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A group of students founded the Harvard Undergraduate Tibetan Cultural Association to promote Tibetan culture and awareness this month.
Students involved in the group’s formation said the association aims to bring together Tibetan students on campus in celebration of their heritage.
“The very nature of our collective existence here as Tibetans in Harvard is truly powerful,” said Tsering Yangchen ’25, who organizes events for the association.
“Just acknowledging our presence here, by allowing the creation of this club in itself, is a huge accomplishment,” Yangchen added.
Tenzin Y. Dadak ’25, one of the group’s founding members, said the organization plans to serve as a cultural space for both students of Tibetan heritage and those interested in Tibet.
“It’s for us as Tibetans and it’s also for people to just learn about Tibet, apart from its political identity,” she said.
Dadak said the group also provides an opportunity to raise awareness of important aspects of Tibetan culture, such as Tibetan Buddhism.
“A lot of our culture — it pertains to compassion, doing well for others, celebrations, and things like that,” she said.
In addition to its cultural function, Yangchen said she believes the club highlights the 1950 Chinese annexation of Tibet, which its exiled government says has resulted in the erosion of Tibetan culture.
“In some ways, it’s a form of resistance to that cultural genocide and a way to also just preserve our culture, which is pretty much dying out right now,” Yangchen said.
The Tibetan Cultural Association has some events planned for the near future, including a Tibetan New Year celebration in March.
Dadak explained that the event intends to immerse students in Tibetan culture, such as through trying khapse, a traditional biscuit specific to the New Year festivities.
Yangchen added that the group is considering holding an annual event to celebrate Tibetan culture.
“We’re thinking of having an annual trademark event of sorts that will get people not only learning about Tibetan culture and various aspects of it, but also just to have a good time,” Yangchen said.
On a regular basis, Dadak said the group also hopes to organize “White Wednesday,” or Lakhar — a tradition that began after the Tibetan government went into exile, meant to celebrate Tibetan culture.
Yangchen said she hopes the club’s reach will eventually extend to undergraduates who do not call Tibet home.
“Something that we have in mind for the future is to hopefully make it into a more sustainable group so that even non-Tibetans who are interested can take leadership roles,” she said.
Dadak noted she hopes the group’s presence will create visibility for Tibetan students in general, beyond Harvard’s campus, and ultimately inspire more high schoolers to apply to elite educational institutions.
“Hopefully seeing these groups and seeing Tibetans doing well, even in exile, would be a good motivator for them,” Tenzin said.
Another co-founder Choetsow Tenzin ’23, a Flyby editor, said she believes the association will be able to encourage students of Tibetan heritage to aspire to attend Harvard and other top universities and share Tibet’s unique culture.
“My biggest hope is that the Harvard community welcomes us and tries to understand who we are, and is willing to learn what we have to offer as an organization,” she said.
—Staff writer Ella L. Jones can be reached at email@example.com.
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