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My name is Nou Yang, I was born in Ban Vinai Refugee Camp. Shortly after turning three my family left Thailand and immigrated to the U.S. Unlike many of my peers I majored in the subject that challenged me most, English. As a child I remember gently tracing over alphabets on the dinner table, I had an admiration for letters, words and what they meant. However this all changed in grade school when red ink imprisoned my words. It made me feel like there was no place in the world for my words and I, like we were not important, like we did not matter. After 8 years of receiving extra help on my English my problem remained the same, my tenses did not agree with my verbs. The teachers couldn’t figure out why. They were too busy being concerned they disregarded my strength. I lost hope and confidence in myself. At that point of my life I didn’t know if I could go to college, for college was not an expectation, it was a privilege that not many first generation immigrants could endure. It was in a small community college that I met the writings of Jamaica Kincaid, Sherman Alexie and many more writers of color. It was there that I witnessed writings directly making an impact on lives such as my own. Those stories sparked something in me. Shortly after, my professor encouraged me to publish a writing I did for class. I couldn’t believe it when my picture was on the school’s front page website for being published in the Minnesota Women’s Press. Many friendships and conversations happened in the process of healing. I learned that sharing my story validates the my existence and more importantly inspire others to share their stories as well. I’m excited about this trip because I know that it will definitely be an adventure unlike anything I have ever done. My body, mind and heart will all be challenged but I am ready. I know I will probably cry more than once, but I can promise that I won’t give up. Traveling is important because it offers growth, reflection and the opportunity to inspire and be inspired by. Only through challenges will our mind understand the complicity of the world we all belong to.

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