The job is so hard for me to do it, because I'm new in this country.: Becoming Minnesotan

Male silhouette.
  • Name - Chamreun Tan
  • Age at interview - 37
  • Generation - First Generation American / Refugee
  • Date of Interview - 07.30.1992
  • Major Robert O'Connell, Minnesota National Guard, with four Cambodian refugees.
    Watt Munisotaram Cambodian Buddhist temple, Minnesota, 2000s.


    Essential Question

    Becoming Americans: What does it mean to be an American?

    Assimilation: Does a person have to give up part of his/her culture to become more American?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    The Khmer are the people of Cambodia.  In 1974 a Communist group called the Khmer Rouge, led by Pol Pot, gained control of Cambodia.  Many Khmer were executed under this tyrannical regime, and many others died of starvation, exposure and exhaustion.  During the period of genocide from 1975-1979 approximately 1.4 million people were executed, and it is estimated that a total of 20% of the Cambodian population died.

    Once the Vietnamese army invaded Cambodia in 1979 and overthrew the Khmer Rouge, Khmer refugees began to flee the country to camps in neighboring Thailand.  Continued fighting by the Khmer Rouge, fears of persecution by the Vietnamese occupiers, and starvation caused by poor harvests caused refugees to continute to pour out of Cambodia.  The U.S. began accepting refugees from Cambodia in 1979, and took 150,000 in that year alone. 

    To learn more about Khmer history and culture, visit our Khmer Community page.

    • Chapter 1

    Download Chamreun Tan 3
    2:55 Minutes | 2.81Mb


    Narrator: Chamreun Tan (CT)

    Interviewer: Mark Frey (MF)

    MF:  So once you relocated here, what were you doing? Were you taking classes, or did they have you start working?

    CT:  The Lutheran Social Service is my sponsor. And when I came, they just asked me to what job - what kind of job that I want to do, or something like that. And I want to go to school, but I have no money, nothing. My sponsor want me to find a job first, because they said I can - am able to work. And about three week after I stay in Minnesota, then I got a job. Because my sponsor worked with the Lutheran Social Service and then I got a part-time job work there for about two months as a clerk, just help filing paper or keep track document for the refugee that came. And after that the job was run out. There's nothing to do, and I got laid off.

    I stay home about one week. And then the community, Cambodian community in Twin Cities, they need somebody that able to work, and the - I know one of my teachers is the board member of the organization. And he asked me to go to work there. And they offer me a job, a full-time job, to work as the director of MACT.

    CT:  So I start that job from September '84 until October '85.

    MF:  Okay.

    CT:  Because of a lot of pressure. And the job is so hard for me to do it, because I'm new in this country. I did not know how to raise fund.  I didn't know how to looking for fund to support the program. Finally I decide to quit. But before I quit, I'm lucky that I got another job through the Ramsey County.  Because I'm working with them before so they know me, they ask me to - because I said I don't want to work in that place anymore. And then they say you can apply job in the Ramsey County. And then I apply, got that job, and working here now.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Noun: 1. A committee that manages the business of an organization. 2. Regular meals or the amount paid for them in a place of lodging.


    Noun:  A group of people who share a common understanding of the same language, manners, tradition and law.


    Noun:  An official paper that provides proof of something, like birth or citizenship.

    Verb: To record. (documents, documenting, documented)


    Verb:  To hand-in official papers to an office or person.  (files, filing, filed)


    Noun:  Financial resources; money.

    lay off

    Verb:  To fire workers from a job, usually because the business is doing badly.  (lays off, laying off, laid off)


    Noun:  1. Pressing; force.  2. Mental strain caused by one's own or others' expectations on one's own performance.


    Noun:  A person forced to leave his or her own country and seek refuge in a foreign country out of fear of persecution or violence or because of poverty or natural disaster.


    Noun:  A person or organization that is responsible for another person or organization, especially legally or financially.

    Verb:  To take responsibilty for or vouch for another person.  (sponsors, sponsoring, sponsored)


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access].
    nid: 564