Tongchai Saelee is a Global UGRAD participant from Thailand. He com
pleted a semester of English Language Training at Juniata College this fall and began studying pre-nursing this spring. Chai has lived with his grandparents in the Hmong community of Thailand ever since his parents moved to Alaska when he was a child. Through the years, he has only been able to visit with his parents a few times in Thailand; he had never had the chance to meet many of his siblings in person before. Participating in the Global UGRAD Program allowed Chai to not only live in the same country as his parents for the first time since he was a child, but to finally meet his sisters and brothers in person. Below, Tongchai explains what it has meant to him to reunite with his family after several years.
“Global UGRAD has given me more than a life changing opportunity. I had the privilege to visit my family during winter break in Alaska – and it was a fabulous experience since I have not seen all my brothers and sisters for 10 years. I can’t even explain my feelings in the first moment that I got to see my parents and all my brothers and sisters in the airport. How great for the gift that I have gotten from the Global UGRAD Program! I could not imagine how to visit my family, which lives on the other side of the world, if I did not get this chance from the Global
One of the highlights of my experience in Alaska – the coldest place that I have been to – is hiking on Flattop mountain with friends. There were many beautiful mountains covered with a lot of snow. On the hiking trail, I got to see a lot of huge moose. The purple sky in Alaska is very beautiful; it sometimes has multiple colors, too. I love to see the amazing scenery of the nature in Alaska. This is truly an incredible chance not only to learn culture and education, but also to reconnect with family and friends in the U.S.”
Since coming to Juniata, Tongchai has taken an interest in the Hmong community in the United States and wants to know how to better support them both culturally and educationally. During his spring break, he will visit a non-profit that supports the Hmong population in Wisconsin.