Pun Barclay moved to the United States from Thailand and used John Wayne western movies to improve her English. A little more than a year ago, she enrolled in KC’s Intensive College Ready Program after completing her GED. Now after three semesters she has a perfect grade point average and will speak at the “Faces of TRiO” luncheon noon today in the Devall Student Center Ballroom.
Pun will encourage students to believe in themselves and have a good attitude about education.
“A positive attitude always works, and of course studying hard,” Pun said. “I always do extra studying and no procrastination. I have done it. I always work ahead…I’m not a fast learner, I’m a slow learner so I like time to study.”
Pun is working on her nursing degree and hopes to be a pediatric nurse.
“I feel happy when I’m around kids; they make me feel relaxed,” Pun said.
Being in America has changed Pun’s life. She has had opportunities here that she would never have had in Thailand, like going to college.
“Having family, friends and neighbors to support me in college is a wonderful feeling,” Pun said.
In her native Thailand, Barclay attended school through the sixth grade, which is common so students can leave school to work and help support their family.
When she was 20, in 1999, Michael Barclay, an American businessman working for Coca-Cola, approached Pun in a park. He knew how to speak a little Thai, because of his job, and asked if he could send her an email or write her a letter.
Although she thought this stranger coming up to her was a little crazy, she told him she did not have a computer so he could write her a letter.
Pun knew a little English from school so that helped the two communicate.
Michael proposed in 2000; they married in 2001 and in 2002 had a baby boy, Ty Michael.
The couple had planned to move to the United States after marrying, but it took a few months because Pun needed to prepare to apply for a visa.
In the meantime, Michael returned to the United States, bought a house and then returned to Thailand for his wife and new born child.
Three months after their son was born, the couple relocated to Longview where Michael had a business opportunity.
They endured a 32-hour flight with three layovers.
“Sometimes you have to stop at some place at 2:30 in the morning and wait for the next hour or two,” Pun said. “It was really hard, but it was worth it.”
Pun went back to Thailand three months into living in the United States because of her mother’s death. That was the last time she visited Thailand.
When she arrived to the United States she was frightened because it was the first time she was out of her parent’s house and she had a baby.
Pun had always thought about going to school, and her husband often told her he wanted her to acquire more education.
What made Pun skeptical about returning to school was English not being her first language.
“For me, I was always afraid that I was not smart enough,” Pun said.
She worked to learn English through her husband talking to her and correcting her and also by watching television.
Pun would put together what the actors were doing to understand what they were saying.
“I would watch westerns, John Wayne movies,” Pun said.
She watched them even before she met her husband.
“A lot of people had a hard time understanding me back then, but now they say they understand me,” Pun said.
When her son entered the second grade in 2011, Pun decided to enroll in the Adult Education Course at the KC-Longview to earn her GED. She finished in five months.
“Thanks to the assistance of my instructors I earned membership in the National Honor Society,” Pun said.
She picked KC because of its location and it seemed like the right place for her.
“It’s a good place to start and my husband had attended Kilgore College before, so it seemed like a logical place for me to continue,” Pun said. “I’m from the countryside and I don’t like big cities. [KC is] perfect for me, it’s not too big, it’s a good place to learn, you get to know your teachers… It’s really nice.”
After completing her GED, she enrolled in KC’s Intensive College Readiness Program in the summer of 2012.
“My GED teacher, Tonya Russell, told me she wanted me to take that class to prepare myself for college,” Pun said. “She’s a really really wonderful lady. She believed in me and always told me I could make it in college.”
When she went to orientation for the summer program, her orientation leader spoke about TRiO.
She did not join until her first semester, when one of her classmates told her about TRiO and how it helped students get through college.
When Pun realized how many services TRiO provided, she applied and was accepted.
“I was excited when they accepted my application; it made me feel at ease,” Pun said. “I didn’t have to go through the whole college thing by myself.”
Pun has received a 4.0 for all three semesters, nominated for National Honor Society and inducted to Phi Theta Kappa.
“I feel like, ‘Yes, I can do anything.’” Pun said.
TRiO has been a critical part of her path toward gaining a degree in nursing.
“I could not have navigated my way around all the courses, professors, hours and campus choices without the help of the TRiO staff,” Pun said.
Pun said TRiO has made college a level playing playing field for her being in a foreign country, speaking a non-native language and trying to understand a new culture.
“I will always remember their help.”