Humans of Khmer America

Paedahni Dy

My name is Paedahni Dy (ឌី ពេជ្រដានី), most people call me Dahni. I grew up in Utah, raised by my Cambodian mother, and extended family. My first language was Khmer, and though I’ve lost fluency in it, growing up with so many strong Khmer influences has shaped my identity as a biracial half Khmer, half Caucasian individual.

I’m currently a student at The University of Utah pursuing a dual major in Political Science, and Peace & Conflict Studies with a minor in Philosophy. I am currently working as a high school tutor, a subcommittee member of the SLC Council On Diversity Affairs, and hold a campaign position for City Councilman Luke Garrott’s candidacy for SLC Mayor (2015). I will also be speaking at the Asian American High School Conference discussing Political Activism and Racial Identity this February. ‪#‎iloveyouchallenge‬ AAHSC2015 Video

My culture, and my family’s history is a large part of my identity. In fact, my culture is the reason I am inspired by Law and Politics. My family escaped Cambodia in April 1975 due to my grandfather’s (tah) position as Director of Transportation (Dispatcher) of the Cambodian American Embassy. They left with the U.S. Military during Operation Eagle Pull before the Khmer Rouge overtook Phnom Penh.

With my Khmer roots in mind, I am actively relearning the Khmer language, reading and writing at the Wat Buddhikaram under the guidance of the Venerable Somrith.

My role model is my mom. She has sacrificed everything for me to have the privilege of higher education. Because of her I’m a civically engaged student. Because of her my Khmer culture is one of the most important things in my life.

I love to work out, cross-country run, and read.

Khmerican is a base for Khmer-Americans to join in community. To share our voices, and stories with one another. It connects us on an organic level where we are able to blossom together from the atrocities that have marked our collective homeland.

I visited Cambodia for the first time during a service trip (2013) where we renovated an elementary school, a library, and gave english lessons. I feel the best way to learn about your roots is to immerse yourself in it. The most memorable experience for me was the entire trip. From waking up at 5:45 everyday to the chanting of the monks, speaking Khmer with the locals, to being able to see where my family lived and loved. I am in love, and humbled by our country.

Ten years from now I will either have acquired my J.D. or my Ph.D. Where that takes me is something I leave to the stars.

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