Jakar village life. Photo by Chelsae Ferrell

Bhutan Semester

Environmental Sustainability & Community Happiness

A 3-Month Gap Year Program

Enroll
Duration
85 Days
Description

Experience this secluded Himalayan country where “happiness” and Buddhist belief systems are the guiding principles underlying economic, environmental, and community development.

Spring Dates

Feb 7 - May 1, 2020


Spring Availability

open

Fall Dates

Sep 15 - Dec 6, 2019


Fall Availability

closed

Number of Participants

12


Suggested Ages

17-22

Spring Begins In

33 Weeks

Fall Begins In

12 Weeks

Land Cost

$18,450


Estimated Flight Cost

$2,100

Kathmandu

Paro

Thimphu

Jakar

Program Overview

Cloistered amidst the dramatic backdrop of the Himalayas, Bhutan has captured the imagination of explorers and scholars alike.


Part of its allure can be found in Bhutan’s intentional seclusion from the world beyond its boundaries. Up until very recently, the royal monarchy carefully controlled external influences, only allowing television into the country in 1999. Even today, travel to Bhutan is tightly monitored by a deliberately restrictive visa program for foreign visitors. Bhutan’s seclusion, however, has resulted in an unparalleled conservation of long-held values, Buddhist beliefs, and cultural practices. Through homestays, community engagement, and immersion in cultural practices, our semester explores how Bhutanese traditions have created a society uniquely centered on the values of community happiness and environmental sustainability. Starting in neighboring Nepal, we spend our first week learning about the shared geographic and cultural foundations common to this Himalayan region before flying into Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital….

Part of its allure can be found in Bhutan’s intentional seclusion from the world beyond its boundaries. Up until very recently, the royal monarchy carefully controlled external influences, only allowing television into the country in 1999. Even today, travel to Bhutan is tightly monitored by a deliberately restrictive visa program for foreign visitors. Bhutan’s seclusion, however, has resulted in an unparalleled conservation of long-held values, Buddhist beliefs, and cultural practices. Through homestays, community engagement, and immersion in cultural practices, our semester explores how Bhutanese traditions have created a society uniquely centered on the values of community happiness and environmental sustainability. Starting in neighboring Nepal, we spend our first week learning about the shared geographic and cultural foundations common to this Himalayan region before flying into Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital. Partnering with a Bhutanese environmental NGO, we explore how Buddhist traditions have given rise to a belief in the inherent sacredness and non-economic value of Mother Nature. We live in homestays, engage with thriving Buddhist monasteries, and explore the many sacred sites in the regions surrounding Thimpu. Moving to more remote regions along the border with Tibet, we continue to immerse ourselves in the lesser-explored cultural heartlands of Bhutan through extended treks in Himalayan peaks, community homestays, attendance of religious festivals, and Independent Study Projects with local masters in traditional arts and crafts. Our semester concludes back where we started, with a reflective retreat in Nepal to help bring perspective and closure to our time together. Throughout our travels in Bhutan, we gain new perspectives on our relationship with the environment, broadened understanding of sustainability, and awareness of how our underlying values can influence individual and societal choices. In a country where the phrase “Gross National Happiness” has become a key metric in national development, Bhutan presses us to ask how our own “happiness” can contribute to the sustainability of our communities and shared resources.

Read More Read Less Sample Itinerary

Program Components

5/5
Comparative Religion

Tibetan Buddhism, the state religion, can be found everywhere in Bhutan, from government policies to educational systems to everyday cultural practices. Monastery visits and a retreat will provide Buddhist teachings.

4/5
Trekking

This program will go on one longer trek up to two weeks long and several shorter day hikes in the Himalayas.

5/5
Development Studies

As a country undergoing a drastic rural-urban shift and one which is slowly opening up to the outside, Bhutan is a country with a number of development topics to delve into.

5/5
Focus Of Inquiry

Examining Bhutanese conceptions of happiness will offer insights into unique cultural worldviews that will dynamically interact with development and other topics we look at during the course.

4/5
Homestay

Unique homestays in both rural and urban settings, offering diverse insights into Bhutanese daily life.

4/5
Independent Study Project (ISP)

Possible ISPs include archery, traditional weaving, cooking, monastic life, dance, conservation and local fauna & flora, animal husbandry, meditation, Tibetan traditional medicine, tourism, and more.

3/5
Language Study

Elementary instruction in Dzongka, the main language spoken in Bhutan.

3/5
Learning Service

Help village homestays with their farming and daily chores and learn about service through Dragons learning service curriculum.

3/5
Rugged Travel

Moderately rugged, with long journeys on windy roads traveling across the country.