Study Abroad in Bhutan: Academics

Students of many different backgrounds and interests will benefit from the Bhutan study abroad program. In additional to the three courses (9 credits) taught by Naropa's in-country faculty member, students will choose two classes (6 credits) at one of the Royal University of Bhutan campuses that has partnered with Naropa.

Each campus of RUB specializes in a particular educational arena: Language and Culture Studies, Natural Resources, and Education (please see below for descriptions of each RUB campus, as well as course descriptions for spring 2015). In addition to their areas of specialization, each campus offers courses related to Bhutanese culture and society, enabling Naropa study abroad students the opportunity to pursue their special area of interest while deepening their knowledge and understanding of Bhutan as a whole.

Applicability of Credit

For Naropa students, many of the courses offered through the Naropa Bhutan study abroad program apply towards core, major or minor requirements. The applicability of these credits towards one's degree requirements means that many students can participate in this study abroad opportunity while still graduating on time. Please see your academic advisor for specific information on how these classes will fit into your degree plan.

Students visiting from other universities will need to check with their academic advisor to confirm how these courses will apply towards their degree.

Course Descriptions for Courses Taught by Naropa's In-Country faculty

All students participating in Naropa's Bhutan study abroad program will take the following three courses, taught by Naropa's in-country faculty member and a faculty member from RUB. These courses will begin during the 3-week in-country orientation. Students will work independently on these courses after moving to the RUB campus of their choice. For Naropa students, all three courses are considered "in–residence."

BSA 325 Traditional Culture and Contemporary Issues of Bhutan (3)

This course is designed to introduce students to historical and contemporary Bhutanese culture, including Geography, History, Politics, Ethnography, Religions and Cultural values, both ancient and modern. This course seeks to locate students' understanding within the Bhutanese view of their world through the lens of Gross National Happiness. Students will feel competent and prepared in essential aspects of daily life in Bhutan.

BSA 335 Contemplative Intercultural Studies (3)

This course is an introduction to contemplative practice, exploring the interface between meditation practice and cross-cultural experience, and how they can creatively inform each other. We explore and train in a variety of contemplative practices including methods drawn from Bhutan’s rich spiritual tradition. In the context of cross cultural experience, we explore ways in which fixed beliefs and schemas create suffering and confusion in our lives. Students are challenged to go beyond habitual responses and generalizations and cultivate deeper levels of compassion and global understanding.

BSA 350 Guided Independent Study: Bhutan (3)

This course invites students to explore and research a topic about Bhutan - its people, environment, culture and current issues. Students will carry out their independent study project during their semester at the Royal University of Bhutan (RUB) under the guidance of the NU faculty and the designated RUB faculty mentor at their respective campuses. Following the guidelines specified in the syllabus, students select a topic, have it approved and carry it to completion in the form of a final paper and formal presentation. Topics may be related to the student's area of focus or academic discipline in their BA studies.

Royal University of Bhutan

In addition to the three classes taught by Naropa's in-country faculty member, students will choose two classes from one of the following campuses (please click on the name of the campus to read course descriptions for spring 2015 classes). For Naropa students, these classes will be considered non-resident courses.

For the Spring 2015 semester, students may choose to study at:

The College of Natural Resources

CNR is a beautiful campus, designed with traditional Bhutanese architectural elements. It is about three hours outside of Thimphu over an 11.000 foot pass, and is close to the town of Wandue Photrang. Its natural setting is highly conducive to the academic emphasis of the campus, which includes animal science, agriculture, forestry, and sustainable development.

The campus features experimental farms and animal husbandry facilities, and is surrounded by forests. The campus is self-contained, yet small villages surrounding the campus are easily accessible to students.

CNR offers a potential array of experiential courses for Western students interested in the environment and agriculture.

Room and Board
Naropa students would live in self-catering hostels, which are dorms with small kitchens. Meditation space is available on the top story of each hostel. Showers are available, but with only cold water. There are washing machines available on campus.

Paro College of Education

PCE is located on a hillside adjacent to the town of Paro on an attractive campus designed with traditional Bhutanese architectural elements. All academic and housing facilities are in close proximity, and the campus is landscaped with a pleasing array of flowering plants and trees. Roads and pathways are well paved or cobbled. Auditoriums, sports halls, library and classrooms incorporate the use of wood and traditional motifs.

Paro College offers courses in primary and secondary teacher education and includes a small number of counseling courses.

Room and Board
Self-catering hostels (dorms with kitchens) are available only for girls. Boys will stay in the regular hostels, and take meals at the dining mess hall. PCE has a new dining mess hall, equipped with modern kitchen facilities. The girls' self-catering hostel has hot water showers (when available); all clothes washing will need to be done by hand.

Institute of Language & Culture Studies

The ILCS campus is located on a hilltop overlooking the Trongsa district, an hour's drive from the town of Trongsa, and a six hours drive from Thimphu. It is a new campus with an impressive scale of modern architecture and with an integrated campus design. The campus is still actively undergoing construction of new dorms and other additions. It offers a new library, assembly hall, dance and performance rooms, as well as computer labs and classrooms. The campus has one small village adjacent to it with limited facilities, and other villages are too distant for student access.

