Final Impressions of SFS Bhutan

Posted: December 15, 2015

→ Read Colleen’s First Impressions of Bhutan

What did you like most about the SFS experience?
What I found that I really enjoyed was working so closely with the staff and professors of SFS. From day to day we are eating meals, going to class, going on field excursions, celebrating birthdays and holidays, dealing with ups and downs that comes along with being in a new place and so on. This allows us to be able to not only learn in the classroom setting but also really get to know and link the personality, background, and aspirations of the professor with their focus of study. Furthermore, unlike at college at home, the professors are aware of the issues and struggles that the students face with the papers, projects, and content of the study and are then able to aid in deconstructing the confusion.

You’ve been in the country for a full semester- tell us your impressions of it now.
A waterfall of thoughts and experiences flood into my mind, droplets of water spraying up to indicate their importance, what should be talked about… what to say.

Being in Bhutan for about three and a half months, I have never before experienced such cultural immersion. I cannot stress enough how kind and welcoming all the people we have met here are, innately going above and beyond to make our time here more enjoyable. I admire the selfless generosity that seems to be without a second thought. Nothing is expected in return and they even refer to these offerings and welcomings as simple. I am looking forward to bringing back this genuine hospitality into my future encounters with others.

What is life at the field station really like? What are the best and the most challenging parts of living at remote field stations?
The Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment (UWICE) campus has become home for many of us this semester. At first, with the field station being a 45 minute walk from town, it took a bit of getting used to, but in no time at all we began to appreciate the leisurely walk past the Jakar High School with Kuzuzampolas and smiles, past the beautiful palace of the Jakar Dzong located upon the hill, down the winding steps into little Chamkhar town.

What ended up being your biggest challenge this semester both academically and culturally?
The biggest challenge culturally is not being able to repay all the kindness that we have been blessed with from the friends and people we have met here. So much giving with no expectation of getting back. In fact it is in some ways impolite to try and give back and to say too many Kindencheylas (Thank you).

Academically my biggest challenge was the Directed Research portion. We had a limited amount of time to come up with our focus of research within the broader context, create the survey instrument, gather the data in the field research, analyze and compose our final paper and presentations within this time. This is not to say this was not a great experience; but it was definitely a good learning experience and creates a yearning within me for future studies!

What is the best memory you have from the semester? Give some highlights.
This question makes me laugh, as the Bhutanese would say, “I don’t have a favorite or there is no best.” I would have to agree, reflecting upon this semester, there really is no best memory. From trekking through Tang Valley to meditating and chanting with the caregiver of the sacred Burning Lake to waking up at 3am and catching the sunrise at the top of the ridge to Tarpaling and truly falling in love with the landscape and people here!

Give three adjectives that best describe how you are feeling right now.
Grateful, Blessed, Loved

→ Himalayan Environment & Society in Transition Semester Program in Bhutan