Tenzin Ngodup ’20 loves painting, music, and hanging out with his friends. He’s thinking about being a veterinarian when he’s older, except that he doesn’t really want to work with snakes. He’s a Buddhist who loves exploring the different restaurants of Middletown, and also, Tenzin is a refugee from Tibet.
Tenzin’s family escaped Tibet because they disagreed with the Chinese occupation. They then went to India where he spent most of his childhood.
“My parents decided we couldn’t live in Tibet anymore,” he said. “I was not allowed to practice and learn Tibetan, I was not able to go to school and get the opportunities that Chinese kids got…so my parents decided to escape. It was a very long and hard process because [we] had to escape during the night and hide during the day…I think it was a month of just walking. My parents were put into prison for about two months until the Tibetan government exiled to India came over, and took us to India and gave us a place to live.”
After working on a farm in India, Tenzin’s father traveled to Israel to hone his agricultural skills. He later attended an agricultural conference in America. He decided to stay as an immigrant and eventually helped the rest of his family arrive in America, eventually settling down in New York. Tenzin holds a lot of love for his parents and is constantly surprised not only by their courage but their dedication to achieving prosperity in America.
“My mom worked as a manager at a hotel,” he said. “She is extremely talented because I would have never learned English that fast. She learned English very fast…now she works at a restaurant in Time Square. That makes me proud as a person, as her son. I would have never done that. My dad, he works as a chef in an Indian restaurant. My mom cooks better, but he tries. He’s planning to quit because he wants to go to school and explore whatever he started in India and Israel. Agriculture. I don’t know why, because there are no farms in New York.”
Tenzin has taken advantage of the opportunities his parents have provided for him, taking a seemingly impossible amount of classes.
“I took eight classes [last semester],” he said. “I love sciences, [I’ve] always been interested in science….It was a lot of different classes, so I enjoyed it at least. There was a Japanese drumming class, there was another class called “Writing Love,” which I didn’t like because it wasn’t what I expected. But it was fun.”
Tenzin recently began working at the Middletown Refugee Resettlement Committee, aiding refugees seeking housing in the Middletown area.
“This semester we had a Syrian refugee family that we almost resettled in the town,” he said. “But because of the ban, IRIS, the foundation that runs the whole thing told us, ‘Oh, we can’t do it because of the ban.’ That really brought me down because a family could have had so many opportunities. There are so many things that the family could have done here, could have achieved…they had three children. So much potential that is now blocked because of this little action.”
Tenzin expressed his disappointment at the actions that Trump has taken against refugees.
“That, I think is very infuriating and very sad,” Tenzin said. “I thought [President Trump] wasn’t capable of making this type of decision right away. But I have hope that his actions aren’t going to go through because I have hope in America. But I just think overall the situation is really sad. It’s just that the scenario is that, you can’t react to it right away, but this is the time to advocate for refugee rights better. If you support refugees, this is the time to advocate for it. We need those people, we need allies in order for us to, at least, try to give deserving people a chance to explore their potential and live with their basic human rights.”
Tenzin also shared his opinions on Trump’s election.
“I think the fact that he got elected is sad already,” he said on the President. “He is very, very unaware of the trouble that refugees go through in their own country, and he’s willing to put even more stress on them.”
However, President Trump has not affected Tenzin’s love for his new home or his hopes for its future. He is just another kid trying to get along. He has passion, drive, and determination. His strive will not be slowed and his will to succeed will not be barred. He will continue to work for others to have the same opportunities he has because he knows there’s still lots of work to be done.
“I love America,” he said. “It provided me and my family with an opportunity I could have never dreamed of in India or Tibet…but I think there are so many people that get discriminated against. I consider myself privileged in that type of situation because it’s so sad that so many people can be against other people for no reason at all. And just assume something that’s not true. Especially, for me at least, coming here to America made me want to explore the opportunities I was given.”