Student Portrait

My name is Sue Lay. I was born in a small Karen village near the Thai-Burma border during the conflict between the KNU and SPDC in 1995. At the time, my parents ran an automobile repair shop to earn a living. I have three elder brothers and am the youngest in my family.

When I was 5 years old, the Burmese military entered our village and forced my father and elder brothers to serve them as porters. Soon, fighting between the Karen army and Burmese military broke out in our region. During the battle, our houses were burnt down, and we were forced to leave everything behind and run for our lives. A few days later, we were devastated to hear the news that two of my elder brothers had been killed. Following this tragic incident, we decided to leave our birthplace and move to Karen State, where I resumed my schooling. It was in 2008 that life took a drastic turn when my father was diagnosed with cancer and passed away.

After my father’s passing, my family suffered from huge financial challenges which forced me to discontinue my education at Grade 8. In 2009, I heard about a refugee camp on the Thai-Burma Border where there was free access to high school education. I left Burma and secretly crossed the Thai-Burma border at night with some friends. Despite various obstacles and problems, we finally made it to the Nu Poe Refugee Camp, where I could continue my education. After successfully finishing Grade 12, I worked at a grocery store to earn a small income and took an English language course to improve my English.

It was not difficult to get food and shelter in the refugee camp, but it was very easy to lose our dreams and most of all, ourselves. Many of the young people in the camp had given up on their hopes and dreams after finishing high school and became the victims of drugs and early marriage. Amidst such problems, I tried my best to be able to continue my education and reminded myself not to give up in times of difficulties and problems.

 About Sue Lay

  • Age: 29
  • Ethnicity: Burmese, Karen
  • Country: Myanmar

 School & Program

  • Rangsit University
  • Bachelor’s, International Hospitality & Tourism
  • Graduated

Goals & Dreams

  • Provide vocational training and career opportunities for my fellow citizens
  • Educate and empower women
  • Become an air hostess

 Loan Details

  • Loan Amount: $10,200
  • Amount Left To Fund: $8,250
  • Contract Duration: 15 years
  • Status: In Deferment
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What Others Are Saying About Sue Lay

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I was given an opportunity to join a special matriculation class at Hsa Thoo Lei Orphanage School in Mae Sot as a migrant student. In the academic year of 2014-2015, I passed the special matriculation exam in Myanmar but chose not to attend a university inside the country. Instead, I decided to volunteer as an assistant teacher at Hsa Thoo Lei Learning Center and applied for Australian Catholic University to get an international education. Of three hundred candidates, I was among those selected to join ACU’s online program. During my time at ACU, in addition to the academic learning, I was actively involved in organizing and undertaking the catering of all student celebrations. I am passionate about cooking and love serving other people with delicious meals. That is among the reasons why I’d like to earn a degree in International Hospitality and Tourism Management. Ultimately, I graduated from Australian Catholic University with a Diploma in Liberal Art Studies.

After graduation, I volunteered as an administrative staff member at the Burmese Migrants Workers’ Education Committee (BMWEC), a community- based organization that provides education to 4,000 children in 22 migrant learning centers along the Thai-Burma border. I also attended an accounting training program at Tak Community College and worked as an assistant to BMWEC’s Financial officer. At the same time, I worked as a part-time teacher at an orphanage boarding house and Hsa Thoo Lei High School. I was involved in Parents and Teachers Association’s programs, and worked with the Thai Immigration Office on survey projects. As a refugee and migrant student, there were times that I really wanted to give up on my dream. However, my challenging life experiences have helped me develop a clear sense of direction and belief in my ability to to achieve my dream.

Although Myanmar is a new democracy, it still lags behind its counterparts in social, political, and economic development. In order to implement social, political, and economic reforms successfully, future generations of my country must be educated, empowered, and equipped with necessary skills and experience. Human resources are very important for the development of a nation, and my goal after graduation is to empower my people by creating vocational training and career opportunities for them and to promote human resources in our country.

Moreover, being a woman myself and a delegate at the 9th Asia Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights, I would like to help my fellow women by educating and empowering them, making them aware of their rights and providing them with vocational training and job opportunities. There is an old proverb that says, “If you educate a girl, you educate a nation,” and I strongly believe in its truth. I would like to improve the quality of life for women, something that will eventually lead to the development of my country. I will therefore dedicate a lifetime of effort to empowering my people and developing my nation.

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

Sue Lay

Sue Lay

“My challenging life experiences have helped me develop a clear sense of direction and belief in my ability to achieve my dream.”

Sue Lay

Sue Lay

“There is an old proverb that says, ‘If you educate a girl, you educate a nation,’ and I strongly believe in its truth.”

Q&A With Sue Lay

Survey Fun

What is your favorite memory?
Sharing food with orphans
How would your friends describe you?
Active, sweet, helpful and optimistic
What is the one thing that isn’t taught in school but should be?
Humanity and humility
What is/was your favorite subject in school?
What skill or ability do you most wish you had (but lack today)?
If you could do anything you wanted now, what would it be?
Offering a helping hand to vulnerable people, women and children
Where would you most like to travel?
What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?

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