Asein Ta’s first elementary school experience will be when he starts his Richmond Teacher Residency program in May 2017.
“It’s interesting because I am going to teach elementary education but I never went to elementary school,” says senior Asein Ta who will be studying early elementary education at the VCU School of Education.
Growing up in a small town in Myanmar, a country run by a military dictator, Ta’s family struggled financially and could not afford to send him and his siblings to school.
After his father's death, his mother soon fell ill. She wanted a better life for Asein and made she sure he could leave. “She asked me to go with my uncle on a trip, I had no idea she was setting me up for a different path,” said Ta.
He was 10 years old when he left Myanmar with his uncle, who frequently made these trips for people who needed to get out.
“We had to go through the city but there wasn’t a way to get through the soldiers that were blocking the gates,” said Ta. They traveled through the woods with only one bag of belongings until they reached the border.
“I didn’t know where we were going but we ended up at refugee camp called Mae La with other children in Thailand.” After his uncle settled him in at a monastery, Asein was on his own and was raised by Buddhist monks.
“The last time I saw my uncle at the camp was when he came to tell me that my mother had passed away,” he shares. “I stayed in the camp for about five years and I got to know a lot of people. We had a little bit of schooling. I learned a little bit of English and math,” said Ta, reflecting on his first educational experience.
Then an opportunity arose to leave Thailand and travel to the United States. Asein filled out the application paperwork and got a positive response.
“I was very lucky, a lot of people never hear back but I got my papers in two years,” said Ta. “Soon after, I got on a plane for the first time and flew to Japan and then the west coast of the United States.”
Asein arrived in Virginia on March 6th, 2008. He was placed in a foster home with loving parents Sam and Susie, who enrolled him in public school soon after his arrival.
“They are so educated and very supportive of my education, they pushed me to study all the time. I really appreciate everything they have done for me. They taught me a lot,” said Ta.
This past March, Ta was the winner of the Virginia Arnold Scholarship from the School of Education. It will help him continue his education through graduate school here at VCU. “Someday I hope I can make all this possible for other children,” Ta concludes.