Tibetan Studies II - Tibetan Women's Changing Roles: Video Transcript

Colleen Payne [Anthropology major]: My project was looking at the new roles that Tibetan women in the exile community are playing in their culture and attempting to contrast that with some of the more traditional roles that perhaps they had back home in Tibet, as their homeland. The difficulty I did have, though, was that a lot of the literature that I was trying to pull information and resources from is quite outdated.

So, I relied a lot on personal interviews and so it wasn't exactly a conclusive research project, but it was definitely interesting to get the perspective of Tibetan women who are my age or slightly a little bit older to see how they're transitioning from maybe what their parents' lives were to what their lives are, living in exile in India, amongst this Indian community, which is vastly different from their Tibetan heritage and culture.

It was the first time that I was actually able to take this academic knowledge that I acquired within the four walls of a classroom and put it into action and put it into real-world situations. It was the first time I'd conducted in-person interviews. And then on top of that, we were using translators so that sort of jump-in, feet first type of thing. But it was invaluable to do that as well because I don't think that there's any better way to do it than to do it yourself and to do it first-hand. And, personally, it also directed the next couple steps that I decided to take.

Being inspired by these people's stories of political torture or religious persecution, then the next summer I pursued an internship with a nonprofit organization in Chicago that dealt with survivors of political torture. And now it's directed my next step into graduate school to pursue social work, so that I can work with those communities specifically.

So, going into it, I could have never predicted that it was going to have such long lasting effects on the choices I was going to make but I think that it was definitely one of the best things that I could do and I'm very happy with where it's brought me now and where it's going to continue to take me.

[March 2010]