Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
Center for Global Education

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Wheaton in Bhutan

Posted on September 2, 2010

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Bhutan, a small Buddhist country nestled in the Himalayas, is known for its pristine beauty, its commitment to environmental preservation and its unique approach to development  that measures its success in terms of Gross National Happiness. This is a very exciting time to visit Bhutan. Having recently entered the global community after years of isolation and ratified its first constitution, Bhutan is experiencing rapid social change while striving to preserve its extraordinary traditions.

Wheaton College is proud to have entered into a unique partnership with Royal Thimphu College, the first private college in Bhutan. Together with a Wheaton faculty member, students will spend a semester (Fall or Spring ) in the world’s only remaining Buddhist Himalayan Kingdom.  The Wheaton/RTC program is designed to provide students the means with which to gain deep insight into a unique country undergoing dramatic transition.

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Program Overview

Wheaton’s Semester in Bhutan offers students a rare opportunity to immerse themselves in a culture rich with history and vibrant traditions. As visiting students at Royal Thimphu College (RTC), students in the Wheaton program will have the opportunity to engage on a very personal level with their hosts. Students will live in RTC dorms with Bhutanese students, earn credit for four academic courses, engage in a practicum placement in a community organization or governmental agency, and travel to different parts of the country. The program offers numerous opportunities for students to interact directly with ordinary Bhutanese citizens and with key leaders who are deeply involved in shaping Bhutan of the future while preserving its precious traditions and environment. The Wheaton in Bhutan blog offers insight into this amazing experience.

Students will take four courses throughout their semester. Three of those courses are coordinated by a Wheaton faculty member, Contemporary Bhutan Society, Practicum in Bhutan, Bhutanese Language and Culture, and one course from a selection of those offered by RTC. Students will be awarded one Wheaton credit (the equivalent of three credits at many colleges) for each successfully completed course. Instruction is in English, one of the two official languages of multilingual Bhutan.

The Wheaton Semester in Bhutan will be particularly beneficial for students interested in Environmental Studies, Sociology, Psychology, Anthropology, Asian Studies, Political Science, International Relations, Economics, Religion, Women’s Studies, Cross-cultural Education, Music, and Art, however students in any major will benefit from the program.

RTC Facilities/Housing/Meals

The RTC campus, covering an area of 25 acres in Ngabiphu, offers a secluded and peaceful natural environment for study. At the same time, it is only a 15–20 minute drive from the capital city, Thimphu, which offers sports, leisure and cultural attractions as well as  many potential sites for student internships and field trips. Students in the Wheaton program will be given a city bus pass which will allow them daily access to Thimphu.

RTC has modern residence halls with double occupancy rooms, laundry, and lounge facilities. The program includes three meals a day in the student dining hall.  There is also a canteen where students can purchase meals and other sundries. Students at RTC wear the traditional dress, kira for women and gho for men.  Students in the Wheaton Program will be provided with funds to purchase their own kira and gho during their orientation.

RTC has Internet access, a computer lab, library, bookstore, auditorium, theater and an infirmary.  There are sports teams and a variety of clubs on campus.  Students in the Wheaton program are encouraged to become active participants in the RTC community.

Excursions and Field Trips

While the Wheaton/RTC program is based at the RTC campus on the outskirts of the capital city of Thimphu, Bhutan is a country rich in cultural diversity and environmental splendor. There will be three multi-day excursions during the semester in order to provide students with additional opportunities to experience Bhutan’s natural beauty and the richness of its cultural heritage, Some of the excusions may involve trekking. These excursions are free for students in the Wheaton/RTC program.  One of the excursions will allow students to particpate in volunteer project in a rural village.  In addition to the excursions, there will be field trips to Buddhist monasteries and monastic schools, governmental offices, traditional medicine clinics, as well as local artisan and handcraft centers.

Health and Safety

In addition to ensuring that students have a successful academic experience, students’ health and safety is our primary concern. We have been strongly advised by physicians that due to the high altitude (8,000–10,000 feet) students with certain health conditions should be advised not to participate in this program. In order to provide the best educational experience for all students, applicants for this program must complete the Health Waiver Form to be signed by a travel health doctor or family physician.

Tentative Program Schedule

Fall Semester, 2014
Students depart U.S.: late July
Orientation: early August (typically first week)
Classes begin: early August (typically second week)
Students depart Bhutan: first week in December

Spring Semester, 2015
Students depart U.S.: late February
Orientation: last week in February
Classes begin: first week in March
Students depart Bhutan: beginning of July
Program schedule and logistics subject to change.

Application for the Wheaton Program in Bhutan

Applications will be reviewed based on depth of student interest, willingness to engage with the local community as project partners, and academic standing. As with all study abroad experiences cultural sensitivity and a willingness to expand one’s comfort zone are essential. In addition to the written application, Wheaton finalists will be asked to come in for a brief interview (other arrangements will be made for speaking with non-Wheaton applicants). If you have any questions about the application process please feel free to contact the Center for Global Education.

For Wheaton Students

For complete application materials and information, please visit the Center for Global Education. Applications must be complete before turning them in for consideration. Applications for Wheaton students for the Fall 2014 semester program are due March 7, 2014, as are all study abroad applications.

For Non-Wheaton Students

Students who are not enrolled at Wheaton College are eligible to apply for Wheaton's program in Bhutan. Applications for non-Wheaton students for the Fall 2014 semester program are due March 7, 2014.  Please review the information about program fees for Non-Wheaton students. For further information about the program and application process, please contact the Center for Global Education at globaled@wheatoncollege.edu or by phone at (508) 286-4950.

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