I got a letter telling that my dad was going to America.: Becoming Minnesotan

Tenzin Khando, c.2005.
  • Name - Tenzin Khando
  • Age at interview - 22
  • Gender - Female
  • Generation - First Generation American / Immigrant
  • Date of Interview - 09.20.2005
  • Two boys at the Tibetan Children's Village school, India.

    Family, Tibetan, Youth Experiences

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    Essential Question

    Coming to America: What did coming to America symbolize for this person?

    Push & Pull Factors: Why did this person come to the U.S.?

    Words to look for

    Background Information

    Tibetan refugees living in India and Nepal have developed thriving communities that have their own schools, religious centers, social services, and hospitals.  Some Tibetans also send their children to private boarding schools where students are separated from their parents for most of the year, living in a dormitory with other kids.  They get a very good education, but they only get to see their parents on long breaks in the summer and winter.  

    In the 1990s one thousand Tibetans were granted immigrant visas to settle in the U.S. There were only twenty two cluster sites that hosted the majority of these Tibetan people, and the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota) was one of these cluster sites.  When the Tibetans were granted a visa they were assigned to one of the regional centers to start work, work on their English, and get settled.

    Because there were so few immigrant visas available under the Resettlement Project, it was common for one family member to settle in the United States first, and then later apply for immigrant visas for the rest of his or her  family to come to the U.S.

    To learn more about Tibetan history and culture, visit our Tibetan Community page.

    • Chapter 1

    Download Tenzin Khando 1
    2:14 Minutes | 2.14Mb


    Narrator: Tenzin Khando (TK)
    Interviewers: Charles Lenz (CL)
    CL:  And how was it like when you first found out that you were — when your dad first found out he was moving to America, do you remember any of that at all? Did your family talk about it?
    TK:  No. Actually, when my dad first moved here I was in boarding school, so I got a letter telling that my dad was going to America and I remember...I think he wrote. He wrote like he was going to Minnesota. And I had no clue where Minnesota was, so me and my friends spent like the entire day searching for Minnesota on the map. Couldn’t find it because the map of America that we had was incredibly dense. Did you know it had everything listed on it? And it was huge. It was on a — it was in the library covering an entire wall. So it was really big and — gave up. Decided that I’ll ask him whenever I see him, which is, you know, because we didn’t see our parents for like — went to school nine months in the year.
    CL:  So had he already left then by the time you got back from or finished school and was on break time?
    TK:  Yes. He did. He was gone. But then he did return. Like every year he would come back during my winter break — or no, during my summer break he would come back because then I would be in Delhi and then he would come back and visit. 
    CL:  So when did you find out that you were going to come to America?
    TK:  That was during my sixth grade. Summer vacation. Yes. My mom came to pick me up and told me that we were going to America. And I was completely shocked because I was expecting to come back to school. I already made plans with my friends for like the next school year because the next year we would be in — it would be like...we were transferring from the Junior School to the Senior School so it was a big period for us.   But yes, it wasn’t as exciting as I thought it would be, because I was totally dwelling on my friends and the stuff that we were going to do together as we entered Senior School together. But we did exchange like addresses and stuff. When your parents tell you you have to go, you have to go.

    Related Glossary Terms

    boarding school

    Noun:  A school which provides board and lodging to students.  Students go home at weekends or between terms.


    Adjective:  Crowded with information.


    Verb:  To linger on a particular thought or idea.  (dwells, dwelling, dwelled/dwelt) 


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access]. http://www.mnhs.org/immigration
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