Students live, learn, explore in Bhutan
Flying into Paro, Bhutan, you go through a blanket of clouds that slowly dissolves as mountains emerge, cradling the emerald lushness of a valley dotted with colorful buildings. Even before your feet touch the ground, Bhutan takes your breath away. And, once you are there, it starts working on your heart and mind, say students who have participated in Wheaton’s study abroad program in Bhutan.
“When we first flew over Paro, I was utterly speechless, and almost in tears. It’s undoubtedly the most beautiful place I have ever been,” says James Elliott ’15, one of six students who spent the fall 2012 semester in Bhutan.
Months after the experience, with his feet firmly planted in Norton, Mass., Elliott’s mind is still there. “Seeing the happiness and contentment of Bhutanese citizens, who have a very simple lifestyle in such stark contrast to how most Americans are brought up, really has expanded my worldview and solidified my convictions about how I live my life,” he says.
“One man started a conversation with me while I was waiting on the street, and it ended with him offering me a job, a place in his home and food for the duration of time that I would work for him. Each time someone gave us a ride that was clearly out of their way and refused any compensation, or helped us find a destination across town by personally escorting us there, I thought to myself I would feel so proud to be a part of this culture.”
The psychology major now plans to seek an additional independent major in contemplative studies, saying the Bhutan experience intensified his interest in psychology and sparked a desire for a more holistic approach to his studies. “I want my education to be more than a means to a monetary end. I want it to benefit as many people as possible.”