I left my heart in the Land of the Thunder Dragon Past Review

By (Environmental Studies, Brandeis University) - abroad from 06/08/2015 to 07/14/2015 with

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

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
This experience abroad truly changed my life. Our staff members were truly so excellent and our Bhutanese staff will always be in my heart. The Buddhist culture is so simple, peaceful, and pure. Life in Bhutan is slower, less stressful, and more meaningful. I will never forget something our driver (perhaps the most compassionate man I have ever met) told me, which was, "We are all hear for a reason. In a past life, I was your brother or your father or even your mother. We, as human beings, are all connected and we have all come together on this program for a reason." This has pushed me to see myself in all people and to foster my compassion for others and to seek to live a truly meaningful life. This program was incredibly worthwhile. I have gained independence, from navigating airports to village roads to forest paths. I have improved my study skills and my intellectual curiosity. I've gained better communication skills from talking up strangers on the streets and at the beginning of the program. I feel confident and comfortable with the idea of travelling abroad again after my trip with the School for Field Studies in Bhutan.

Review Photos

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

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 0-2 weeks

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Our staff was very thorough in teaching us and preparing us for research and culture. Our directed research was very rigorous, intense and stressful because it was crammed into a small time period; nonetheless, the difficulty made the program more rewarding and fulfilling. Our staff did an excellent job of keeping us focused and on track while allaying our stresses.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The only slight qualms I had were about minor changes that occurred or a lack of communication from time to time about our daily agenda or what to expect about academics. But was very minor and did not takeaway from the excellence of this program and its incredible staff.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

* Food:

The kitchen staff cooked exceptionally tasty (and spicy!) food. If you are a vegetarian or have problems eating gluten or dairy, there shouldn't be any problems as the food avoided many of those ingredients.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

It's difficult to say, as our program's focus was not on integrating into culture but on studying the environment through a Bhutanese lens. The Bhutanese staff we had with us were absolutely incredible and they were family by the end.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Our safety staff person was constantly reminding us to apply sunscreen and drink water (lots of precautionary advice) which helped us avoid and prevent health issues. Our staffer was always open and welcoming, encouraging us never to hesitate about health problems. When students did end up sick, they were cared for or swiftly taken to a health center in Thimphu and received direct care.

* Safety:

The Bhutanese people really love American culture and for that reason, we always felt welcomed and safe in town and on campus. Bhutanese culture is very traditional and Buddhist. The people are very peaceful and compassionate and we never had any worries of danger or theft. It was wonderful!

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)

Most of our expenses were contained within our program costs. With the generous exchange rate, I brought only a few hundred dollars and was able to afford food and drink in town and plenty of souvenirs.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $10 USD, not including souvenirs
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Some stores are directed at tourists and will sell quality goods but at exorbitant prices. You can find much cheaper places in town with sometimes the same goods. Another tip, VISA card is more widely accepted there than MasterCard. There was an ATM in town that accepted MasterCard, but only one; other machines almost always take VISA and that would have made life a bit more convenient.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? No

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
  • Other
  • Hotel
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
* 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? 10+

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • The Culture
  • The Staff (Bhutanese and American)
  • The once-in-a-lifetime views
* What could be improved?
  • Timing of things (more time for studying and research)
  • More opportunities for cultural exploration
  • More time for sleep/more meditation and stress-relievers
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? The weight limit for luggage isn't incredibly strict, just aim close to the weight recommendation. I brought mainly hiking and camping attire and wished I'd brought some cotton shirts or denim jeans for day to day classes. Though they take up a lot of space, definitely bring waterproof rain/gumboots! They came in handy during research when we ended up calf-high in mud. My sleeping roll took up a bit of space in my luggage, so unless you have a space saving one, I'd advise just leaving it at home and roughing it for the three day trek. While I was incredibly appreciative of the added comfort after hiking for miles, I found myself wishing for more room in my luggage for souvenirs at the end of the trip. Invest in an umbrella once in town! This came in handy so often, especially when it poured on the trek. If you're like me and don't enjoy the lack of breathability when wearing impermeable rain jackets, an umbrella works incredibly well and they are cheap! I'd advise not bringing one, as it becomes added weight, and once you're done with the program you can leave your umbrella behind with SFS.

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 Avid Adventurer
The wardrobe you packed was better suited for a semester of camping than club hopping. Outdoorsy, you might forgo a crazy night out for an early all-day adventure. You'd rather take in the rich culture of an old town than the metropolis of a modern city, but for you getting off the grid is ideal.