Jack Myint, who came to W&J from Burma to study political science, talks with his professor, Buba Misawa.
Burmese student engages in U.S. culture, politics at W&J
Growing up in the Southeast Asian country of Burma, Hla Hpone Myint ’16—known to his classmates as “Jack”—always dreamed of attending college in the U.S., calling the country a “symbol for human rights and democracy.”
He had been accepted to 18 American colleges and universities before deciding on Washington & Jefferson College, which Myint said was “always at the top” of his list. Initially intrigued by the College’s name and reputation, Myint credits his final decision to the warm welcome he received from President Tori Haring-Smith, Ph.D., as well as students, faculty and staff during his campus visit. “W&J is such a close-knit community and I have developed some close relationships already,” he said.
Now, more than halfway through his first year at W&J, the political science major is using his time in the U.S. to learn
more about the American political system while representing his home country at the national level.
During the fall semester, Myint was invited to attend a series of State Department meetings in Washington, D.C.,
as a guest of Burmese Theraveda Buddhist monk Shwe Nya Wa Sayadaw. While there, he was given the opportunity to listen to a speech by his “personal hero,” Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, a Burmese opposition politician and chairperson of the country’s National League for Democracy.
“Suu Kyi cares so much about our country and has sacrificed, put a lot on the line, to get the respect she deserves, from citizens of Burma and of the world,” he said. When Suu Kyi was presented with a Congressional Gold Medal at the U.S. Capitol, Myint was in the audience, sitting behind former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. He also had
the chance to shake hands with such high-ranking U.S. officials as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. John McCain.
“This experience has inspired me to stay focused on my decision to return to my country as a politician."
-Jack Myint '16
Myint, who since has returned to D.C. to speak with Burmese American communities, recently organized a W&J trip to a Buddhist monastery in Virginia, where he introduced 17 students to Burmese cuisine and Buddhist history. He also represented the College in a Model United Nations conference at Harvard University, where W&J was honored alongside Princeton and Yale, and joined the Red & Black staff as a political columnist.
“This experience has inspired me to stay focused on my decision to return to my country as a politician,” said Myint, who plans on attending graduate school or law school after W&J. “The government says that we are entering a new era of democracy and change but, the truth is, there is still a lot of work to be done. Because I have been given this opportunity to study in a model country, I feel it is my responsibility as a citizen to bring my experience back to Burma.”
Myint was in attendance when Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi (center) received the Congressional Gold Medal from Speaker of the House John Boehner at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Sept. 19, 2012. AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin