Resettled Bhutanese/Nepali Refugee Youth in Pittsburgh

Ethnographic Research, Community Engagement, Honors Thesis

Fall 2013-Spring 2015

As a result of my deep involvement in the resettled Bhutanese/Nepali refugee community in Pittsburgh through FORGE, I became fascinated with understanding more about how members of the community saw itself & how youth navigated dual cultural and social norms to make sense of self-identity after resettlement. At the same time, I was becoming passionate about ethnography and the power that anthropological research can have in complicating narratives of underserved groups.

To pursue this research, I received a Dietrich College Honors Research Fellowship to fund a summer of ethnographic fieldwork. My research was lovingly advised by cultural anthropologist & Professor Judith Schachter


1. Methods

  1. Participant observation in homes, at community events, with friend groups, and at gatherings organized by youth-led community groups
  2. Semi-structured interviews  
  3. Reflective writing exercises that I developed for the Pittsburgh Youth Summer Enrichment Academy, as well as a reflective essay prompt for the 2nd Annual Essay Competition hosted by the Bhutanese Student Group of Pittsburgh


2. The Write-up

My thesis was completed in April 2015, titled "I'm Not a Refugee Anymore": Family Responsibility, Desire, and Perceptions of Success in Pittsburgh's Bhutanese/Nepali Community.

My research uncovered perspectives that often don't get talked about in regards to refugee resettlement: the impact of being a youth leader within the refugee camps in terms of post-resettlement adaptation, the ongoing pressures and difficulties resettled refugees experience beyond their first year of resettlement, as well as the problematic rhetoric surrounding resettled refugees as examples of the "American Dream."

These threads are explored through the lens of youth and young adult voices, and organized along the topics of gender roles, intergenerational family pressures, and dating/teenage marriage.

If you're interested in reading my full thesis, see here:

3. What's Next?

This research was extremely pivotal for me in terms of shaping my activities as a leader of FORGE, a student organization working with resettled refugees in Pittsburgh. Most significantly, it led me to initiate developing an SAT/College Prep program for high school juniors and seniors. 

Additionally, my expertise of the intergenerational issues of the resettled Bhutanese/Nepali refugee community led to a second project with Marjorie Carlson and Philip Garrison where we proposed a collaborative authoring tool to create Nepali/English audio lessons. Adults and parents' lack of English Language ability is a major source of intergenerational conflict within the Bhutanese/Nepali community. In our proposed tool, ESL teachers or volunteer tutors could record lessons of words, phrases, or sentences in English and youth contributors from the Bhutanese/Nepali community would translate them into Nepali. The tool would merge the audio files to be played back on inexpensive MP3 players. Marjorie then went on to develop a prototype of the web application in another class.

I continue to work with the Bhutanese/Nepali community and the youth leaders I met & became friends with through the research process.