This unique program offers students a broad exposure to the core areas of environment, culture, development, and governance in Bhutan. Students will apply conceptual, analytical, and technical skills to help address questions related to natural resource-based livelihoods, conservation of biodiversity, and vulnerabilities to disasters.
The Kingdom of Bhutan is a small, land-locked country nestled in the rugged eastern Himalayas between India and China, two of Asia’s geopolitical giants. The landscape comprises mountains and valleys, with seven major river systems draining the high Himalayas from over 23,000 feet above sea level to 1,000 feet at the southern border. As one of the major biodiversity hot spots in the world, Bhutan is home to a beautiful array of birds, butterflies, and rhododendrons. The takin, snow leopard, golden langur, blue sheep, and tiger are among Bhutan’s diverse and charismatic fauna.
This program will take an integrated approach to examining issues related to conservation, governance, and rural livelihoods in Bhutan. SFS has a partnership with the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment, an international research and training facility in Bhutan, and part of Bhutan's Ministry of Agriculture and Forests. Students contribute to the advancement of the Institute’s research agenda in several priority areas, including sustainable forestry, conservation biology, water resources, rural development, and policy. Underlying themes to the joint research we undertake include climate change adaptation, natural resource management, and sustainable livelihoods.
The field station is located at the UWICE campus, set in the pastoral Chokhor Valley in the central district of Bumthang. The facility is the former palace of Bhutan’s first king, built in traditional Bhutanese architecture with colorful decorations both inside and out.
Explore life in the field in Bhutan.
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You will receive credit for all academic courses taken at this institution, and all of your grades from abroad will count toward your Penn State cumulative GPA. You may not take any courses overseas on a Pass/Fail basis. Students may not take sport or physical activity courses (e.g. sailing, bowling, yoga, etc.) abroad. These courses will not be credited at Penn State.
Courses offered on this program include:
To see what kind of credit students in past semesters have received for courses taken on this program, visit the SFS Bhutan Course Equivalency List. You will need to complete the course equivalency process once you have been accepted to your program and after you have completed your registration abroad. To obtain specific instructions on this process visit our Course Equivalencies page. To learn how the courses on this program can work into your individual degree audit, meet with your academic adviser.
- SFS 3040 Political and Socioeconomic Dimensions of Environment (4 credits)
- SFS 3060 Mountain Ecology (4 credits)
- SFS 3050 Land Use, Natural Resources and Conservation (4 credits)
- SFS 4910 Directed Research (4 credits)
- SFS 2010 Religion and Culture of Bhutan (2 credits)
Students must complete one semester of college-level ecology or biology as well as at least one semester of college prior to the program. Coursework in international development, cultural anthropology, and/or Eastern religions is strongly encouraged. It is helpful for students to arrive with a familiarity of concepts such as ecosystem services, livelihood strategies, resilience, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and trade-offs and synergies between conservation and development. Students must be at least 18 years old to complete the program.
Courses are held at a remote facility at 9,000 feet. This is a very physically demanding program. Students should be in excellent physical condition, as any sort of illness at altitude is difficult to manage. Walking can be tiring and hiking is challenging because of the altitude. Flexibility and resilience are essential.
Students in the College of Agricultural Sciences should speak with the Study Abroad Coordinator within the College of Agricultural Sciences Office of International Programs when preparing to study abroad.
Housing and Meals
You will live and study on the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment campus. The facility is the former palace of Bhutan’s first king, built in traditional Bhutanese architecture with colorful decorations both inside and out. The modern dormitories and cafeteria are just steps away from the Dzong, where classes are held. The campus offers views of the surrounding valley, the mountains swathed in clouds, and the occasional cattle or ponies grazing in the yard.
Students will spend the colder month of the semester at a rural development training campus set on the edge of Zhemgang town. The campus has a working farm and a set of modern buildings of Swiss-built stone construction. Classrooms overlook the farm and valley.
For more information on program costs, please be sure to review the fall budget sheet and spring budget sheet. These budget sheets including information on costs that are billable to your bursar bill, as well as estimated additional costs. Costs vary by program, so it is important to review this information carefully.
Please note that tuition rates may vary depending on major and class standing.
Financial Aid & Scholarships
Penn State students studying through Education Abroad can use most components of their existing financial aid packages toward the cost of study abroad. This may include federal and state grants, VA educational benefits, federal student loans, and University scholarships and grants. Notable exceptions include work-study awards and some athletic scholarships.
The University Office of Global Programs also administers a number of grants and scholarships. Eligibility is based on academic excellence and/or financial need. There is also funding available for study abroad programs in diverse locations and for students from diverse backgrounds. In most cases, applicants should have a current year FAFSA on file with the Office of Student Aid. Funding opportunities may also be available through Penn State academic departments. For detailed information on financial aid and scholarship opportunities and application procedures, please visit the Funding Study Abroad section of the Global Penn State website.
For More Information
For more information about programs and education abroad at Penn State, we encourage you to meet with or contact our Peer Advisers. These study abroad returnees can explain program options, give an overview of the education abroad process, as well as provide information about his/her program. If you are not at University Park, contact your Campus Global Representative.
To learn more about the specifics of each program, schedule an appointment with the education abroad adviser for this program.
For the inside scoop on life in a foreign country, be sure to check out the Student Spotlights of Penn State students currently studying abroad.
How to Apply
If you would like to participate on this study abroad program, you will need to apply to Penn State Education Abroad by clicking the "Apply Now" button on this page.
You must complete the following materials in your application:
Visit the How to Apply section of our website for more information.
- Education Abroad Questionnaire
- One academic recommendation
- Signature Documents
Studying Abroad with a Disability
Many students with disabilities successfully study abroad each year. Please note that other cultures may have different attitudes and available accommodations regarding disabilities. While we cannot guarantee the accessibility of all program sites and locations, specific accommodations may be arranged in consultation with our office, the Student Disability Resources office, and our partners abroad. To prepare for success, students are strongly encouraged to research the country and program location to consider if and how they will manage their disabilities abroad in advance of selecting a program. Students with disabilities and other diverse backgrounds can begin their research on our Diversity Awareness Abroad page.
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