It has now been three weeks and I still feel that same sensation of excitement that I experienced when we first passed over the Himalayas and into the Paro Valley.
I cannot exactly describe the feeling of first landing in Bhutan. An overwhelming feeling of excitement and disbelief seemed to wash over our eleven-person SFS cohort as we passed by Mount Everest before eventually beginning our descent into the magnificent Paro Valley. The entire area is distinguished by its many alpine rice fields and red-roofed monasteries, which appear to be hugged by the western coniferous forests and snow-capped mountain peaks of the Bhutanese Himalayas. Spending our first two weeks of the semester in quarantine was by no means optimal, but we managed to make the most out of a challenging experience. Almost every morning began with a sunrise over the Himalayas that was accompanied by mango juice and hot tea. Our days consisted of classes and discussions on topics ranging from local forest management strategies to Vajrayana Buddhism. And by the day’s end, our cohort would take the time to socialize and bond with one another through whatever means possible, whether that be having a zoom dance party or prank calling one another via the hotel phones.
Photo provided by Lydia Grossman.
Fourteen days and a total of 24 negative COVID tests later, we eagerly arrived at the beautiful new SFS Center for Himalayan Environment and Development Studies, where we were greeted with cups of milk tea and the Bhutanese gesture of welcome–the placing of a white scarf around each of our necks.
Students playing volleyball in their free time. (Photo provided by Lydia Grossman).
It has now been three weeks and I still feel that same sensation of excitement that I experienced when we first passed over the Himalayas and into the Paro Valley. Not only have I found our classes to be fascinating and my fellow students and professors to be wonderful, but the feeling of being able to call this magnificent country my home for the next few months feels almost unreal. I feel so fortunate to have found the SFS Bhutan program and I look forward to our next few months of spending time in the mountains, making memories, and of course, eating lots and lots of momos.
Curious to learn a bit more about the SFS Bhutan Center? Click here to read about why we’re based there, our environmental research focus, how we connect and support the local community, and even take a tour of the Center.