Despite being a first-generation, low-income college student, Chang found a way to study abroad three times and is still planning to graduate on time in four years.
The applied sociology major first went to China through her major and saw how air pollution in the nation is affecting the people who live there and wanted to help.
“It really hurt me to know that my friends and half the population on Earth live in that environment,” she said. “It really made me want to come back here and study more and to work harder so that maybe in the future I can do something about it.”
Chang spent a semester studying in Japan.
“The society there is completely different,” she said. “I experienced a lot of culture shock.”
But the trip that meant the most to her was a short-term trip to Southeast Asia that included Laos, Thailand and Malaysia.
Visiting Laos was a memorable experience for Chang who is Hmong. Her grandparents and parents emigrated from the country when her parents were small children.
“The culture and living situation are both very different, and so going there and seeing where they come from and how they worked so hard just for me to be here — it’s incredible and it’s almost life-changing,” she said. “They worked too hard for me to fail, so that’s probably why I always fight hard and study hard.”
Coming from Central High School in St. Paul, Chang didn’t know much about St. Cloud State at first.
But at St. Cloud State she found a good financial aid package that not only helped her fund her education but also helped her to study abroad.
“During orientation I just felt very welcomed, and I knew some people from high school who came here,” she said. “I was like — I think St. Cloud is for me.”
Even with studying abroad, Chang found time to serve as secretary of the Hmong Student Organization (HSO).
HSO is a large student organization with 100 members with 30 active members who have different perspectives.
The experience helped Chang figure out how to take the opinions and ideas of multiple people and work as a group to narrow them down to find the best result for everyone, she said.
— Pun Chang, applied sociology major
“I learned a lot,” she said. “I learned leadership, teamwork — really how to become a better leader.”
Chang put her sociology skills into practice in summer through an internship with the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office working as a clerk with lawyers and victim advocates to support victims and witnesses.
Her special project was to help reduce auto theft through a marketing campaign encouraging St. Paul residents to lock their car doors.
Chang organized addresses into grids with east side and west side addresses — noting if the structure was an apartment, duplex or single-family house.
She then handed out flyers and stickers for residents to put on their car doors to remind them each time they left the car to lock the doors.
“I really liked studying society and human interaction and what motivates people to behave a certain way,” she said. “I think that today, here