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Building a home away from home

Traveling from Myanmar – in southeast Asia – to Columbia, South Carolina could have been a severe culture shock for Laicung Hnin, MACM, ’25, but he has found community at LTSS and a focus on his long-term goal.

Lai Hnin takes notes in a class session

“My country was called Burma, now it’s Myanmar,” he explained, alluding to the country’s political instability. “If it’s God’s will then after this program, I want to go back to Burma and serve my country, serve in the ministry. I want to do church ministry.”

Hnin grew up as a Baptist in Myanmar – there the Baptist church is a single organization, so he is learning about the multiple Baptist sub-denominations here in the United States. However, coming to the United States is not his first experience studying outside his home country. 

“Before I studied here, I was studying in India, where there are diverse cultures and religions, so that isn’t new for me,” he said. “But Western culture is really different from Asian culture. I’m still adapting, but it’s good for me to study in a community where different ideas and cultures also bring me different perspectives.”

The diverse perspectives and the academic focus were the most appealing elements that drew Hnin to LTSS.

Lai Hnin walks across campus with a friend

“LTSS is an ecumenical community where people come from different backgrounds. Some are Baptists, like me, and others are Lutherans and Presbyterians. Some are Methodists. So the community is a really beautiful place to learn and create such a rare culture of diverse ideas and relationships.”

While being far from family and friends has been challenging, Hnin has made close friends early on with his neighbors in the LTSS residences and connected with classmates and professors. 

“The faculty, staff and students are all supportive of each other, mentally and spiritually,” he said. “They are always kind to me, and that’s how I’ve made this a home.”