I feel like I am a part of Minnesota.: Becoming Minnesotan

Jigme Ugen, c.2005.
  • Name - Jigme Ugen
  • Gender - Male
  • Generation - First Generation American / Immigrant
  • Date of Interview - 08.31.2005
  • Tibetan American family in front of their first home purchased in the U.S.
    Tibetan Uprising Day rally, Minnesota State Capitol Building, St. Paul.

    The Journey

    Tibetan, Travel to U.S.

    Essential Question

    Coming to America: What did coming to America symbolize for this person?

    The Journey: How did this person get to the U.S.?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    Many Tibetans fled their home country when the Chinese invaded in the 1950s and are now living in neighboring countries of India or Nepal. 

    Tibetan people often feel like they are simply “visitors” in someone else’s home.  They are not Indian, but they grow up in India with Indian people and Indian culture all around them.  Thus, Tibetans often express a sense of “identity crisis” because they don’t really know where they fit anymore.  Some think that by moving to the “West” (mostly referring to Europe, Canada, the United States, and Australia) they will be able to create a new life that feels more like their own.  

    To learn more about Tibetan history and culture, visit our Tibetan Community page.

    • Chapter 1

    Download Jigme Ugen 1
    2:15 Minutes | 2.15Mb


    Narrator: Jigme Ugen (JG)
    Interviewer: Tsewang Sangmo Lama (TL)

    TL:  So when did you move to Minnesota?  Do you remember the year?

    JU:  I think it was around the end of 2000. Yes.

    TL:  So why did you choose to move to Minnesota?

    JU: My wife came in here and, like I told you, going to Australia, it was something that — I mean a lot of Tibetans, if you look in India, want to move out of India for their own personal reasons. But one of my reasons for moving out of India was, I’d say, a lot to do with identity crisis like I talked to you about. I thought maybe going out in the West you’d be more accepted. And I heard tons of stories about people who came back from the West and how easy things were for them as in terms of acceptance. So I tried Australia, which really didn’t work out. So here I am in Minnesota, since my wife and family moved here and I had a good opportunity. I had a choice to come to Minnesota and I said, “Yes. I’ll be there.”

    TL:  So do you think Minnesota was the right choice for you?

    JU: I debated on that a lot when I got here because I’d never seen so much snow in my life. I was here, I think, when it was the worst and I walked in — when we drove out of the airport I was like — I’d never seen so much snow. But then again, living here, I think, I actually call Minnesota home now. The Minnesotans, the people in Minnesota, they have been very, very kind. They have — in my case they have like really spread out their arms and accepted me and I feel like I am a part of Minnesota. When I’m out of Minnesota, I’m actually out there trying to be a good son of Minnesota. When people make fun of Minnesota, I’m fighting it. So I feel like I’m loyal to Minnesota now.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Noun:  A crucial or decisive point or situation; a turning point.  (plural: crises)


    Noun:  An argument or discussion of opposing views or different ideas.

    Verb:  To participate in a debate; to dispute, argue, especially in a public arena.  (debates, debating, debated)


    Noun:  The difference or character that marks off an individual from the everyone else; selfhood; a name or persona by which one is known; knowledge of who one is. 


    Adjective:  Faithful to a person or cause.


    Noun:  A chance for advancement, progress, or profit.

    the West

    Noun:  Short for the Western world, that is, the noncommunist countries of Europe, the Americas and Australia.


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access]. http://www.mnhs.org/immigration
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