ILCS is a new campus that has a strong focus on traditional arts and culture. They have designed a new BA in Bhutanese and Himalayan Studies that they envisioned with international students joining in mind.

Room and Board
Students are housed in segregated men and women's hostels, which will offer self-catering in the future when facilities are completed. Walks between some areas of the campus involve rough trails through construction areas. The classrooms and library are modern, comfortable, and spacious, and built to accommodate a rapidly increasing student population.

College of Natural Resources classes

BAWP 301 Animal Welfare and Environmental Physiology (3)

This module aims to provide students the knowledge on the importance of considering animal welfare in order to maintain health and productivity and also to avoid unnecessary sufferings to animals under any kind of environment. It also provides the students the understanding of the physiological mechanisms that animals use to cope with both “typical” and more extreme environmental challenges. The module will also provide a deeper understanding of the effect of environment on the physiology and performance of the animals in order to devise ways to prevent or alleviate the stress.

BBOT 301 Systemic Botany and Ethnobotany (3)

This module aims to introduce the students to systematic and ethnobotany, specifically the classification and evolution, plant taxonomy and identification with an emphasis on ecologically and economically important families, genera and species. Emphasis is also given to document, describe and explain complex relationships between cultures and (uses of) plants. Focus is on understanding plant knowledge process and how the uses of plants have shaped past cultural developments, to develop an appreciation for the critical roles of plants in the society and to become aware of the roles that plants and their management play for a sustainable future. Students will also learn on preparing and preserving herbarium specimens.

BSOC 102 Bhutanese Society and Culture (3)

This module on Society and Culture is developed by relating to the four pillars of Gross National Happiness (GNH) with an attempt to establish how culture infuses into each of the pillars thus contributing vitally to the realization of GNH.  Through this module students not only understand the basic fabrics of Bhutanese society, and fundamental aspects of culture that identify Bhutanese society from the rest to the world, but at the same time students acquire a firm understating of GNH more from a cultural perspective which intricately is more pervasive than any single material of GNH.  This module helps the graduates establish themselves as culturally sensitive persons and appreciate cultural values and principles.

BEVS 202 Environmental Studies (3)

This module provides knowledge and skills on concepts of environment and its degradation.  It aims to impart knowledge on the emerging environmental issues in the international and national context.  It also leads to understanding environmental practices and applying skills to manage emerging environmental issues.

BEVS 102 Introduction to Ecology and Ecosystems (3)

The general objective of this module is to introduce students to the concept of ecology and ecosystems.  This helps students in appreciating the dynamic nature of an ecosystem.  It covers the basic principles of population, community and ecosystem ecology.  It covers ecosystem ecology extensively with studies on energy and material flux, productivity, and freshwater and forest ecology.  It also gives practical experience in field ecology.

BDEV 101 Introduction to Sustainable Development (3)

This module aims to introduce students to the core concepts and challenges of sustainable development as well as the institutions and approaches addressing these challenges.  Particular attention is given to the role of sustainable livelihoods in urban and rural contexts.  Students are expected to learn about goals, indicators and monitoring and evaluation systems in development practice. Finally this module focuses on Gross National Happiness (GNH) as a model for sustainable development.

BNRM 305 Climate Change; Vulnerability, Mitigation and Adaptation (3)

This module provides insight into one of the burning climatic issues, how climate change can affect our daily lives and what are the factors responsible for causing climatic change.  The module also leads to understanding how the world as a community is combating the climate change mitigation and adaptive measures are being undertaken globally.


Paro College of Education classes

BEDN 104 Creative Arts in Lower Primary (3)

Student teachers learn how the creative arts (visual arts, music, drama and dance) can provide opportunities for personal expression, enjoyment, creative action, imagination, emotional response, aesthetic pleasure and the creation of shared meanings. Student teachers learn how to explore social and cultural values about spiritual and worldly beliefs through active engagement in the creative arts. Student teachers develop personal expertise in all forms of the creative arts through hands on studio based activities.

BEDN 312 Creative Arts in Upper Primary (3)

The intent of the module is to focus on how children talk, write, draw, dance and sing their understanding of the world in which they live. This will inform how our teachers, parents and community can influence a child’s early development by understanding their language of learning which entails many forms of symbolic representation: talk, print (reading and writing), drawing, multiple forms of visual art-making, performing arts including song and dance, drama and movement.

BEDN 313 Teaching Practice (3)

Teaching Practice (TP) provides opportunities for the student teachers to practice the skills and strategies that they have learned through lectures and studies in a real classroom situation. The student teachers will be exposed with the school curriculum and other organizational systems through constant interaction with the students and teachers in the respective schools. Further, it will enable student teachers to develop their professional competencies.

BEDN 307 Education for Development (3)

This module aims at making the student teachers able to discuss with confidence the importance of education in the development of individual, society and the nation. They will be able to visualize the role played by education in determining the level of economic prosperity, welfare and security of the nation. Further, the students will be able to recognize the role of education in achieving Bhutan’s development philosophy: Gross National Happiness.


