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We Stand with Immigrants at SSAI

June 26, 2023 Employee Spotlights, SSAI in the News

By: Jaha Knight
June is Immigrant Heritage Month, which gives us a chance to reflect on the strength and spirit of immigrants passed down through generations. We can do this by honoring their rich contributions to our shared history and culture. No matter where you’re from, or how you came here, we stand with immigrants at SSAI and we invite you to read about Lead Technical Specialist, Vorachai Kluengpho, and his story.

There is a story behind every decision to migrate.
After graduating with a master’s degree, I wanted to learn more English directly from people who were not Thai native speakers, and then I planned to be a teacher in college or university. The best way to accomplish this was to go to another English-speaking country because people in Thailand speak and use only Thai language as an official language. I submitted my resume to Pune University in India; this country is not too far from Thailand. I thought that India was a land with a long, rich history and the origin of much Asian culture. Many famous people, such as philosophers, religious founders, and scientists, are from India. I thought being there would help me improve my second language and that I would learn more knowledge; but the big plan was changed while I was waiting for a response from Pune and was selected by a non-profit organization in the United States.

Tell us about your parents.
My parents are farmers, but they have a progressive idea to support their children to study higher than compulsory education. I’m lucky my parents let me feel free to make my own decisions.
What were your parents hopes or expectations for your new life here? 
My father understood that I had the desire to improve my life so he cheered and supported me. But my mom worried about me being so far away from Thailand, even though she understood why I made the decision. 
Why did you choose to come to this country instead of somewhere else?
From all that I read and heard, I knew the USA was a great country with great people and high technology, and this country is a land of freedoms like freedom of speech, writing, performing, and more. In the United States, the basic right to express yourself and your views on any subject is allowed and the government is responsible for protecting the rights of all persons. So, I think that this country is the best place to study, best place to work, and best place to live.
What was your journey to this new country like?
I came alone to the USA without my family and no other members of my family or relatives have come ahead of me or behind me. At the end of the two-year contract with the non-profit organization that brought me to the United States, I went to school and got a working permit and after that my life changed so much.

What was the most difficult part of coming here? 
I heard this country was the most difficult country to immigrate to, but I think if you have a clarified purpose for coming, follow the immigration rules to come to this country, and have a good background, I don’t think it’s too difficult.
What was it like when you first arrived?
I felt like a young baby bird taking its first flight from its nest because it was the first part of my life’s journey. I was going from a country within my comfort zone, to another country that was far away across the earth, and I did not know what the future would hold.
What do you miss most about where you came from?
I miss everything like my family, my close friends, my beautiful place. I would like to say I miss my comfort zone.
Migration can be hard. Where did you find strength in difficult times?
My new friends who are immigrants living in this country for a long time, have given me their advice.
As time has passed, how does your experience compare to what you expected?
I have encountered many different experiences from this country that I never ever knew before. Everything around me is new, new people, new friends, new language, new culture.
What is the thing you are most proud of and why?
First, is my chance to work at Science Systems and Applications, Inc. (SSAI), and that the company’s
founders are from India which was the first country that I selected to immigrate to. The second is that I have a chance to work onsite at NASA GSFC; this is the best place to work within the federal government, even though I am a small piece of this great place.
What do you wish more people knew about immigrants, migrants, or others that are new to the community?
I wish more people understood that migrant people’s lives are the same as those who already live in this country. When I studied the history, I found that most people in this country are migrants. If you are not a migrant, then probably the previous generation were migrants, so I wish that people understood each other and loved each other. If you believe in God, we may be brothers and sisters and if you do not believe in God, we are friends. We have the same birth, the same smiles, the same laughs, the same sadness, the same tears, the same hurt, the same suffering, and finally the same death. It’s a waste of time to hate each other due to birthplace, race, religion, etc.
What are the two or three most important things that people could do to make the process of coming to a new country better? 
To become a better United States citizen, you can learn about the United States history; learn how its government works, and learn about your new community that you will be contributing to.
We thank you, Vorachai, for your vulnerability and sharing your story with us as we continue to be an advocate and uphold a work environment that encourages uniqueness and the different backgrounds that make up our SSAI family.