By Mary Stegmeir | WCF Courier
CEDAR FALLS, US, 17 May 2010
University of Northern Iowa graduate Dolma Tsering has long looked to the Dalai Lama’s teachings for guidance.
From how to use her newly minted master’s degree to the best way to incorporate Buddhist beliefs in her daily life, the 28-year-old Tibetan has gained perspective from the words of her people’s spiritual and political leader.
Tsering will get a chance today to thank the monk in person. The woman, who completed her MBA this spring, will join six other UNI students from Tibet in a private meeting with the Nobel Peace Prize winner. The Dalai Lama will participate in a public panel discussion and give a keynote address Tuesday at the McLeod Center.
“This is something you can only dream about,” said Tsering, a native of Dharamshala, India, the location of the Tibetan government-in-exile. “He’s so wise, so knowledgeable. He’s not only a spiritual leader, he’s the person that gives us hope of building our country back up again.”
The Dalai Lama’s visit caps off a successful career for Tsering at UNI. After earning a bachelor’s degree in economics from an Indian university, the student came to Cedar Falls on a full scholarship from The Tibet Fund. Only 15 students receive the award each year.
Tsering will take what she’s learned back to India in September. She hopes to work in the finance department of her country’s government-in-exile.
Tibet, tucked high among the Himalayan Mountains, came under China’s control in 1950. The Dalai Lama fled his homeland during a period of unrest nine years later and has since lobbied for his people’s autonomy.
“We are in a situation where we have to struggle to get an identity,” Tsering said. ” … Tibetans come here, get an education and go back and build up that community so we can be in a position to build up our own country in case in the future we will get back our independence.”
During her two years at UNI, Tsering has become a leader in the classroom and on campus, said Kristi Marchesani, assistant director of admissions and international relations.
“Dolma’s very determined and she also understands the significance of education,” she said. “She’s had to work very hard, but she’s always had the bigger picture in mind.”
Tsering’s father never attended school. Her mother was forced to abandon her education in seventh grade due to family issues. The couple sells sweaters, but wanted more for their daughter.
“They feel that education (puts) a person not just in a better position, but it makes you a better person,” said Tsering, who has three siblings. “Education gives you a direction to the door of wisdom.”
Having Tsering and her Tibetan peers on campus has also benefited American students, said Mike Williams, an academic support specialist with UNI’s Culture and Intensive English Programme. The university of one of roughly 12 institutions to educate students through scholarships from The Tibet Fund.
“It allows them to learn more about people from other cultures and look at the world in a different way,” said Williams, who also advises UNI’s Tibet student association.
The university’s affiliation with The Tibet Fund is likely one of the reasons His Holiness agreed to visit Cedar Falls. Tsering said Tuesday’s events will bring together two of the biggest influences in her life — the Dalai Lama and UNI.
“The Dalai Lama and UNI, they’ve taught us how to become not just better Tibetans, but better humans,” she said. “They’ve both played a great role in opening our eyes toward developing humanity.”