Symposium” in Thailand. Moreover, my essay addressing the dangers of landmines and explosive remnants of war was named one of the top submissions among 500 entries. I was subsequently given an opportunity by the ASEAN Regional Mine Action Center to participate in the International Mine Awareness Seminar in Cambodia.

Because of travel restrictions and complications of the COVID-19 pandemic, I was unable to study in Japan and have instead moved to the United States. After earning my bachelor’s degree, I plan to apply my understanding of the theory and practice of global innovation studies to lead a social enterprise in Myanmar and improve the country’s employment rate.

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

Sai Sai

Sai Sai

In Central Park

“Throughout my childhood, I believed that attending university was a luxurious dream, something my family could never afford.”

Q&A With Sai Sai

Survey Fun

What is your favorite memory?
Exploring Tokyo in 2019
How would your friends describe you?
What is the one thing that isn’t taught in school but should be?
What is/was your favorite subject in school?
What skill or ability do you most wish you had (but lack today)?
Learning new languages quickly
If you could do anything you wanted now, what would it be?
Become a billionaire
Where would you most like to travel?
Hong Kong
What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?
Cheese pizza (sweet one)
What’s your dream job?
Working at the United Nations
If you won $1 million in a lottery, how would you spend it?
I’d put all of it in the bank and earn interest

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