This summer, Gateway is lucky to have two amazing interns from Emory University. First, meet Tenzin!
What city where you born in? Describe your childhood home.
T: I was born in a South Indian town called Mundgod (may be spelling this wrong). My childhood was nice. First born in my family. Good family… We did OK. My dad’s a doctor. My mom works in the same place where he works. I spent half of my childhood in South India, half of my childhood in North India. We moved to North India in 2001. I was naughty, I used to steal a lot of things. I used to get spanked a lot for being way too naughty. Messing around, sneaking out of my room, stuff like that…
What did your mother do for work?
T: She’s a woman with so many different hats. So her employment constantly changes. From time to time, there is that institution that they work for, which is a big Tibetan institution. She has worked in a lot of different departments: she has been pharmacist, she has been accountant… So it’s basically whatever the administration wants. They move her around. Where ever it’s needed. So right now she is a pharmacist, before that she was an accountant, and before that she was in export, and before that she was dealing with mailing, she was I think the director of mailing and export and stuff like that. So she does a lot of things at different times.
What is her education in?
T: She’s not educated. It’s just that she is very experienced. Not even high school. She is one of the oldest workers at that institution, where my dad works. That’s how she came to do a lot of different things.
How did your parents meet each other?
T: My mom had already started working while my dad was in medical school. So they met at that institution.
Your dad works as a doctor at that institution?
T: Yes. It’s a very big institution. It’s spread out throughout India. It has like 50-60 places and the branches are all spread out. My dad started his career at a rural Tibetan settlement. Because they opened a branch and my dad was assigned a job looking after the new branch. We were at that branch, and then we moved to the South after I was born. And than we moved to North where we still live. We still live in South too, but it’s like holiday home. Our relatives and everyone come there just to chill. My family from my mother’s side, it’s a joint thing. So a lot of family members, and they are all over the place. So during winter most of the family members come together and meet at South.
Why did your parents leave Tibet?
T: China invaded Tibet in 1959, so after the invasion, along with the Dalai Lama, around 100 thousand Tibetan’s fled from Tibet. Because the conditions were that the Chinese were repression Tibetans, a lot of destruction was going on. The conditions are still not good in Tibet, that is the reason why a lot of Tibetans fled Tibet. My parents didn’t flee into India with the 100 thousand Indians, but they came to India later on. The main fleeing was in 1959 but after that every year there were a few thousand doing it. But now the politics and the borders are very restricted. They made it very hard for Tibetans to flee. That’s why these days only a few hundred are able to do it each year. My parents were really young when they fled. They came with family members. My dad didn’t have a lot of family members, he mostly stayed in school. But my mom’s family, everyone moved together. All the poverty… They started from scratch in India.
What about your education? What schools did you go to?
T: I went to Tibetan schools. Until 5th year I did regular Tibetan school, and then after 5th I went to the Tibetan school that was considered the best Tibetan school in India, considered within the Tibetan community. The students were all selected after the 5th grade, based in your score and interviews, stuff like that. And then you get chosen.
What was special about that school?
T: It’s just that 50 students are selected every year, then we do our schooling there. It’s just among the Tibetan community, not India in general. Out of all the schools in India, it’s still doing good, but it’s not like the best, it’s not on par with the best Indian schools. It’s special because all the students there are top schoolers who took a test and were selected. You need to compete with all the Tibetan schoolers again after 10th grade.
Was it a boarding school?
Is that where you learned how to cook?
T: Yes. Actually at our school we do all the chores. We do all the cleaning by ourselves, all the cooking by ourselves, we take care of the campus by ourselves. We are divided into groups by our dorm and we changed our dorm responsibilities, our chores every week, when it’s our turn to cook, you cook for the whole dorm.
How many people in your dorm?
T: May be one hundred, about that much. It’s not an uncommon thing for my school for people to cook. Everyone cooks.
How did you decide to come to the US?
T: It’s due to the education difference. In India you need to have decided on your career after 10th grade. So if you want to change your career after 10th grade, then you have to start all over again. Because after 10th you decide the subjects you want to study’ and based on that you go to college, and you can’t turn back after that. If you want to change your course then you just need to start all over again. That’s one of the things I didn’t like about the Indian education system. And also not only that, if you want to study psychology or what ever you want to study, for however many years of study, you will only see psychology. From 9 to 4 in the afternoon, everyday, you will only study psychology. There is no such thing as liberal arts curriculum like the American colleges have. Like you are studying philosophy, theater, whatever you want to study along with the main major you are focusing on. So that’s why I chose American colleges.
Do a lot of people from your school come to America?
T: Yes. I have friends at Duke. I have friends that have graduated from MIT. They are all over the place: Stanford, Berkeley, Amherst, NYU, Columbia… All majors, many US universities.
How did you decide to apply to Emory and why did you choose it?
T: I knew about Emory from middle school. Because Emory has very good ties with Tibetan institutions. And the second thing is that Emory provided me with a full scholarship. So why not come here?
What other universities did you apply to?
T: I applied to all the big ones: to Brown, to Stanford, Columbia, NYU, U Chikago… Yea…
Did you have a major in mind while applying?
T: I had already decided to do psychology in high school. That’s what I’m doing right now.
T: Psychology because it’s interesting to me. It’s just that the mind is important. It affects every day. So I’m just curious how. I want to study more about what affects our morality, what affects our decision making, what affects our choices, factors that make our personalities…
You are a double major though, where did sociology come in?
T: Sociology and psychology are very much related. Psychology looks at mind on an individual level, sociology looks at mind on a societal level. So basically I’m studying everything there is needed to be studied on the mind.
What are your future plans?
T: Being in service, where ever I am needed. I’m not going to work with Tibetan communities in particular. I want to serve where ever I can. But I want to do something. I want to be engaged in society. I don’t want to do academic work. I want to be involved in NGO (non-profit) work, or something related to that, which has significance on day to day life.
Are you planning on staying in America?
T: No. I might come back for graduate studies, but I’m not planning on staying here.
What about the Scholarship and Service program? Why did you apply to SAS?
T: It’s a really good, wholesome program. Not only the internship but also debate, talk, listen to other people… Justice, human rights issues, social justice, everything.I think that SAS is a really nice program, so I applied.
How do you feel about it so far?
T: So far, it has been good. We still have a lot more to go. Let’s see.
How did you choose Gateway for your internship?
T: I knew about Gateway from freshmen year. I cam through a program I was part of, called EASL. Emory Ethics and Servant Leadership program. They invited a lot of people to speak to us, that’s how I came to know about Gateway. I had listened to the talks given on campus by Bec, and other people experiencing homelessness.
What is your goal for this summer internship?
T: I just want to learn. I have no specific goals. I just want to be of service to Gateway. Gateway is doing a great job.
Thank you Tenzin! We are glad you’re here.