Han Seth Lu — The Indo-Chinese-Burmese Youth Leader
A Story about Leadership, Biracial Identity, and Mental Health
The first Burmese I met was my dear friend Nathan; we met in Boston in 2014 as summer interns at a biotech firm. When I shared his story two years ago, and we discussed, amongst other things, the similarities between our countries. Well, I have again met another Burmese whose inspirational story I will be sharing today.
Meet Han Seth Lu!
Han Seth Lu is a senior at the University of Central Oklahoma, studying Early Childhood Education with a minor in Leadership. Not too long ago, he ended his tenure as president of the University of Central Oklahoma International Student Council, UCO Global Leadership Ambassador, and was also Mister UCO International 2019. He is a youth activist and has hosted four editions of the Myanmar YouthSpeak Forum between 2015 and 2019.
During our conversation, Han shed light on how the military dictatorship regime in Myanmar shut them out from interaction with the outside world. This implied poor quality of education for him and his colleagues as the curricula were not only controlled by the government, but a series of protests by students resulted in the closure of schools #8888Uprising. I could totally relate to this because I, too, grew up during the military regime in Nigeria (my home country). The period between 1985 to 1999 when Nigeria was under the military rule was characterized by dictatorship style of government, closure of borders, use of coercion in policy implementation, disregard for human rights, to name a few. And just like Han, my desire for self-development and actualization catalyzed my move to the US via the pursuit of quality education and to gain a better perspective of the world.
Growing up in such an enclosed society, Han was the subject of discrimination because he looked different. Being the biracial son of a Chinese father and an Indian mother, his physical features were characterized by dark skin and voluminous hair, making him always stand out. It also did not help that his blended cultural heritage did not fit into any of the 136 acknowledged ethnic groups in Myanmar. Reflecting on that experience now, Han says, “you are who you are, and you need to respect yourself even if nobody is respecting you.”
Now living in the US, a culturally homogeneous place, Han proposes the practice of culture in a considerate manner but, at the same time, not compromising on individual values. It took one year as an exchange student at Indiana University to make Han realize he wasn’t built for medical college and opted for a change. As expected, with most Asian and African parents who desire their kids to be doctors, his parents objected to this, thus creating a rift between them for two years. But it was also at the same Indiana University that he had his first formal introduction to leadership studies.
Being a passionate youth empowerment activist, he co-founded the Noor Education and Community Center in Bago, Myanmar, where other young people can be empowered to achieve their dreams through leadership and English language training.
This action of his in service to his community goes to buttress this quote by former President Obama:
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
As one who is involved in various human development activities, I was curious to find out how he was holding up in the areas of self-care and mental health. Han opened up about his struggles with anxiety disorders, as well as the use of sincerity as one of his coping strategies. So, rather than using social media as a tool for posting the one-sided glossy pictures, he chooses to share his vulnerable moments as well, thus making himself more relatable to his audience. Han highlighted the importance of honesty, communication, as well as having a support group in dealing with mental health issues. In his words, “being unhappy is normal,” and there will be good days and bad days.
It was a rich conversation I had with Han and very relevant to our day. From his story, we can all learn to rise above environmental challenges and pay our success forward by lifting others in a similar situation as we were in.
Catch the entire details by downloading this episode of the podcast.
🅻🅸🅽🅺🆂 to the full episode here:
- My episode with Nathan: https://www.mosibyl.com/podcast/nathannyein
- Military Rule in Myanmar (formerly Burma) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_rule_in_Burma
- Military impact on the Myanmar educational system
- August 8, 1988 uprising in Myanmar