Bhutan, “Land of the Thunder Dragon,” is a mystical place full of deities, demons, mythical animals, and protective phalluses. A land of 71% forest cover and often the smell of incense drifting through the air; ideals held up by the people’s deep adherence to Buddhism and GNH (Gross National Happiness) principles. A land dotted by dzongs and monasteries; monks walking down the street, playing the trending game app on their smartphones. A culture so different from my own, yet I felt so at home because of the kindness, generosity, and warm smiles of the Bhutanese. Traveling abroad highlights that all humans share some universal characteristics; I realized that the differences between us really come down to minor details.

Although there are so many life changing experiences to have during a study abroad trip, there are also challenges. Adjusting to a new culture can be a struggle. I found that adjusting to the different cultures within the student group was actually more difficult than the culture of the host country, which is not usually a factor considered before studying abroad. Be prepared for everything to not always go right, that you won’t always get along with people, but gaining the flexibility and acceptance of those scenarios will shape you into a stronger person.

I was able to travel to such an amazing place and study there through the SFS (School for Field Studies) program. This kind of study abroad program is very unique because it focuses on getting the students out into the environment of their host country to experience hands on field work, gaining valuable research skills, while also taking into account the people and culture that shape the physical landscape. In addition, my program was quite small with only 19 students, so we were able to easily communicate and gain further understanding from our professors, while also building a personal rapport with them even though we were only there for 6 weeks. This small group size also helped create a community within students, so now I have friends from schools all across the U.S. Furthermore, the program concluded in a group directed research paper (ours happened to be 80 pages long), which gives students the ability to delve into a topic that is pertinent to both their host country and global topics. Through studying abroad, you are able to observe how different cultures approach solving the same problems that all of humanity is currently facing, such as climate change through academic study and research.

Diana Sevier is majoring in Biology (General) and studied abroad in Summer 2019 in Paro, Bhutan with The School for Field Studies. Diana had the following to say about studying abroad, “Traveling abroad highlights that all human share some universal characteristics, and you are able to realize that the differences between us really come down to minor details. Furthermore, through studying abroad, you are able to observe how different cultures approach solving the same problems that all of humanity is currently facing. Although studying abroad can be challenging to adjust to at first, the rewards are so much greater.”

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