Yedzin Tobgay is the first recipient of the Bhutan King’s Scholarship at the University of Cambridge, offered by the Trust and the Kidu Foundation to Masters applicants from Bhutan.
A citizen of the Land of the Thunder Dragon, Yedzin was raised in both the capital city of Bhutan, Thimphu, and the bordering rural district of Paro. After moving from private schools in the capital to state-run education in rural Bhutan, Yedzin completed her IGCSE at Taktse International School in Sikkim. She graduated high school from Lawrence School, Lovedale in India before attending Mercyhurst University where she completed her undergraduate degree in Political Science and International Studies.
As a child, Yedzin failed to comprehend the disappointment of the public, legislators and her own family when the Fourth King announced his abdication in favor of a representative democracy; but his gift left the deepest impression on her. She says “becoming a democracy did not mean that the Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon emerged as the ‘happiest country,’ nor was it perfect. I was exposed to a culture of self-censorship, a government with major urban-bias, and the growing exodus of rural migrants to cities. This demonstrated Bhutan’s struggle to cope with its accession into modernization, which I explored while interning as the youngest reporter ever at Business Bhutan, a national weekly newspaper”.
An internship in the Prime Minister of Bhutan’s office gave Yedzin significant insight into the workings of governance. Volunteering as a teaching assistant at a local school for the deaf and interning at the Loden Foundation, a private organization in Bhutan, ensured that her experiential knowledge was not limited to the policy-making sphere. These roles formulated her understanding of civil society and grassroots enterprise and provided a more inclusive view of Bhutanese society. Yedzin comments “these experiences provided a primary foundation that not only informed and improved my understanding and academic work, but the intimacy of such personal experiences also fueled my passion for educational mobility”.
A member of St. John’s College, Cambridge, Yedzin is currently studying for the MPhil in Modern South Asian Studies. When asked about her experience so far, Yedzin responded, “What I appreciate most about the University is the amazing access I have to niche literature and sources, together with the opportunity to learn from leading figures within my field.” She is extremely grateful and excited to have convinced Dr. David Washbrook, a leading historian in South Asian History, to supervise her. “I had always assumed that the ‘big names’ in the Faculty would be too busy or intimidating, but they are all so accommodating and supportive”. She added “Cambridge and the Trust have just been so amazing in accommodating the needs of scholars! I’m very glad to have been given the opportunity to work and learn here.”
Yedzin’s goal for the future, with an improved understanding of politics, public policy and history she is acquiring during her studies in Cambridge, is in her own words “to expand social justice in a country still encumbered by informal feudal rule and an underground but thriving social caste system. I intend to pursue a career in the public sector that will contribute towards improved gender equality, enhanced democracy, and expanded inclusivity, while preserving much of the traditions of the Land of the Thunder Dragon, the Kingdom of Bhutan”.