A hidden gem amidst the eastern Himalayas, landlocked with China and India, studying abroad in Bhutan sets students in an incredibly diverse backdrop of new experiences. Not only is Bhutan known as one of the happiest countries in the world, but it is also one of the last remaining Buddhist Kingdoms, making it rich in history and culture. International students studying in Bhutan have the opportunity to study several subjects at local colleges, and spend their days exploring this small country that is also known as The Land of the Thunder Dragon.
Whether you study abroad in Bhutan in the capital city of Thimphu, a rural field station, or the largest district in Bhutan, Trashigang, the academic and experiential options are plentiful. Royal Thimphu College, based in Bhutan’s capital, offers study abroad courses for general degree programs, ranging from English and Natural Sciences, to Sociology and Economics. Students also have the chance to learn alongside local Bhutanese students during their study abroad program.
Sherubtse College, the first and oldest academic or educational college in Bhutan is located in Kanglung, Trashigang. It’s the largest college in the country and offers classes in several disciplines, including but not limited to: physical and biological science, arts and humanities, and the social sciences.
If you’re looking for a more hands-on experience while studying abroad, during which you can explore rural Bhutan, there are also programs available in which students can participate in research relating to environmental conservation. The Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment is an example of one organization that students can work with while studying in Bhutan.
Subjects & Courses
As a Buddhist country, Bhutan offers much to learn about Buddhism, Buddhist, and Himalayan or Bhutanese culture, or even the Gross National Happiness Index. Other popular courses of study in Bhutan include environmental and wildlife conservation, agriculture, forestry, and biology.
Colleges in Bhutan operate on a two semester system, with a short summer break, and a longer winter break. Winter break is typically two or more months, whereas summer break is only two to three weeks. Similar to colleges in the United States, both Sherubtse College and the Royal Thimphu College place an emphasis on extracurricular activities, giving students the chance to take part in a variety of team sports, music, art, or even debate clubs.
The national language in Bhutan is Dzongkha; however the majority of Bhutanese students and courses are taught in English, which makes communication and learning easier during your study abroad experience.
Somewhat unique to the academic culture in Bhutan is the importance each institution places on developing students not only academically, but personally. Bhutanese culture supports the development of each aspect of a person - emotionally, morally, socially, and physically, which makes for a wholesome and rewarding experience!
Scholarships & Costs
Many organizations offering study abroad programs in Bhutan also offer scholarships for study abroad students. Students should consult with their home institution regarding financial aid and assistance available for study in Bhutan.
The official currency in Bhutan is Ngultrum (Nu.) which fluctuates at the same rate as the Indian Rupee. Cash is widely accepted, in both the Ngultrum and the Indian Rupee. When you travel to Bhutan you should ensure that you have enough cash, as credit cards are often not accepted and ATMs only operate for Bhutanese banks, meaning you will not be able to use ATMs.
Tourists and visitors are required to pay a daily tariff in Bhutan. You should check with your program provider to ensure whether the tariff is included in your program cost. In the event that you are responsible for the tariff, ask for an educational group discount.
Accommodation & Visas
Accommodations will vary depending on the area you decide to study in Bhutan. Many study abroad programs will offer dormitory style housing. If you are staying in a rural setting, or going on a trek, you may even stay in a tent for the duration of your study abroad program. If you are trekking or camping, be sure to bring warm clothing and sleeping bags, as many areas do not allow campfires.
All visitors and students going to Bhutan require a visa, except for passport holders from India, Bangladesh, or the Maldives. When preparing to study abroad in Bhutan, consult with your study abroad provider on visa requirements. The provider should help with handling the specifics of getting your visa paperwork processed.
Benefits & Challenges
The Buddhist religion is a large part of the culture in Bhutan and is woven into most aspects of Bhutanese life. This can be both a benefit and a challenge for students as they’re immersed in the culture. It is important to be open minded and respectful of the religion and people in Bhutan. Most study abroad programs will have orientations and educational resources on the religion, culture, food, language, and people of Bhutan.
While traveling in Bhutan, power outages are likely; however, the locals have become accustomed to the outages and have candles ready in most public places. With a spirit for adventure, and a little patience, Bhutan is sure to provide the experience of a lifetime.