Posted: February 23, 2017

As SFS students settle into their new homes around the world, we sit down with them to get their first impressions of the program. Here’s what Annabel Li had to say about her experience in Bhtuan so far:

Why did you choose to study abroad with SFS?
I grew up Tibetan Buddhist in Singapore, went to Chinese Mahayana high school in Northern California, and am still struggling to be a Buddhist. I am currently double majoring in Environmental Policy and Religious Studies. My Buddhist background —the concept of interdependence—influenced my environmental worldview. Bhutan is the perfect place for the combination of my interests. With Gross National Happiness, Bhutan’s efforts for conservation is heavily influenced by their religion and culture. I hope to explore a way in which we can incorporate the basic virtuous values we get from religion and apply them to different issues such as caring for our environment in my college career and study abroad experience. SFS is the only program I know that offered a study abroad in Bhutan. I believe the program is perfect for me find some answers and insight for my interests.


Photos courtesy of Gayle Miner

What are your first impressions of the country?
The only expression I can use to describe my first impression is Kuzu Zangpo La. This phrase is a greeting of hello in the Bhutanese traditional language, Dzongkha. I do not know what to expect going on this program in the country known as the happiest place in Asia. This program marks many new beginnings. All I can do is to greet everything I experience with a merry greeting of hello.

What are your first impressions of the field station?
Our field station is best known as summer palace for the first king of Bhutan. We were greeted with no electricity our first evening. Despite the unexpected welcome, we managed to have a welcoming dinner hosted by the director of UWICE. I have to say the food is incredible. The people here are so kind and generous.

What do you think the biggest challenge will be for you this semester both academically and culturally?
Bhutan is famous for its topography on the Himalaya mountains. Coming from Singapore and attending college in Southern California, acclimation while adapting to the new environment is definitely a challenge for me.

What are you looking forward to the most about the semester?
In this generation of technological advances, we define modernity and progress on monetary terms. Bhutan suggests a new way to measure progress. I am excited to see the reality of the policies put in place to balance traditions and modernity, and how sustainability is part of the equation.

Give three words that best describe how you are feeling right now.
Experiencing. Adapting. Exploring.

→ Himalayan Studies in Bhutan