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Norzin Wangpo

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Norzin Wangpo was born in New Camp 6, a camp for Tibetan refugees, in Bylkuppe, India in 1990. When he was seven, his family resettled in the United States, and he grew up in Chicago. He enlisted in the U.S. Marines after graduating from high school. He served for four years before enrolling at the University of Minnesota.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. Please contact Immigration History Research Center staff for permissions not covered by this Creative Commons license.

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On March 23, 1990, I was born in New Camp 6, Bylkuppe. It was a Tibetan refugee camp in the southern plains of India. Growing up, I didn’t really understand what my identity was or where my true home was. For me, the rice paddies, the summer monsoon, and the spicy curries were all that I knew.

My parents would always remind me and my siblings that we were Tibetans and that we were only staying in India as guests. My mother would say that once Tibet becomes free, we will go back to our homeland. While I knew I was a Tibetan, I never knew how it felt to be “home.” The elder Tibetans would always speak of Tibet as a magical land where everything was perfect before the Communist Chinese came and destroyed what was ours. Like any Tibetans exiled from their homeland, I yearned to breathe the delicate thin air, touch the holy soil, and reconnect with my ancestral land. Since I had never seen or been to Tibet, the idea of Tibet was so surreal and distant to me.



When I was seven years old, my family received the opportunity to immigrate to the US. Unlike India and because of our refugee status, the US offered us the opportunity to flourish and determine our future. We moved from the rice paddy villages to the skyscraper city of Chicago. America was nothing like India. It was clean, orderly, and most of all, cold.

While growing up in the States, I never understood what it meant to be an American. English came natural to me, but the feeling of belonging in this country didn’t. I gave up soccer, and picked up basketball. I dropped my British, Indian accent and picked up the American accent. Even with all this, I still didn’t get the feeling of belonging I was looking for.


After high school, I have decided that I wanted to be a US Marine. I enlisted to serve the country that welcomed me with open arms as a refugee, and also to capture this sense of belonging in the US. There wasn’t anything more “American” than being a US Marine. I served honorably and diligently for four years. During my time in the Corps, I got the opportunity to travel the world, challenge myself, and make a difference.


After the Marines, I sought a new home at the University of Minnesota. While I truly miss the ethos of the Marines, I knew that I needed to branch out to fulfill my aspirations and diversify my life. The university became a place where I can learn about the world, where I came from, and prepare myself with the right tools for where I want to go.

My whole life I have yearned for that feeling of calling one place my “home”. I have lived in India, Chicago, Minneapolis, Okinawa, Japan and even on a naval boat. Throughout my experiences, what I have realized is that my upbringing as a Tibetan refugee has truly been a blessing in disguise; losing my motherland to China, living in exile in India, and finding a second home in the United States has forged me into an optimistic, faithful citizen of the world. While I have no country to call as my homeland, yet, I have gained the world to call as my home.