From December 7th to 30th of 2012, we hosted our last exchange student group in Dharamsala, visiting students from Instituto Tecnológico de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey Campus Santa Fe (ITESM CSF) Mexico for a cultural exchange program. Under this program we, “Lha”, organised many different activities for them.
Since it was their first visit here in this town, the first thing we did was to introduce “Lha” to them. Later on, we took them around sight seeing to different places included Tibetan Government complex, Tibetan Library, Norbu Lingka, TCV and Metse Khang to explore the Tibetan refugee community and introduced them to Tibetan Buddhism and the political situation. The students were always enthusiastic about learning something new. We also paired them with Tibetan students studying English in “Lha”, so they experienced our different cultures.
We organised many different activities, for example, volunteer work teaching English to Tibetan people; community research, teaching English and activities in the local primary school; looking after babies in the nursery; environmental projects and many more.
We also arranged talks from some of our most experienced and high profile people in the Tibetan community. The first person to talk to them was the director of The Library of Tibetan Work and Archives, Ven. Geshi Lhakdor la, we requested him to give a talk on Introduction to Buddhism. He spoke for one hour and then received questions and doubts from Mexican student which he didn’t avoid, but graciously answered all questions.
We were very pleased that the Political leader of the Tibetan people, Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay took the time for us, and gave a talk to our group. He invited us down to his office and asked our Mexican students about their concerns, since they had spent enough time in this town to know about the Tibet situation. He gave every student a chance to ask a question and he answered every question with today’s reality and present situation in Tibet. At the end of his talk everyone was contented and had gained a lot of Tibetan political knowledge.
Another activity was an informal exchange program with different people in the community who hold some designated position. Firstly, with members of parliament and Central Tibetan Administration staff, which included some dignitaries who made this informal exchange program and dinner possible and successful, they have great ideas and experience and it plays very important role in young peoples’ minds. The second time, we met directors and representatives of different NGOs in McLeod Ganj and it was amazing to see the enthusiasm and energy on both sides. We have different NGOs in the Tibetan community and they all play a vital role, their different roles and objectives enabled us to distribute or place every student with an NGO with their own interest.
In addition to all this hard work, and to make it more fun for the students, we took them out sight seeing and sometimes we gave time some free time for themselves to hang around town like normal tourists do.
Then it was time for them to go back home and share their experiences with people they know there. We had our last New Year eve and farewell dinner together at Ahimsa house, some shared their experiences with us, and it was time to thank both the groups. As a token of appreciation, Lha gave a gift to the Group Leaders and something for every student to remember a very successful visit.