Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
Wheaton in Bhutan


Classes Have Started

Posted on August 18, 2010

Orientation has ended, and we have somewhat gotten used to the new culture we are surrounded by. We can now find our way around campus, which is helpful since it was time to go to class this week! Yuri, Atsu and Sarah are taking Eastern Political Thought this semester, which all of them very much enjoy. As Yuri said: “The syllabus is exactly what I wanted to learn here.”  The Indian professor teaching the course even invited them for a cup of tea to explore ways to make the Bhutanese students contribute more to the class. Students here are not used to speaking up in class, and the English language seems to be a struggle for most of them.  Elana and Devon have started their course in Qualitative Research Methods. Lina, Raffi and Emilia are taking Social Psychology.  Although all of us experience the RTC courses differently, we can all agree that they are nothing like the classes we take at Wheaton. We definitely learn a lot from it though, but will have to get used to the different teaching styles.

Devon and Sarah will even be teaching some first-year classes called Orientation to College Learning in which they will mostly tend to the writing skills of the students. Lina, Elana, Emilia Atsu, Yuri, and Raffi will become writing tutors in the  Learning Center.

As we get used to our new lives here, we continue to be surprised about some aspects of the Bhutanese culture. Yuri is curious how it is that so many people smoke here, while it is illegal to buy or sell cigarettes in the country. When one gets caught, they can expect to be in jail for three years! The electricity often goes out every now and then, sometimes for hours in a row. Many of our roommates  are scared in the dark and prefer to sleep with the lights on.

The Bhutanese students on the other hand are surprised by how much the Wheaton students text each other. Here, they rather give each other a call to communicate a short message. Saying hello and goodbye therefore does not seem necessary to them and we are often surprised when they just hang up after speaking to us.  The RTC students are often on the phone—even during the middle of the night. Ringtones here are very up to date and most of us get woken up several times a night by Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga.

Buddha under constructionWe have met with the Wheaton students from Bhutan several times already and they have been very generous in showing us around town and making us feel more comfortable in the country that they call their home. This week Sonam, Tenzin, Kinley and Zimbiri  took us on a tour.  We went  to Buddha point, the site at which they are currently building the largest sitting Buddha in Asia.  Then they showed us Takin Park, in which we got to see Bhutan’s national animal (a mix between a goat and a cow!), and some beautiful views of the Thimpu Valley.

We also had our first birthday to celebrate as Devon turned 20 this weekend. Sonam, a graduate from Wheaton took us out for a night in Thimpu and all of us had a great time. This weekend we also had the pleasure of experiencing a school dance at Royal Thimpu College, which is incomparable to a Balfour Dance at Wheaton. First, the electricity went  out an hour before the dance was supposed to start. Eventually the power came on and the dance began. Raffi and Atsu were DJ’s for the night and had to get the party started by inviting all the Wheaton students to enter the dance floor, since the Bhutanese students were too shy to take the spotlight. The Wheaton students on the other hand had no problem with this task.

It’s interesting to see how the Bhutanese students interact with each other. During the day, boys and girls automatically separate in classrooms and dining halls, however, as soon as it gets dark, students will go for walks together with boys and girls often holding hands. We noticed the gender segregation at the dance as well. Once in a while the music would stop and the lights would turn and immediately the dance floor would split into boys and girls on opposite sides, and the Wheaton students ended up in the middle. We learned that for many students this was one of the first dances they had ever attended. The girls paid careful attention to their looks, but were often terrified of actually going to the dance, let alone dancing.

Overall, we are slowly getting used to life in Bhutan and are looking forward to our other classes, the planned trips and our internship sites. Most of us have been in contact with out practicum Bhutan sites already. Lina and Emilia will be working at RENEW, a centre that supports women that have suffered from domestic violence. Raffi and Atsu have visited Kuzoo Radio, for which they will be hosting several weekly shows. Devon and Sarah will be working at the Youth Development Fund, which provides numerous activities for the youth in Thimpu to keep them off the streets. Yuri and Elana  are planning on working at Royal Society for the Protection of Nature, and will be starting soon as well.

Until next blog,

Emilia, Lina, Elana, Yuri, Atsu, Raffi, Devon, Sarah, Bianca and Sue.

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