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From brave refugee to award-winning student

A Burmese refugee is one of the first English language students at Victoria University to earn a Medal of Excellence for her outstanding commitment to learn the language of her new home.

Mu Sey Nay, 22, of Sunshine, said she is now experiencing a way of life she only dreamed of after she spent her entire life in a refugee camp on the Thai-Burma border. Like thousands of other Burmese of the ethnic Karen minority, her family and many relatives were driven into the camp before she was born to flee the violence of Burma's military government.

There, she grew up with her two sisters and other Karen refugees, attending a basic school and dreaming of a life outside the camp. She never knew her mother, who died from kidney failure when Mu Sey was a baby. Her marriage at age 17 to Kyaw Htoo, a shy boy she met at school, counts as one of her happiest memories in the camp.

In 2007, two years after her wedding, about 20 relatives and family members (who by then included a step-mother and six more siblings) were given the green light to come to Australia. Unfortunately, Kyaw Htoo was not included in the application, which had been lodged years earlier.

Mu Sey was forced to make the hardest decision of her life when she turned down the chance for a long-awaited life in Australia to stay behind with her new husband, and bravely say good-bye to a family she might not see again.

Finally, in 2009, Mu Sey, her husband, and their baby son were reunited with family and relatives in Australia. The entire group has settled in the Sunshine area, within a short distance of each other.

Once in Australia, Mu Sey enrolled in VU's Adult Migrant English Program, learning from the same teacher who had taught her father, and on the same Sunshine Campus as many of her relatives. With continual study and regular conversations with new friends and neighbours, Mu Sey earned top grades for her Certificate II in Spoken and Written English, and a prized Medal of Excellence. She also participated in an AMEP singing group and taught the Burmese national game of Chinlon, or cane ball, to fellow students.

Now a mother of two young children, Mu Sey has closed her English books for a while, but hopes to return to study to become a nurse or a teacher.

Mu Sey Nay is available for interview. A photo of her in Melbourne, and also of her in the refugee camp is also available.  

Media Contact:
Ann Marie Angebrandt, Media Officer,
Marketing and Communications Department, Victoria University
Ph: (03) 9919 5487 or 0403 556 001.

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