Si Thu Tun ’17 is proud to be the first student from Burma to attend LC, but he admits to a bit of culture shock.
Si Thu (pronounced see too) grew up in Burma under a time of harsh military repression, and he knew very little about his own country, much less the outside world. That began to change in 2011 when the military junta was dissolved following a general election a year earlier. Since then the US and European Union have lifted trade, economic, and other sanctions, and travel between Burma and the US has become easier.
For Si Thu, it meant he could read books about the history of his own country. “I learned how cruel the previous regime was,” he said. “Now I understand why my parents didn’t want me to talk about politics.”
Since his preschool days, Si Thu’s parents had enrolled him in one of a handful of private, English-speaking schools in the capital city on Yangon. “They knew education was no good in my country,” he said, and they wanted him “to see what the world is like outside Burma.”
Si Thu, a Westover Honors student, discovered LC through the College Board website while looking for a small, private college. “I was actually fascinated by the photo of Schewel Hall,” he said.
When he arrived in mid-August, Si Thu was surprised by how friendly people are here, and how openly they can talk about anything, including politics. “We still don’t talk that openly about politics,” he said.
The culture shock is also more basic. Si Thu is Buddhist and doesn’t drink, which he found out is rare among US college students. He is also used to less mixing of men and women socially. And the food will take some getting used to. “I miss rice, actually,” he said, when asked about cafeteria fare.
His assimilation, however, may not be too difficult because he already has a very American dream. “My dream is to have a theme park like Disneyland,” he said. “I really want to create something to entertain my people.”
Si Thu visited Hong Kong Disneyland earlier this year and was hooked. “I think it’s a place which brings family together,” he said.
The freshman admits to being nervous before he came, but he said he is already feeling comfortable in surroundings that are full of trees like his home. He said he hopes his sister will attend LC in three years.
In the meantime, he is a little worried about the changing seasons. “I don’t know how I will deal with the winter, but I’m really excited about seeing my first snow,” he said.