Bilanki Andang seems like any other student at the University of Texas at El Paso.
He stays home and watches TV shows on Netflix on weekends and enjoys the same things many other millennials like.
However, his childhood was far from traditional.
His father, Staff Sgt. Theophilus Andang, worked in the Army for 15 years as an S1 before he decided to retire in El Paso.
“El Paso is way different. Although I’ve been here for five years I don’t know if I am used to it yet,” Andang said.
Bilanki has lived in Germany, Japan, and Africa, and he’s only 20 years old. Due to the constant moving, Andang said there is not one place he considers home. Andang is one of the millions in the United States who grew up with parents in the military.
More than 1.8 million children have parents in the military – active and reserve units – and often move, according to a U.S. Department of Defense report.
Andang was born in Cameroon, West Africa and the journey to his lifestyle was made possible after his father won what people call a “Lottery Visa,” which is The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program.
Every year, this program creates about 50,000 immigrant visas, drawn from a random selection of people who are from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.
Andang was 2 years old when his father won this visa and joined the U.S. Army in the early 2000s.
“Shortly after he joined the military, he got stationed in Germany and that’s where me and my mom ended up meeting him,” Andang said.
The Andang family lived in Germany for three years. In 2006, they were stationed in Japan where they lived another three years.
While many of the military children Andang knows hated moving, Andang said he was not uncomfortable moving. He looked at the new locations as an adventure to learn about new cultures.
“I was always taught to be appreciative of what you have and just make the best out of the situation,” Andang said.
After Japan, the family moved back to Germany where they lived another three years. Germany as the best place he has lived, Andang said.
“The culture and the food are amazing. I liked the fact that you get to really experience all four seasons, especially winter because I really like winter,” Andang said. “Like it would always snow during Christmas and here it really doesn’t snow at all.”
In 2012, Andang’s father was stationed in El Paso, where he decided to retire.
“We’ve been here ever since,” Andang said.
Andang is now a sophomore at the University of Texas at El Paso where he studies electrical engineering. He says that he plans to change his major to biomedical sciences because he would like to become a neurologist in the future.
“I want to be able to get to a point in my life where I can start a scholarship fund specifically for kids back in Africa that didn’t have the opportunities that I had,” Andang said.