The following interview is with Choedon, a second year International Relations MA candidate at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, and Lharong, who graduated this year with his law degree from JSS Law College.
TPI: What is it that you wished you learned earlier in school? What is that one thing that you wished school taught you?
Choedon: If I could go back to my past, I would love to participate more in extracurricular activities. When I was in school, we were hardly given opportunities to participate in dance competitions and other activities simply because we were small and there were many students who had come from Tibet who were excellent in these fields. For the sake of winning the competition, teachers won’t give opportunities to the younger students, it is the same group of people you'll see on stage every year. If we were also given the opportunity, we would have learned our own talents.
TPI: What is lacking in Tibetan youth and what do you think can be done to solve it?
Choedon: There are so many things lacking in us. I can't recall every bits of them in detail but I've seen huge differences in Tibetans and students of other nationalities. Let me take a simple example; whenever I go to a book fair, I love the environment there because you see whole Indian family members irrespective of age taking equal part in buying books. Parents are very supportive in this way, but you don't see this in Tibetans. They're often spotted either in shopping malls or in iPhone showrooms to buy the most latest phone and brands of clothes as per the demands of their kids. Tibetan youth simply lack in passion to do things that are helpful for personal development.
TPI: Do you do anything that contributes to promoting Tibetan art and culture In your college/university?
Choedon: This is something I believe every individual can do, be it in a small circle or in large. Ever since I joined my college, I've tried my best to engage in activities to promote our culture and our history to make sure that my surroundings are well informed about my identity. I make sure they don't take us for granted by simply judging our faces. I took part in organizations and associations that are formed for the purpose of promoting our arts and culture. In terms of individual, it can be simply wearing cultural dress on Lhakar and explaining to people about the auspicious day.
Lharong: I see all of the Tibetan students studying in various colleges as the representatives of Tibet. I think there are various ways to promote art and culture. The first is the identity of the person itself can promote art and culture. Like when we introduce ourselves to someone. saying my name is xyz and I am from Tibet. There are special programs that we can coordinate like in my college we celebrated Tibet Day and International Student Day. We set up a photo exhibition, made traditional food, danced to our folk songs etc. Both teachers and students liked and admired it. Speaking about Tibet's situation during our normal conversation with others brings out a curiosity in them to study more about us. These are the small things that I believe everyone can do.
TPI: Advice that you would give to Tibetan students studying in schools?
Choedon: I'd say follow your dreams. Read, write and listen as much as you're capable of doing. Build your own confidence level to such extent that when you step out of your comfort zone, your confidence will overtake your fear. Participate to learn not to win. And most importantly, don't forget to preserve our language.
Lharong: Don’t be friends with drugs and alcohol. It will only destroy you. The second point is self-exploration. Its important to know yourself, to learn about your passions and to know what you really want to do in life.
TPI: What are the major problems you are facing right now in your college/ University?
Choedon: Identity crisis, of course, but we somehow manage to not take it seriously. If one can do their best, they'll not face difficulties in going in shoulder with students of other nationalities.
Lharong: I don’t think we lack in innovations or knowledge but the problem lies in conversing in English. Growing up, we always spoke in our mother tongue and never in English. So when it is time for class presentations or even a normal conversation with teachers, we are sometimes unable to convey the message because of English speaking. So developing the habit of English speaking from school would be of great help.
TPI: Why do you think there are increasing number of graduate students who are jobless?
Choedon: This is the most debated topic among students. The number of unemployment is increasing every year and it is simply due to lack of job opportunities provided. There are many students who are specialists in in various fields but our community lack job opportunities for all these professions, hence they are neither getting from Indian government nor from ours. We need to create more job opportunities to make sure their struggle doesn't go wasted. For example, under the department of finance, they've made new project of providing loans for new entrepreneurs coming up. Likewise, either they create more of such opportunities or make a deal with Indian Government in providing the same for us, Tibetans. Especially those who can crack NET should be provided the opportunity to teach in different colleges in India.
Lharong: I have seen resourceful people exploited by drugs. This is a loss to everyone. Secondly, there are students who don’t work simply to take care of their parents. They are financially stable so they don't find the need to work.
TPI: Is there anything our exile government can do in improving the education quality of school students?
Choeden: A lot. We need to bring a change in our education system as a whole.
Lharong: It's very important to review the existing education system and update it time by time. Not only this, it's also very important to deeply understand the education quality of every students. There are various ways to do this. There are definitely a few old systems that the government needs to get rid of. Going on with the same old system won’t bring any improvements in anyway. Promoting more Tibetan movies and animations for children would be great in preserving our language.