Bhutan: Teaching What Happiness Is Past Review

By (Neuroscience, Biology, Environmental Studies, Brandeis University) - abroad from 06/01/2013 to 07/12/2013 with

The School for Field Studies / SFS: Bhutan - Bhutan - Himalayan Studies

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
We learned a lot of academic information, but the most important thing that I learned is how different everything is in Bhutan, while people are at least just as happy. It put American life in perspective, and made me wonder what happiness actually is. I also enjoyed learning about the Buddhist culture of Bhutan, and how that affects Bhutanese people's views of living and happiness. The country is also absolutely gorgeous, so make sure to look around and enjoy the serenity of the place. The most worthwhile experiences that I had were outside of the classroom, so keep your eyes open!

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

We had a lot to learn in a short amount of time. Some people complained about the work, but it was always more than bearable for me.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

We were in hotels for the first and last week, and on campus for the middle four weeks, while leaving for weekends for trips. It was hard to live out of our bags a lot, so be prepared to pack and unpack a lot. Also, hotels don't have elevators, so make sure you can pick up your bag!

* Food:

Our cooks that stayed with us from when we got to campus were amazing. They were very open to providing foods that we were craving. The food is inherently repetitive; a lot of rice, vegetables, chili, and chicken, and I am sure you will be craving American foods while you are there, but there are always options.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

We were extremely integrated with the people of Bhutan. There are trainees, who are students looking to become park rangers, on campus, and I advise you to become friends with them! The best way to be integrated into the culture is to make friends with people in Bhutan, and trust me, everyone will want to become friends with you.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

We needed the Rabies pre-vaccination, and your provider will probably recommend others. Also, mostly everyone on the trip got sick at some point. Don't make that stop you, though, because any insanely different country than America will have bacteria that you are not used to.

* Safety:

We all brought our IPhones and felt as safe as we do in America. Be careful with your stuff as you will in any place, but this area is extremely safe compared to many other countries.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

We all wanted to buy a lot of gifts, which means that we all spent around $400-$500 on the trip. But that was our choice; we really need no money for food at all because they provide everything.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $20 for snacks
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? You don't need to spend any money on food, which is great! Bring lots of bars and snacks because those are irreplaceable even if you want to buy them in the country.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? No

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
  • Host Family
  • Hotel
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • The home stays were incredible experiences!
  • We learned a lot in a short amount of time about the environment of Bhutan.
  • The staff was great and extremely helpful.
* What could be improved?
  • More free time to explore on our own.
  • More field exercises and experiences instead of classroom lectures.
  • Research could be based more on our specific interests.
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish that I had known the focus on socioeconomic and historical aspects of the environment. As a science major, I was disappointed that we did not learn more about the science aspects, but the information was good to know for a wholesome perspective of environmental issues. I also wish that I had known how much we would be living out of our bags. I would recommend a suitcase that is easy to pick up and a comfortable well-made backpack that you can use every day. You also should know about the internet situation so that you can contact people from home. A lot of hotels and our classroom on campus has internet, although they are usually slow. You will be able to Facebook or e-mail people at least once every few days, but you will often be able to get on every day as long as you aren't hiking or at a home stay. The time difference makes Skyping hard, but it is absolutely doable! I also thought that we would have more outside field experience, but we were inside a lot of the time. So yes, you need some hiking clothes, but you also need normal clothing.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Nearly Native or Trail Blazer
Craving the most authentic experience possible, perhaps you lived with a host family or really got in good with the locals. You may have felt confined by your program requirements and group excursions. Instead, you'd have preferred to plan your own trips, even skipping class to conduct your own 'field work.'