Building blocks

Adam Goldberg ’12 

  • Conflict and social change major
  • 2012 Watson Fellow
  • Bhutan participant, fall 2011

“A Buddhist kingdom that is undergoing a transformation from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy, while simultaneously presenting to the world the revolutionary idea of Gross National Happiness in accordance with its Buddhist heritage? Bhutan was like a vast land of unexplored wonders. I had the chance to be one of the few to see how Bhutan is attempting transformations and applying Buddhist philosophies to every sector of its society, including economic development and nation building. What an opportunity!

Perhaps the greatest thing I took from the Bhutan program was confidence. I could not predict what would happen while there, and, at first, that was very frightening. When I initially met the principal of Jigme Losel Primary School to learn about the school’s program, she petrified me when she rose and said, ‘OK, I’ll show you to your students.’

For the next four months, I taught three classes of Bhutanese students—ages 10 to 13 and numbering about 100—for eight to 10 hours a week. Never before had I taught students; in fact, I usually avoided them. But what better way to learn about a school’s program and a society’s culture?

This was happening as I was applying for the Watson Fellowship to travel in Asia and explore how Buddhism is used as a vehicle for peace building and conflict reconciliation. The idea of traveling alone for one year to conduct research was a frightening one, but the conviction in my abilities allowed me to steadfastly pursue the fellowship. If it wasn’t for the Bhutan program, I doubt I would have been as prepared as I was to undertake this journey.

Bhutan was the most incredible, if not most difficult, experience of my life. It taught me more about myself than I could imagine. I knew I could adapt and take on different roles—such as teacher—that I’d never thought myself capable of. Unpredictability no longer scares me.”

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