First-generation immigrant in Nashville to become first Zomi female to attend Ivy League college

Esther Huai
Posted at 6:04 PM, May 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-25 21:07:07-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — As many high school graduates are getting ready to make the big move to college, a first-generation immigrant is learning she's the first in her ethnic group to go to an Ivy League school.

Esther Huai, 18, plans to attend the University of Pennsylvania. It was her top choice although not something her family considered possible when she was born.

"The Zomi community is a community where patriarchy plays a big role, and it is still prevalent to this day," said Esther Huai. "So as a woman, getting such a high education is something I never dreamed of."

Huai was born in Malaysia, but her parents are from Myanmar. Before she was born, her Zomi parents fled their home country because of religious persecution.

The Zomi people do not have record of any female ever attending an Ivy League institution.

"Taking part and breaking down the barrier of men and women in my community, the community where women are not encouraged to get an education because the men are seen as more important than them, is something that I take pride in," Huai said.

Huai plans to major in nursing and minor in global health. Someday, she would like to work for a global organization like UNICEF.

"I wanted to give back to my community... because although I have this knowledge or this intelligence, I feel that it is not as useful if I'm not able to share it with the rest of the world," she said.

The Zomi community believes only three Zomi men have ever attended an Ivy League.