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The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Saturday, June 22, 2024
The Echo

Students from Myanmar to Taylor

Grace Hooley | Echo

Taylor has a large number of international students that make up the student body. About 10 of these students originate from Myanmar (or Burma). Two of these students with a story of their own are sophomores Tae Aye and Hsi Hsi Poe.

Both students grew up in Thailand refugee camps. Aye's family stayed for 10 years before they moved to the U.S. Poe remained there for eight years until her family moved to the U.S. July 19, 2005.

"I was born in Thailand at Umphang's hospital in a town called Umphang, but not a citizen of Thai since my parents did not hold Thai citizenship," Poe said. "And Thailand is not like the States where the child is granted citizenship via natural born in the country."

Living in the refugee camp for Aye was challenging. Her family did not have a stable home, and they did not have access to a good food and water supply.

During her time in the refugee camp, Poe did not see hope for an education, career or good life. She still remembers when her father would collect aluminum cans on the street to earn extra money to afford snacks for her family, since he was only making about 200 baht (less than $10) a month as a teacher in the refugee camp.

"My parents had to flee from Burma due to ethnic cleansing (still going on now in Burma)," Poe said. "However, God provided everything for my family and I."

It was not easy for Poe's family since they did not have any friends or relatives in the U.S. She remembers not having anything when they came to Indianapolis. Her parents understood some English since they were only able to graduate from high school due to the war, but Poe believes God provided them with friends through the First Baptist Church of Indianapolis, which they now call their home church. The church helped her parents find jobs and helped her enroll in school.

Aye started school as a fourth-grader. She had to adapt quickly to a different environment, home, language and culture.

"Living here is one of the greatest blessings," Aye said. "I am able to live without fear, get a good education, live in cozy homes, and being able to have fun with my friends in ways that I wouldn't be able to have if I was still living in the refugee camp. When I leave Taylor, I want to be able to go back to Thailand and Burma to serve in many ways that God wants me to."

After coming to Taylor, Poe has felt deeply blessed by the education department. She is especially thankful for professor of education Cindy Tyner. Poe considers her like a godmother or her second mother. She also appreciates professors of education Alexis Armstrong, Tammy Mahon and Carol Sisson. They are her prayer warriors.

When Aye graduated from high school, she went to Ivy Tech Community College for two years. After this, she wanted to transfer to a Christian environment, so Taylor was the only school she applied to.

"Taylor is a community that is rare to find in any universities," Aye said. "It is the greatest blessing and opportunity to grow and learn at a university like Taylor. It opens doors for so many opportunities, and it has made me more of an open-minded person to dive deeper into my faith."

While both students are grateful for their time and place here, living in the U.S. and Taylor are not the easiest things to do. Both students have faced trials with the culture from time to time.

They also see Taylor as a great community with people that care and are willing to hear their story.

"It is not as easy or comfortable even here at Taylor," Poe said. "There are still brokenness. However, I am grateful for the few friends, who had become brothers and sisters . . . being a refugee will always be apart of my identity."