Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity

May 26, 2015

No Longer Invisible: Sumitra Chhetri

This personal submission is a part of the “No Longer Invisible: In Their Own Words” project, a story series established to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month at the UW.

Sumitra Chhetri

Name: Sumitra Chhetri

Identity: Bhutanese American

School: Portland State

Major: Political Science

Minor: Business

Personal Interest: “Tihar is my favorite festival…a five days long Hindu festival of lights, where diyas are lit both inside and outside the houses. I love this festival because I have so many memories about Tihar while growing up in the refugee camp.”

UW Involvement: Attended the Asian Coalition for Equality Conference

“I like to call myself Bhutanese American. I follow typical Bhutanese culture. When my family was evicted from our country Bhutan in 1990s, my parents and two older brothers lived in a Bhutanese Refugee camp in Nepal. My little brother Bhim and I was born in the refugee camp. Living inside the Bhutanese refugee camp in Nepal, I understand and follow both Bhutanese and Nepali cultures.”

“Before moving to the United States, My family lived in the Bhutanese refugee camps in Nepal for more than 20 years. I was born in the camp. My parents and including one hundred thousand Bhutanese people were evicted from Bhutan in the 1990’s. My family moved to the United States as Bhutanese refugee immigrants in 2008 for a better life, so that my brothers and I have better lives than living in the refugee camp. I was fourteen when I moved here and I understood what was going on but my little brother was only five years old; he no idea where we were going.

The process of choosing whether to stay in the refugee camp or moving to a new country was difficult for my parents to decide because in the refugee camp even though life was difficult, we were living with a community of people we knew, however moving to a developed country would give my brother and I the chance to go to a better school and eventually have a better life. When we moved here, we did not know what was going to happen to us because we had an idea of what the U.S. would be like but I think my parents thought that we would have better a better life than what we had in the camp. After we arrived in Portland in 2008, the assimilation process was slow for my family because my family was one of the first few families to settle in the Portland area. We were challenged a lot in terms of learning a new language, culture and social system.”

View mores stories from the “No Longer Invisible: In Their Own Words” project.