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PaDao Vang

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PaDao Vang was born in Laos in 1978. Her family moved to Thailand in 1980 because of war, and they lived in Ban Vinai refugee camp until they resettled in California in 1989. She received her associate's degree from Anoka-Ramsey Community College and continued her education at Metropolitan State University. She and her family live in Minnesota.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. Please contact Immigration History Research Center staff for permissions not covered by this Creative Commons license.

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"My Mother's Journey"

I was born in 1978 in Laos but moved to Thailand in 1980 because of the war. I had lived in Ban Vinai refugee camp. All I remembered as a child running through the dusty fields of Ban Vinai with many of my friends. I saw many Thai Police beating Hmong people for many reasons, but I wondered where General Vang Pao was and how he could not help us? I also attended school, where they taught Thai, Laos, and basic English.
When I arrived in California in 1989, I remember my experience as a new immigrant in this new world. Right off the bat, I was placed in 7th grade. In my village, education was very limited. I remember teachers asking me to write a paragraph. I would go home and write a sentence instead. It did not make sense to me. As I absorbed my studies, I learned fascinating things such as why and how the earth moved, and why the sky was blue. Prior to this, living in a village taught me none of this. As I continued on in my high school, I learned the lives that many teenagers lived. As I recall, my classmates often made fun of me, the way I talked, and the way I dressed. I felt ashamed and often surrounded myself with ESL students.
Towards my senior year of high school, I met my husband. One year later, I married him, and had my two sons and later on, my two daughters. I went to college for a semester after high school, but my family support was limited, so I dropped out. I wanted to focus on providing a stable income for my family and I put a halt on my education.
After 15 years of simply working, my company moved overseas and I was laid off. However, there was an opportunity that the government helped pay for tuition and also provided unemployment for two years. It was a great opportunity for me, and I took it.
The initial journey was hard. I had to seek resources that eased access into colleges easier for returning students. Starting at Anoka-Ramsey Community College, I appreciated the resources that were given to me. When I started college, I did not know what I was doing. For the first week, I came home every day with thoughts of dropping out. However, my husband was able to give support that encouraged me to push on. There were many days when I would come back from my late night classes, all while juggling the responsibilities of a parent and just sit there, in frustration, because I could just not get the material. There were many times that I wondered if I was in the right position. Many of the students I was surrounded by were in their early 20s, and I often had the fear that my peers thought less of myself. After all, I was a different kind of student, what could I possibly know? There were nights when I asked my sons to assist my grammatical structures. College was hard for me, but I never quit. Many assignments took an average student a couple of hours, however it would take even longer for myself.
After 4 years of these repetitive actions, I was finally able to graduate community college with my Associates degree in Accounting. I continue my education at Metropolitan State University to obtain my Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and hope to share my story of knowing that education is possible for any if they put their heart into it.