Burmese college student’s 8,000-mile journey to career in healthcare

February 21, 2019 | 3:09 am

Updated February 20, 2019 | 11:25 pm

Photo courtesy of OCTC

It is more than 8,000 miles from the country of Burma to Owensboro, Kentucky and that distance does not include a middle school pit stop in Texas. But despite the incredible distance traveled, and the language and cultural barriers he faced, December Lay is currently on track to earn an Associate in Applied Science degree in Medical Assisting from Owensboro Community and Technical College (OCTC).

As his name might suggest, Lay was born in, you guessed it, December, in Burma where he spent much of his childhood in refugee farms due to continued unrest and lack of peace in the country.

He reflected on “the dangers of living with no freedom, no education, and essentially no hope.” However, Lay now calls himself blessed, “my parents risked their lives by fleeing their home country, so their kids could have a better life and experience freedom.”

At the age of 12, Lay and his family moved to Texas, later moving to Owensboro and graduating from Owensboro High School.

Not knowing English was a huge barrier, Lay recalled.

“Middle school was complicated, I felt bad about myself and I thought I cannot make it,” Lay said. “But I worked hard, studied, and in high school I began thinking every day, about going to college.”

Lay has an obvious passion for helping others that shines through when he talks about them. He helps his family with his two younger brothers, ages 4 and 11. He also helps his neighbors, and the community, by providing translation services in four different languages, accompanying them to medical visits and government offices.

When asked what he likes most about OCTC, Lay referred to the help and encouragement he receives from the faculty and the staff in the Medical Assisting program. He knows that if he misses anything, lacks understanding due to communication barriers, or needs additional help outside of class, his instructors are happy to assist.

Due to the faculty support and the financial affordability of a community college, Lay highly recommends that anyone interested in furthering their education consider OCTC.

OCTC is proud of all his accomplishments and looks forward to helping December Lay become a first-generation college graduate. Click to watch the video. Upon completion of his academic plan at OCTC, Lay plans to transfer and work toward a bachelor’s degree at Western Kentucky University.


February 21, 2019 | 3:09 am

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