We recently spoke with an exceptional Give Back Scholar named Lay Mu.

Lay is a Give Something Back Scholar currently attending Northern Illinois University. There, he plans to study nursing so that one day he can help people for a living. He is glad to be attending university in the United States — he says that where he is from “education lacks meaning and you can’t use it for anything.”

Lay is referring to the Karen refugee camp where he was born. The Karen are an ethnic group who are originally from southern Burma/Myanmar — though Lay’s family is part of a group who were forced to migrate to a refugee camp in Thailand.

The story of the Karen people was recently told through an art exhibition at Northern Illinois University — put together by their Center for Burma Studies. The exhibition’s full title was, The Art of Surviving: The Journey of the Karen Refugees in Illinois and ran from August 24 through November 12, 2021.

Lay told us his favorite part of the exhibit was a reduced-scale model of a house built by the Karen people. Lay assisted the artists with recreating the house to be similar to the one he used to live in. “The exhibit gives a voice to all the Karen refugees out there and what is currently happening to them,” Lay said.

Lay is very appreciative of the Give Something Back scholarship that has allowed him to attend NIU. “The moment I opened the letter, windows of opportunity opened and I had hope for my future,” he said.

Though he has big plans for that future, Lay is currently focusing on school. And he would advise other students to do the same: “Work hard on your studies. Life might seem to go slow, but believe it or not, it goes very fast. So go out there and learn and better yourself — and always give back.”


Thank you for sharing your journey with us, Lay. We look forward to seeing your hard work pay off in the years to come!