Bhutan

Center for Himalayan Environment and Development Studies

Bhutan

High in the Himalayas sits Bhutan, a small country defined by towering mountains, lush forests, and flowing rivers. Bhutan is home to endemic species like the snow leopard, tiger, golden langur, takin, and black-necked crane. The country’s unique and well-known philosophy of Gross National Happiness integrates governance with rich cultural traditions, Buddhist principles, and environmental conservation.

Programs

semester

Himalayan Environment and Society in Transition

Spend a semester in a corner of the Himalayas where few foreigners ever step foot. Trek through remote villages and high mountain passes to experience Bhutan’s vibrant culture, Buddhist philosophy, and environmental issues firsthand. Learn about the challenges of maintaining biodiversity and traditional rural lifestyles in a time of transition. Develop skills in field research and data collection, and apply them to a research project on conservation and development issues...
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15 Weeks
18 Credits
Spring 2021

Jan 25 - May 7

Closed

Fall 2021

Aug 30 - Dec 10

Open

summer session I

Forests in the Land of the Thunder Dragon

In this summer study abroad program, explore the rich culture, biodiversity, and dramatic mountain views of the Bhutanese Himalayas and learn how forests are integral to achieving the goals of Gross National Happiness. Spend four weeks surveying forests – which cover more than 70% of the landscape, visiting ancient shrines, and studying issues of conservation and development in one of the most fascinating countries in the world.
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04 Weeks
04 Credits
Summer 2021

May 31 - Jun 30

Open

summer session II

Big Cats of the Himalayas: Tracking and Conservation

In Bhutan, a deep cultural and spiritual reverence for life has aided in the preservation of the country’s tigers, snow leopards, and other wild cats. During this summer study abroad program, learn to use camera traps and radio telemetry, study the conservation of these elusive creatures, and learn how adaptation and management strategies can ensure their survival in a changing world.
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04 Weeks
04 Credits
Summer 2021

Jul 5 - Aug 4

Open


What Students Are Saying:


 
“This was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Traveling to Bhutan will never again be this easy and encompassing, and the weeks I spent here have transformed the way I look at most things in life. The faculty, staff, and all those I met and interacted with along this trip were kind and thoughtful.”
 
– Brooke, University of Portland


 
“SFS Bhutan has opened up the world for me; it has shown me another culture and way of life, a stunning country, and it has turned typical Western education on its head: you don’t have to be in a classroom to learn; you don’t need a library to study.”
 
– Marta, Muhlenberg College


 
“I learned about Buddhism, GNH, environmental governance, Bhutanese culture, elevational zonation, mountain ecology, and political dimensions of the environment…And you can eat a whole meal for less than $2 USD! Definitely worthwhile!”
 
– Isabel, Brandeis University

 

Where You'll Be Living

The Center is located at one end of the stunning Paro Valley, at the base of a towering ridgeline dotted with Buddhist monasteries. Campus is a small cluster of buildings designed in the traditional Bhutanese architectural style. A pleasant 15-minute walk brings you to the markets, shops, and cultural events of Paro Town.

  • Dorm living with two to four students per room
  • Classroom and dedicated study spaces
  • Kitchen and dining hall, and on-site cooking staff
  • Student lounge and ping-pong loft
  • Verandas with scenic views of the valley
  • Hiking trails and local roads for running
Click here to read stories from students, staff, and faculty on our blog

 
 
 

Program Costs

Study abroad is an investment in yourself – you’ll return home with new experiences, skills, knowledge, and friendships that will stay with you for the rest of your life. SFS program costs cover a variety of expenses, including:
 

  • Pre-program advising and on-site orientation
  • Tuition and research fees
  • Housing at the field station and on excursions
  • Daily meals and snacks
  • Airport transfers (for arrival/departure)
  • Field excursions and cultural activities
  • Student success and wellness team on site
  • 24/7 mental health and well-being support
  • Emergency evacuation and repatriation insurance
  • Official transcript processing

View Bhutan Program Costs

Financial Aid

We know cost can be one of the biggest barriers to studying abroad. At SFS, we’re committed to making our programs accessible to students which is why we award more than $650,000 in need-based financial aid each year. Our Admissions Team has worked with thousands of students and are here to answer your questions about the SFS aid process, aid available through your home school, and funding from external sources.
 
SFS Financial Aid: Need-based aid packages typically consist of a combination of scholarships, grants, and zero- and low-interest loans. SFS matches Federal Pell Grant funding for students applying to an SFS semester program.

Home School Aid: Be sure to ask your home school study abroad office or financial aid office what financial aid resources might be available to support your study abroad experience.

External Funding Opportunities: Organizations such as the Fund for Education Abroad or the Gilman International Scholarship Program award scholarships to students going abroad. These can be a great opportunity to reduce the cost of your program even more.
 
Learn More about Financial Aid


 
 
 

 

Research

In collaboration with our in-country partners, UWICER and BES, our research at the SFS Center for Himalayan Environment and Development Studies focuses on enhancing the condition of forest, river, and mountain ecosystems while balancing modernization and cultural preservation. Students contribute to this collaborative research agenda in several priority areas including mountain biodiversity and biogeography, climate change, sustainable forestry, conservation biology, water resources, socioeconomic development, human well-being, and public policy.
 
Our research focuses primarily on the following themes:

  • Climate change
  • Gross National Happiness
  • Mountain ecology and biodiversity conservation
  • Forest management
  • Himalayan biogeography
  • Agriculture, food systems, and development
  • Tourism

Environmental Issues

Our Centers are strategically located in regions facing critical environmental issues. Students and faculty study these issues and collect data to help facilitate sustainable responses. In Bhutan, we’re currently investigating the following issues:

Climate Change
Biodiversity Conservation
Tourism Impacts
Pollution & Waste Management
Natural Resource & Water Management
Sustainable Livelihoods
Learn More About the Issues

Community

Paro, Bhutan

 
SFS is an active part of the Bhutanese community, where we have been operating programs for 10 years.

We have built long-term, collaborative relationships in the communities around the Center, and developed our research plans based on the environmental issues they and the surrounding ecosystems face. Throughout the program, students participate in a short homestay, join volunteer projects like stream clean-ups and environmental education programs, plant trees, attend tshechus (festivals), and play sports with Bhutanese students and monks.

At the end of each semester program, we host a Community Research Night where select students will present their research findings to the community. SFS research data is shared with the community, local NGOs, and the Bhutanese government.
 

Read stories about our community in Bhutan