Lha’s 2011 Cultural Exchange Program a Success
Since 2002, Lha has been bringing groups of students from other countries to McLeod Ganj for a Cultural Exchange program. This year 82 students participated from six different academic institutions. Lha’s final group of students for the 2011 Cultural Exchange program bid farewell to McLeod Ganj and their friends in the Tibetan community this week as they headed home to New Orleans. The group was composed of 15 students from Tulane University’s School of Social Work, who were accompanied by one of their professors as well as the school’s Dean.
Arriving in Dharamsala on September 5th, the students were each paired with a member of the Tibetan community to be Mutual Learning Partners. Each pair met for three hours every day. The students helped their partners with their English language skills and in return learned about their lives, Tibetan culture, language, and the exile experience. As one student described her time with her learning partner: “It’s an incredible experience. She has so much to teach!” The students stayed at Lha’s Ahimsa Guesthouse, where they were served breakfast and dinner each day. After meeting with their partners in the mornings, the group visited the many institutions in Dharamsala in the afternoons, including the Tibetan Government complex, the Norbulingka Institute, and Lha’s partner NGOs.
The students took advantage of the myriad ways to engage the Tibetan community here in McLeod Ganj, with some choosing to take yoga classes. Day trips to nearby locations like Bir, Tso Pema, and Mandi introduced them to the religious traditions, both Buddhist and Hindu, present in the area. In the evenings the group had many opportunities to reflect on their experiences, and to learn more about the Tibetan political situation through lectures, films, and meetings with community members ranging from former political prisoners to representatives from local NGOs. After nearly a month in India, their trip culminated in a two-day mountain trek to Triund, one of the breathtaking peaks overlooking Dharamsala. The students returned home with new Tibetan friends and a host of new experiences to share. Lha looks forward to many more mutually beneficial exchanges like these, and to future opportunities to introduce people from all over the world to Tibetan culture in the years to come.