Pachia Thao is a Hmong American student attending St. Olaf College with a double major in Political Science and Asian Studies. Born in San Diego, California, her parents moved to Minnesota after arriving in California from Thailand. She is the oldest of her four siblings, and the first in her family to attend college. Pachia is an active member of the St. Olaf community and has been involved with numerous organizations such as Hmong Culture Outreach (HCO), Student Support Services (SSS), and Upward Bound. She enjoys reading, cooking, and spending time with family and friends.
“… Because my parents did marry young, they did have me very young and I felt they weren’t ready to have a kid at that time. But in the Hmong community there is this really dominant thing where people get married early on. So we did struggle a lot, I remember growing up as a kid…making ends meets. Trying to pay the house bill, buy food, and stuff like that, because both my parents were working and there was no one there to watch me. So I grew up a lot with my grandma watching me, and raising me up, so I defiantly (think) my grandma is an important person to me…”
“Some obstacles of obtaining a college degree or higher education as a Hmong woman would definitely have to be trying to communicate back at home, what I’m doing. It’s kind of hard to tell my parents about a political science major, especially the grandparents. They don’t speak English, so I can’t really find the right words. I can’t find the political science word in Hmong, so it’s really hard to explain what I’m doing. They just have to believe me and trust me that I’m doing what I want to do and that it’s something that will definitely benefit me in the future.”
“Being a Hmong woman at school is definitely really different from being a woman at home and I think just recently my parents have been a little more open to things outside of the Hmong community. We talked about LGBT movement and stuff like that, because I myself input that to them so now that I go back home I kind of bring a little bit of college life with me, like what I have learned here and what we talk about here. I make them become more open-minded and my role at home is now slowly changing.”