My name is Stacey Somsichack, and I am a first generation Laotian-American, born and raised in Connecticut. I studied Sociology at the University of Connecticut and was actively involved with the Asian American Cultural Center, focusing on Asian American issues and experiences. I have a strong interest in the Southeast Asian-American migration experience.
My family became refugees in Thailand in 1976 during the Secret War in Laos. My grandfather often told stories about the time when he left Laos. At the time, he heard of the forced re-education camps and feared for the safety of his family, so my grandfather suddenly left his village without notice. He crossed the Mekong River to refugee camps in Thailand, by night, to avoid border police. My grandfather later sent word back to his family on the other side of the river, and arranged for their journey to the Thai camps. My family lived a restricted life in Ubon Ratchatani refugee camp for four years before receiving status to resettle in the United States. Their decision to migrate to the United States was influenced by a French missionary, who explained to my grandparents that they could find greater opportunities in the United States than anywhere else in the world. In 1980, my family was sponsored by a church in Dickenson, North Dakota, where they lived for seven years before resettling in Connecticut.
Growing up, I experienced the effect that migration had on my family. We depended on the assistance of subsidized government housing for many years. My parents worked long hours, in blue collar jobs, to provide the basic foundation for my journey to achieve the American Dream. To achieve the dream, it was important for my family to assimilate into American society. However, it was equally important to keep our Lao heritage. My family worked hard to protect Lao traditions and our sense of Lao identity by being active in building a strong Laotian-American community. My grandfather started the first Laotian Buddhist temple in Connecticut in the early 1990s. Being active in the Laotian community is a huge part of my identity and helped defined my interests and career path.
During college, I studied sociology to explore my personal interest in social interaction, migration history, and experience. Securing a position at the U.S. Department of State was a monumental moment for my family and community in Connecticut. It was beyond my family's dream that I would have the opportunity to work for the institution that served as an important player in refugee issues and resettlement, protecting people caught in political conflict -- the U.S. Department of State.
Editor's Note: This blog is one of a series of individual stories by former refugees who are now working for the State Department. The series is part of the State Department's ongoing effort to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Refugee Convention and in honor of World Refugee Day on June 20. Each story reflects an individual's experience and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. government.Become a fan of the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration on Facebook.