There were other minorities present - it didn't feel like you were the only outsider.: 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
  • Tenzin Khando, Tibetan Community Oral History Project Celebration.
    Edison High School seniors, Minneapolis, June 3, 2004.


    Essential Question

    Becoming Americans: What does it mean to be an American?

    Assimilation: Does a person have to give up part of his/her culture to become more American?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    When Tibetans started fleeing Tibet beginning in the 1950’s they settled mostly in refugee camps or Tibetan communities in Nepal or India.  Within these communities, there are many Tibetan schools.  However, some Tibetans choose to send their children to private boarding schools where they get more of a “Western” style education—taught by teachers who are American or European. 

    Beginning in the 1990s, one thousand Tibetans were allowed to come to the U.S. under the Tibetan Resettlement Program.  Many of the Tibetans have heard stories about the United States but really didn’t know much about the U.S. other than what they see on TV and in movies, so they are often surprised to see what life is really like in the U.S.!

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

    • Chapter 1

    Download Tenzin Khando 2
    2:12 Minutes | 2.12Mb


    Narrator: Tenzin Khando (TK)

    Interviewer: Charles Lenz (CL)

    CL:  So how was it like when you first arrived in the U.S.?
    TK:  Arrival in the U.S. Hmmm.   Everything was new. There were a lot of people that I didn’t expect would be here. Like I didn’t know anything about diversity in the United States. I assumed that it was all European people or people of European descent, so shocked to see black people, Latino. So it was just — it was a new experience and it was actually—after a while I realized that that was a good thing because it helped — in a sense, it did help me get in the community because there were already other minorities present. So it didn’t feel like you were the only outsider in that sense.
    CL:  So did you have any expectations when you came to the U.S. at all? I mean besides expecting everyone to be white and European?
    TK:  Expectations? No. Not really. I didn’t know a lot about America. What I saw was on TV. So you know like... 
    CL:  So Baywatch, that was your—?
    TK:  Yes. Exactly. I knew David Hasselhoff back in India. 
    CL:  That’s sad.
    TK:  Yes. It is. Now that I think about it. I think that was about it. That and Star Trek. But Star Trek’s not real, obviously, so you can’t really judge a culture from that.
    Anyway, no, I didn’t have any expectations other than what I was told to expect which was a good education and...yes, I think that was it.
    I didn’t have a tough time assimilating into American culture. I had seen it on television and knew it. Like Americans, what they sounded like, what they looked like. So in that sense it wasn’t like a complete shock to me. And on the plus side, my school was also like a Westernized school so I didn’t necessarily grow up with the strict principles and society life of Tibetans.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Verb:  To absorb into a community by adopting that community's traditions or culture.  (assimilates, assimilating, assimilated)


    Verb:  1. To suppose to be true, especially without proof.  2. To take on a position or duty.  (assumes, assuming, assumed)


    Noun:  A group of people who share a common understanding of the same language, manners, tradition and law.


    Noun:  The arts, customs, and habits that characterize a particular society or nation.


    Noun:  Lineage or hereditary derivation.


    Noun:  The quality of being diverse or different; difference or unlikeness; variety.


    Noun:  The act or state of expecting or looking forward to an event as about to happen; that which is expected or looked for; the prospect of the future.


    Noun:  1. Participation in events, leading to knowledge, opinons, or skills.  2. The knowledge thus gathered.


    Noun:  Members of an ethnic group that make up less than the majority of a population.


    Noun:  Moral rules.


    Noun:  The people of one’s country or community taken as a whole.


    Adjective:  Imbued with characteristics associated with the Western world, that is, the noncommunist countries of Europe and America.


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access].
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