Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
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Center for Global Education


Wheaton in Bhutan - Information for Non-Wheaton Students

Posted on August 12, 2011

Tradition and Transition in Land of the Thunder Dragon

Wheaton in Bhutan

Wheaton College has 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 in Bhutan. We are now in a position to offer this exciting educational opportunity to students not currently enrolled at Wheaton College but attending an accredited US college or university as an undergraduate.  Currently we have agreements of cooperation with a small number of schools that we are working with to offer this program through their study abroad offices.  If you are interested in this program you should contact your study abroad office to see if your school has an agreement of cooperation in place with Wheaton College.  If your school does not have an agreement of cooperation with Wheaton College you can still apply to the program but be aware we must provide preference to students from schools with which we have agreements in place.

Bhutan – Land of the Thunder Dragon

Bhutan, the oldest Buddhist Himalayan Kingdom, has been isolated for centuries.  Bhutan is often referred to as the last Shangri-La due to its dramatic landscape and pristine natural resources. Bhutan’s commitment to environmental preservation and maintaining its rich Buddhist cultural traditions are key to continuing a way of life focused on both social and economic development.

In 2008, Bhutan had its first elections, moving from a monarchy to a constitutional democracy.  As a result, students participating on this program have an exceptional opportunity to view a nation in transition at many different levels. As the political, economic and social structure shifts being on hand to witness the outcomes is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  This in addition to the extraordinarily pristine Himalayan landscapes make this program definitively rare.

Program Overview

Wheaton’s Semester in Bhutan offers students a rare opportunity to immerse themselves in a culture rich with history.  As visiting students at Royal Thimphu College (RTC), students will have the opportunity to engage on a very personal level with their hosts in Bhutan.  This program is designed to allow for a broad range of interests and offers unique opportunities including:  living in RTC dorms with Bhutanese students, a practicum placement in a community based organization, and educational excursions.

Students will take four courses throughout their semester: an overview of Bhutanese Contemporary Society, a guided practicum experience, the Language and Culture course, and one course from a selection of those offered by RTC.  Students will be awarded 1 Wheaton credit for each of these courses successfully completed.

The Wheaton Semester in Bhutan will be particularly beneficial for students interested in Environmental Studies, Sociology, Psychology, Anthropology, Asian Studies, Political Science, Economics, Religion, Women’s Studies, Music and Art, however students in any major will benefit from a semester in Bhutan. Approximate dates are August 1st to December 1st .

Course Descriptions:

Contemporary Bhutan Culture and Society: This course will be facilitated by a Wheaton faculty member and will include lectures from experts in various areas.  The course will cover such topics as Buddhism in Bhutan, Economic Development and Gross National Happiness, Environmental Policy and Preservation in Bhutan, and Gender and Family Roles. View a sample course syllabus for Bhutanese Language and Culture (pdf).

Practicum in Bhutan: Students will spend 8-10 hours a week at a field placement site and participate in a weekly seminar.  Possible practicum sites include: Royal Society for the Protection of Nature, Voluntary Artists Society of Thimphu, RENEW, a domestic violence intervention and prevention program, KUZOO, the English language radio station or the Youth Development Centre. View a sample course syllabus for Practicum in Bhutan (pdf).

RTC Courses from the following: Introduction to the Environment, Eastern Political Thought, Demographics or Social Psychology.

Language and Culture: This course is a tutorial designed to provide a foundation for a better understanding of Bhutanese society through language and culture. It will focus on the practical aspects of Bhutan language and while Dzongkha fluency is not a goal it is designed to provide an entry into Bhutanese society beyond what one would get by speaking only English. View the course syllabus here.

Program Director: Wheaton College is pleased to announce the program director for Fall 2012 will be Professor Jeffery Timm from the Religion Department.  Professor Timm has years of experience in Southeast Asia having research the monastic traditions of the region. In particular, Professor Timm has experience in Bhutan focusing his study on Drukpa Kunley, as know as the “divine madman”.

Tentative Program Schedule

  • July 30: Group departs U.S.
  • August 3 – 8: Orientation
  • August 9: Classes begin
  • November 30: Group departs Bhutan
  • Program schedule and logistics subject to change


Non-Wheaton Students will pay Wheaton College comprehensive fees.  This includes tuition, room, excursions, all meals on campus and during excursions, visa fee, a local transportation allowance and round-trip airfare between Boston and Paro, Bhutan.  Students must fly with the group flight.

Mandatory International Health Insurance will be billed separately at a cost of approximately $40.00/month.  Students will be responsible for their personal expenses including non-group meals and baggage fee charges.


RTC has modern residence halls with triple occupancy rooms, laundry, and lounge facilities.  Included in the program are meals in the student dining hall. RTC also offers a library, bookstore, sports facilities, and Internet access.  There is an on-campus infirmary and a hospital near-by.  A RTC shuttle runs regularly between the campus and the center of Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan.

2012 Bhutan Application

Applications will be reviewed based on 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 is a must.  In addition to the written application finalists may be asked to make themselves for an interview via phone or Skype when possible.  If you have any questions about the application process please feel free to contact the Center for Global Education.


While the program is based in the capital city of Thimphu, Bhutan is a country rich in cultural diversity and environmental splendor.  So during the semester we will plan some excursions in order to provide students with additional opportunities to experience Bhutan’s natural beauty and the richness of its cultural heritage.  One of these may be a two-day trek.

In addition there will be a one-week excursion to rural Bhutan as well as 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 (9,000ft–12,000ft) 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.

Important Dates/Deadlines for Fall 2012

  • February 17, 2012 - Application deadline
  • April 1, 2012 - Confirmation of participation due

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