Chia Youyee Vang
Vang's parents were farmers. She and her siblings never went to summer school. The biggest challenge that Dr. Vang faced when she first arrived was learning English because America was a completely new country and culture for her. Therefore, communication was a big problem. Vang was never officially enrolled in any school prior to coming to America. She attend public schools in St. Paul after she arrived in the U.S. She had to study English in addition to her regular classes. She would run home every day to watch her favorite television show— that really helped with her English learning! She graduated from high school in 1990 and was accepted to Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota.
It is typical for Hmong girls to marry at an early age. However, Vang chose not to get married early because she wanted to pursue her dreams and her education. Professor Vang majored in political science and French while she was in college. During her junior year in college, Vang was able to study abroad in Paris, France. While in France, she visited other Hmong refugee families who had settled there. During the year that she studied abroard, Dr. Vang visited 13 different European countries. She received a fellowship to study public policy at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs after she graduated from college. After receiving an MA in 1996, she worked as a policy analyst. Professor Vang returned to the University of Minnesota in 2002 for her doctorate studies in American Studies. She received her doctoral degree in 2006 and has been teaching at UWM for almost 10 years. She is fluent in Hmong, English, and French and she has also studied Japanese and Lao.
Chia Vang, interviewed by Denise Zahran and Qianfei Xu, June 2015
Dr.Vang told us her education experience.
Vang remembers many folktales that her parents and grandparents told her. One of the stories is about two brothers who went out fishing. One brother wanted to cook the fish they caught while the other one refused to do so. Eventually they decided not to kill the fish and that decision for fortuitous. The fish would turn into two beautiful girls who would cook and clean the houses while the brothers were out working.
Her family is very close knit. Dr. Vang told us a story about their life before they emigrated. Her family was in a boat by themselves trying to get to a safe place, from Laos to Thailand. She remembers that her father carried a gun with him in order to protect his family. However he didn't have bullets. In the middle of the journey, the boat owner threatened her family and demanded that they give him all of their valuables. She remembers that her mother and siblings were all crying, begging her father to give all of their money in order to save themselves. Her mother managed to hide some silver bars between her and her baby brother’s stomachs. Those silver bars were the only thing they had left to buy food at the refugee camp in Thailand.