Redefining Student Leadership: Lhagyari Trichen Namgyal Wangchuk '17 discusses his first year

Known as Trichen by his friends, he talks about how juggling his responsibilities as a student with the expectations placed on him as a king.

Lhagyari Trichen Namgyal Wangchuk ’17 chose Gettysburg College for the same reasons that most other students do – small, intimate class sizes, an active student body, and high academic standards based on a strong liberal arts tradition.

While many students choose this model of education because they know it will provide them with a myriad of career opportunities after graduation, Trichen—the King of Tibet since the age of 13—chose the College because he knows that a Gettysburg education will help him to better serve his people, both in Tibet and those living as refugees in India. 

As a child, Trichen attended the Tibetan Children’s Village, an Indian school dedicated to preserving the Tibetan language, culture, and traditions. Due to his position in Tibetan culture, he has a close relationship with the Dalai Lama and receives a great deal of his educational advice from him. “The Dalai Lama told me that as a Tibetan, it is really important to know our own culture.”


Among those lessons was the importance of his role—and his family’s traditional role—in Tibetan society. “My ancestors, including my father, are well known in Tibetan society,” Trichen said. “My father spent his whole life serving the Tibetan people, and they give my family much respect because of that.”

With that reverence comes a great deal of responsibility for Trichen, as the outlook of the Tibetan people fall to him to one day uphold.

“My father died when I was 12,” Trichen recalls, “and I was coronated a year later. After that, my whole life changed. I had to attend meetings and go to a lot of ceremonies. There were blessings and meditations, and I couldn’t concentrate because I was always thinking about my friends having fun outside. Everything was kind of hard seeing the expectations and responsibilities.”

In these times, he remembers the Dalai Lama’s advice, “Once you get used to something, it will be easy.”

After finishing his education at the Tibetan Children’s Village, the Dalai Lama urged Trichen to continue his studies in the United States.

Using this as an opportunity to share his story, Trichen worked on a documentary, My Country is Tibet, which promotes awareness about the situation of the Tibetan people. As he traveled across the United States to promote his film, he also toured high school campuses.

He ultimately chose St. Andrew’s School in Delaware and found it to be much different than his learning experience at the Tibetan Children’s Village. “At St. Andrew’s we wrote papers and theses, there was a lot of talk and discussion. The students were close with the teachers and that also contributed to a really unique learning environment.”

Trichen’s appreciation for this learning style informed his college search process, and his college counselor suggested that he look at Gettysburg College.

“I wanted to go to a small college, so my college counselor gave me a few ideas,” Trichen said. “I came [to Gettysburg] first. I came during the spring and everything was so pretty. The professors were really nice. I got the chance to attend a class and I really enjoyed it. I also talked to a lot of students about what they liked and didn’t like about the College. Among the colleges that I applied to, I ultimately chose Gettysburg because I liked it the most.”

He recalls the mix of nerves and excitement he felt before first-year orientation. Unsure of how the other students would treat him or what he should expect at Gettysburg, he was “a little” nervous, but overall excited to start this next chapter of his story.

Fortunately, his anxiety eased as classes began. “The professors here are really incredible,” he said. “The students are really smart as well; they have really unique ideas and perspectives, which makes the classroom discussions so much better.”

Trichen’s goals for his time at Gettysburg reflect his outlook as both a leader and a student. “Like every other student, I am here to gain an education,” he said. “At the same time, I have always believed that each individual has a unique story behind them. I will be so happy if I make friends with a lot of people and learn their stories, as well.”

Currently a member of the International Club, he looks forward to getting more involved in campus life through different clubs and organizations during his sophomore year.

Before next year, however, he plans on returning to India for the first time since starting his education in the United States. Traveling with only a refugee card, Trichen has been unable to return to India or see most his family (who live all around the globe), over the past four years.

Remembering the struggles he once felt and the Dalai Lama’s guidance, Trichen is now at ease with his role as both a student and a leader. “I am used to it now,” he mentioned. “I don’t feel pressure, but I know that I have a responsibility and that I have to work hard.”

While he does believe that his Gettysburg education will put him in a better place to serve his people, for the time being, he is focused on studying hard and learning as much as he can about the people around him. “I’m looking forward to meeting more people, gaining more education, and just really having a great time. I’m really grateful to this school, I feel very grateful to be here.”

Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition. Alumni include Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate, and other distinguished scholars. The college enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students and is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.

Article by: Kasey Varner '14, communications & marketing intern

Posted: Wed, 5 Mar 2014

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