Education in Exile: Teaching in a Tibetan Refugee Community in the Himalayas


Program Description:

When His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet was forced to flee his homeland in 1959, he settled in Dharamsala, a hill station in the Himalayan foothills of northern India. Dharamsala is now the center of a vibrant Tibetan refugee community: it is the seat of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile and home to thousands of Tibetans who have escaped political and religious oppression in their homeland and followed their leader into exile. It is also a backpacker’s paradise, with tourists from around the world—drawn to the town’s mountainous landscape and promise of spiritual awakening—mixing with the Tibetan and Indian residents in a true cultural mélange. In 2007, Professor Gamtso spent her six-month sabbatical living and working in Dharamsala, where she taught English to Tibetan refugees and experienced firsthand the beauty of their ancient, rich, and tragically threatened culture. Join Carolyn for a discussion of her adventures in India, where she braved monsoon downpours—and roaming livestock—to get to language class; learned about the rules of cricket from sports-crazy monks; studied Buddhist philosophy with a respected lama; and discovered that ultimately her Tibetan students were the true teachers.


Carolyn Gamtso

Carolyn Gamtso is the head of public services at the University of New Hampshire Manchester Library, where she focuses on library instruction and reference services. Her research interests include information literacy, faculty collaboration, and peer tutoring in the library. Professor Gamtso is very interested in the history and civilization of Tibet, and is the secretary and web master of the Monadnock Friends of Tibet, a New Hampshire-based Tibet support group. As a result of this interest, and as a result of her deep concern about the current plight of the Tibetan people and their nation, she pursued a long-held dream by spending her academic sabbatical in the foothills of the Himalayas, teaching English to Tibetan refugees in Dharamsala, India, home of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government-in-Exile. While in Dharamsala, she put her library skills to good use as well by reorganizing a volunteer organization’s community reading room. A long-time yoga practitioner, Professor Gamtso is currently working toward her teaching certification in the Classical Yoga tradition. (*M)

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