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Chico State Grad's Documentary Takes Her Home

Published On: May 22 2013 12:55:00 PM CDT
Updated On: May 23 2013 12:55:00 AM CDT

A Chico State graduate learned a lot about her cultural roots and herself while filming a documentary in Thailand.

A Chico State graduate learned a lot about her cultural roots and herself while filming a documentary in Thailand.

Dee Thao is part of a large community of Hmong immigrants in California.

Her parents moved the family here when she was 5.

She's American and Hmong through and through, but it wasn't until she traveled to Thailand to film a documentary about her roots that she really learned what it means to be both.

"I think going back to Thailand solidified who I am, in a way," graduating senior Dee Thao said.

Having come to America at an early age and growing up here, the connection to her ancestry was always there but it wasn't so easy to sort out.

"I think that at some point I felt like I was a part of it," she said, "and now I feel like I'm more a part of it by going back and re-connecting with my heritage."

And when she graduates Saturday it'll be a huge accomplishment for a number of reasons.

She'll have a degree in Media Arts--and a documentary to start her portfolio.

She'll also graduate with honors in Asian Studies - her second major.

And she'll be the first in her family to even earn a college degree.

For her parents - it'll be their come true.

"They wanted for me to be able to get a good education, to be able to support myself, to be able to support my family," she said,"and hopefully by being able to do  this documentary, that it's doing that."

And not only is it a big step towards her dream career--she's excited to be passing on a legacy and setting an example for her siblings.

"Ever since I got into college and starting doing more academic stuff, it's all been to set a good example for my siblings. To not only do what I do, but to exceed it."

And they'll certainly have big shoes to fill and a lot to live up to, which she hopes is encouraging for her family's future.

And just like Dee's documentary, her parent's pride will be seen just as much--if not more--than heard.

"I don't think Hmong parents, at least my parents, they don't really say it but you can tell," Dee said. "I mean, whenever they talk about it they get teary and you're like, "Ah, something's going on inside of him, or her, you know."

And when she graduates Saturday, something will definitely be going on inside of her two proud parents.

If you'd like to watch Dee's documentary, Searching for Answers: Tracing a Hmong Heritage in Thailand and Laos, click here.