|Audience with H.H. the Dalai Lama in Central Park, September
The first Tibetans migrated to the United States in the late
1960s. From then on till the early 90s, there was no major immigration
of the Tibetan people into the US. After this period, the number
of Tibetans in the United States has increased dramatically. Tibetans
come to the US from India, Nepal and Tibet and now live in most
of the 50 states of the United States. The early immigrants who
settled in the US have children who have graduated from American
schools and are now fully a part of the main stream American society.
The latter immigrants — those who came in the late 90s —
Some of those who came here in the early 90s did not know how
to speak in English and faced tremendous hardships. They went
to evening schools to learn the language in order to get better
paying jobs and learn the workings of the American society. Those
without any family members or friends to help them when they first
came here were confronted with numerous difficulties. To better
their situations, some took the initiative to learn skills and
the ways of their new surroundings to reduce their adversities.
It is to their credit that they are now faring well. Most of the
early group now have good paying jobs; some own homes and others
are pursuing higher education.
The jobs held by Tibetans vary greatly. Some are skilled workers
while most recent immigrants are non-skilled workers. Most Tibetan
women, who immigrated recently, work as babysitters and housekeepers.
Some of these women lack any marketable skills and also have difficulty
with the English language. They do not have a lot of options owing
to this lack of language and education skills and are left with
no other option but to babysit and keep houses. Most of them report
enjoying their jobs. Some Tibetans have their own businesses.
There are quite a few Tibetan-owned stores and restaurants.
When we first came to this country, many married people had to
leave their spouses and children behind in the hope of bringing
them over at a later time. Most of them did manage to reunite
with their families within a few years. However, there were situations
where the spouse in this country remarried and divorced their
spouse left in India/Nepal/Tibet thereby breaking up families.
It is ironic that one generation of Tibetans had to leave Tibet
and flee to India and Nepal and the next generation immigrated
to other countries. Although the reasons for this movement are
different, the earlier fled against their will — to save
their lives — while the latter chose to uproot themselves
voluntarily to better their lives. It is not very easy to maintain
our identities as Tibetans when we are surrounded by the western
culture. However, we work hard to keep our identities and take
pride in our heritage. It cannot be ignored that the younger generation
are becoming increasingly more westernized. In the opinion of
this writer, the cause of that could be that they go to American
schools where they interact with their peers who are non-Tibetans.
For us Tibetans, the state of our country is always on our mind.
Although we are living far from Tibet, she is never far from our
mind. Even though we may not be able to return there during our
life times, we are sure that one of our future generations will
be born in a free Tibet.
The author of this article — a young Tibetan girl
from India living now in New York — wishes to remain anonymous.