Bhutan experiences 2017

Mary Sparkes in Bhutan 2017

Heading into my third year of study in a Bachelor of Education (secondary arts), when the chance to go on an overseas short study with UNE arose, I jumped at the chance. Studying online means that these opportunities are not always available and being able to travel and study on a New Columbo Mobility Scholarship meant that it was achievable on a university student’s budget!

From an educational perspective, this study tour reaffirmed that I was studying the correct career, reinforcing my ambitions to help and develop youth. From staying at the guesthouse and attending classes at Paro university to teaching in a classroom where not every child had access to the texts being used, I gained skills and knowledge that I have no doubt I will continue to use in a classroom for years to come.

The trip featured a week of Bhutan highlights, including hiking to ‘Tiger’s Nest’ Temple which was physically and spiritually enlightening, and a cultural tour through other areas of Bhutan where we were guided about Bhutanese culture from our kind and entertaining tour guide. I also happened to meet five other students studying similar degrees, as well as Judy, Brenda, Simon and Warren; staff from UNE who were inspiring, supportive and provide ongoing guidance with my future studies.

I will admit, I didn’t know much about our destination before our trip, but what I did find out in the months leading up to the trip just did not give this beautiful country the justice it deserves. The scenery was picturesque, the people were humble, kind and welcoming, and being shown the country as if we were locals and not tourists is an experience unlike any other. The Bhutanese believe that when people meet it is because they have met previously, in a past life, and it was meant to happen; all I can say, is that I am glad it was so! This has been one of the best experiences I have ever had and strongly recommend any education students look for a unique challenge, and to see some of the world while studying to apply!

Christine Sams in Bhutan 2017

This journey taught me so much, both professionally and personally. The beauty of Bhutan is breathtaking but it is the people who change your life, from helpful and experienced academics to classroom teachers and the wonderful students you are working with. It was an honour to represent UNE, particularly as an off-campus student and to become part of the wider professional relationship built up between Bhutan and Australia which has yielded such an incredible learning opportunity for students such as myself. I would highly recommend this experience, particularly to anyone who has an inkling of adventure and a desire to learn more than just what is in front of you on a computer screen. Just as the Himalayas stretch tall into every backdrop in Bhutan, so does this experience push you higher.

Shannai Clissold in Bhutan 2017

To be completely honest I first looked at this program because I love travelling and I thought that Bhutan sounded like a cool place to go. It might sound cliché but I honestly had no idea what an amazing experience this program would be. As an off-campus student, I didn’t really know what I was missing until I got to spend time with both the university lecturers and other students on the trip - meeting ‘like minded’ friends that I still message to catch up with and bounce ideas off! Bhutan allowed me to experience a new culture where I met the most amazing people - people that make you instantly feel like you are a part of a wonderful supportive family. It also gave me the chance to learn skills I didn’t even know I needed in the classroom but have proven to be invaluable since I started teaching. Just imagine doing and learning all this in the most beautiful country in the world - I have been lucky enough to travel to a lot of places in the world but nowhere has come close to how well I was treated in Bhutan. If there was any chance I could do this program again I would probably be saying it was horrible and you definitely shouldn’t go just so I could have a place to go again, but I was lucky enough to already have this life-changing experience so now it’s your turn - you won’t regret it!

Kyrah Dal Santo in Bhutan 2017

The opportunity to visit the happiest place in the world for 3 weeks? Of course I was excited! From the breath-taking (and heart racing) landing through the Himalayan Mountains, to the ridiculously large consumption of Momos and cheese and chilli dishes, the trip was unforgettable.

I could rave about the amazing scenery, the hiking, the karaoke, and the learning opportunities for hours, but with any amazing trip, it was the people I met who made it that much better. While most of us studied via distance, all of us students instantly behaved as if we’d known each other for years – there were jokes, sing-a-longs, laughing with (and at) each other and a constant chatter that very rarely stopped. What was even better, was getting to know the lecturers on a more personable level! Heads up - they’re all great people who are so passionate about Bhutan and really just want you to enjoy the experience and have a laugh while you learn from the opportunity.

Above all, the people of Bhutan and their kind, happy, considerate nature is what will always stay with me. Nothing was ever too much, they just wanted you to enjoy their beautiful country and learn from them – and these are the kinds of lessons and outlooks on life that I will definitely be taking into the classroom and into my life in general.

Apply! It really is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I’m 120% sure you’re not going to regret it.

October 2017