Wheaton’s study abroad program in the Himalayan nation of Bhutan—the only such program in the U.S.—has received an innovation award from GoAbroad.com, a web-based resource for international study and travel.
Wheaton won the 2012 prize in the “Innovative New Program–Study Abroad” category of the competition, now in its second year. Hundreds of nominations were submitted for eight contest categories, including awards for study abroad programs as well as international internships and volunteer experiences.
The winners were announced on May 31 at the annual conference of NAFSA: Association of International Educators, held in Houston and attended by nearly 9,000 professionals in the field. Entries were judged by a group of international educators on the basis of quality, originality and creativity.
Wheaton is the only U.S. college that offers a semester-long credit-bearing program in Bhutan, a nation that gives more weight to its Gross National Happiness than its Gross National Product. Isolated for centuries, Bhutan is the oldest Buddhist Himalayan kingdom, often called “the last Shangri-La” because of its dramatic, pristine landscape.
Bhutan held its first elections in 2008, transitioning from a monarchy to a constitutional democracy. Now, amidst rapid political, economic and social changes, the nation is committed to preserving its unspoiled environment and maintaining its Buddhist cultural traditions.
Wheaton’s program in Bhutan, launched in fall 2010, is based at Royal Thimphu College (RTC), the first private institution of higher learning in Bhutan. Under the guidance of a Wheaton faculty member, students take four courses during the semester, including a language and culture class and a practicum experience at a local service organization, and they visit many natural and historic sites. As of fall 2012, students from colleges other than Wheaton will also be eligible to apply for the program.