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Thong Vang

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Thong Vang was born in Laos. He moved Muang Cha, Laos for middle school; Phon Hong for high school, and he obtained a physician assistance degree from a university in Vientiane. Thong moved to St. Paul, MN in 2007 to be with his family. His father had worked for the CIA and he had to leave the country when Thong was in middle school.

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0:05:50

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Thong Vang Transcription

“Thong: Education without Family”

My name is Thong Vang. This is a story about my educational life in Laos. When I was 12 years old, my father took me to another village to live with my uncle so that I could go to school. That village was located in Muang Cha, about 50 miles away. It took 2 and a half days’ walk to get there. It was the first time that I had to leave my family and be on my own.
I was excited when I went to school the first time. It was nice to see all my friends at school, but I did not have free living. During the time that I went to elementary school, I had to take a part in the house chores before and after school. Early in the morning I had to chop banana stems and mix [it] up with yams and rice flour to feed the pigs and also kernel the corn to feed the chickens. Then I could go to school. After school, I would head straight to the banana field and chop off some banana stems to prepare for the morning feeding. That was my routine for about five years and I get to see my family about 3 to 4 times a year.
After I completed elementary school, I moved even further from my family to attend middle school in a small town called Phon Hong, which was 250 kilometers away. I didn’t get to walk this time. I was very lucky to commute by riding an automobile. It was an old truck a soldier used for riding and loading weapons for the soldiers during the Vietnam War.
In Phon Hong, I lived with my uncle, my mom’s brother. I had to help my uncle with agriculture farming. I helped him tend the corn and rice fields on the weekend and go to school during the weekdays. The cost of living and working was not as bad as when I was in elementary school, but I still longed for my family for I only get to see them once a year.
Slowly working on my way to college, I entered the big city of Vientiane, the capital of Laos. All the hard work that I did paid off in a good way. At this time, I got a scholarship and was given a free room in the college dormitory. I had a part time job delivering newspapers in the morning and volunteered at the library in the university. I was 26 years old when I graduated from college with a degree in physician assistance.
I felt like an orphan during my educational study I had parents to encourage me to study and get an education, but I had to live without them. I had to work hard in exchange for my living in order to achieve my education. That was not what I had wished for. I thought that once I was done with elementary school I could be closer to my family, but it wasn’t what I had hoped for. My father, who had worked for the CIA during the Vietnam War, had left to the United States during my middle school years. I was hopeful that my mother would move closer to where I went to college, but then she left to the United States as well. I was left alone in Laos until 2007, when I finally got reunited with my family and that was when I came to the United States. It’s a bittersweet transition in my life.
Education is very important to me. Here in America, I have to start all over again on my education. My college degree from Laos is useless with the standards here. I cannot get hired at the hospital for the position that I had worked so hard for, for so many years.
Starting over on my education and learning a new language is hard for me. My future goal is to be competent in English and get a college degree here for a job that I can use my knowledge with a stroke of a pen and not with so much energy and strength. I am currently studying at Hubbs Center. This time my education will be different because I now finally close to my family.