Institute of Language & Culture Studies Courses

BBTN 201 The Cultural Heritage of Bhutan I (3)

This module will introduce students to Bhutanese cultural heritage. While the module will introduce students to the concept of tangible and intangible cultural heritage, the module will particularly focus on the material aspects of culture in the nation. They will learn about the characteristics and significance of various architecture, tools, dress, food, arts and games that are traditionally Bhutanese. Additionally, domestic and international culture policies will be examined in order to understand government and international approaches to preserving and promoting culture and arts. Students that successfully complete this module will be guided towards becoming focal people in preservation and promotion of Bhutanese cultural heritage.

BHIM 203 Religions of Himalayan Territories II (3)

A continuation of Religions of the Himalayan Territories I, this module is designed to continue giving the students a general introduction to major religions that exist in the region. Bhutanese students will become familiar with different forms of Buddhism and also learn about alternative approaches to religion. In the module, students will gain an understanding of significant aspects of the theoretical, practical, and social expressions of these religions, allowing the students to appreciate both similarities and differences between Buddhism and other traditions. Understanding and appreciating these similarities and differences will allow students to empathize better with peoples of the Himalayan region, particularly other Buddhists, and will thus be in a better position to understand and collaborate with others in their country, region, as well as internationally.

BBTN 304 The Cultural Heritage of Bhutan II (3)

This module aims to build upon what students learned in “The Cultural Heritage of Bhutan I” module, as well as earlier modules, in order to gain a deeper understanding in the performances and practices associated with aspects of Bhutan’s cultural heritage. In particular, students will have the chance to examine the significance and purposes of religious and nonreligious rituals, ceremonies, festivals, dances and musical performances. Through completing coursework for this module, students will gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of Bhutan’s culture, and its crucial role in distinguishing the nation from other nations. The module aims to emphasize the importance of preservation and promotion, and for understanding and contextualizing students’ individual identities.

BHIM 307 Historical Leaders of the Himalaya (3)

This module aims to provide an opportunity for students to study several significant historical leaders of the Himalayas. Leaders discussed will include spiritual, non-spiritual, and the leaders that are a combination of the two. The origins and contexts of these historically significant leaders will be covered in this module, along with the actions and contributions of these leaders. Students will analyze and interpret the significance of these leaders, as well as historical/political changes or developments that occurred under their rules. Comparison and interrelations among some of the leaders can also be discussed, including the analysis of conflict occurring among Himalayan peoples historically. Through conducting secondary research on these historical figures, students will have the opportunity to gain interest and preliminary knowledge on subtopics that could become relevant for valuable future research after the module ends. They will also gain experience communicating these findings to an audience, both orally and in writing.

BBTN 305 History & Philosophy of Gross National Happiness (3)

Students taking this module will be introduced to the concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH), including its history and evolution as a tool of measurement and as a development philosophy. They will learn about the four pillars of GNH, and how GNH is being studied and used to guide development and policies in Bhutan. GNH concepts will be thoroughly discussed and compared to Buddhist concepts and international declarations. Students who complete this module are poised to become experts on GNH as a concept and philosophy, and will increase the number of Bhutanese graduates that can become GNH scholars. They can then become focal people in GNH and the country’s development into the future, and take an active role in the country’s policies and activities related to GNH. They will be well-equipped to serve this purpose in both private organizations or government agencies.

BBTN 408 Anthropology & Sociology in Bhutanese Studies (3)

The module aims to broaden students' understanding of anthropological theories, with special focus on the 20th century and recent developments in the field. Students will be introduced to how anthropologists and sociologists perceive and approach major social issues and will apply relevant subject matters learned in the course in the cultural and social issues in Bhutan. The module will encourage students to generate perspectives on relevant cultural and social issues that will positively influence culture change Bhutan. The module will help students become aware of and solve challenges faced by their communities and the nation.

BHIS 406 Indo-Chinese Relations (3)

This module intends to acquaint students with Indo-Chinese relations in the modern era. The module will build on what students learned about the history of India and China, will address impacts of decisions and policies made by both countries. The conflicts, international relations and use of influence regionally and internationally by both countries will be understood from the perspective of Bhutan and other Himalayan territories. Students will thus appreciate how the Indo-Chinese relationship has changed over time, and how it continues to affect all territories in the Himalayan region. As honors graduates are expected to excel in the job market for internationally-focused positions, it will be useful for these students to gain an in-depth knowledge of current international influence and developments in India and China, as they are the big neighbors of every Himalayan territory.

BRES 402 Research Methods in Practices & Field Project (3)

This module is intended to expand upon students' previously learned research skills, and prepare them to carry out basic community research. Students will be guided step by step in completing an oral history project locally towards this end. Oral history has been chosen as the type of research, due to the urgent priority often expressed in Bhutan to document this intangible culture before it disappears (however, the tutor can of course choose to make the data collection on a similarly basic form of community research). The course will be completely student-oriented, and each student's data will be a case study from which others can learn. The course will review relevant previous modules in order to make students well-equipped to collect and analyze oral history data from local community members on a chosen topic. In addition to gaining experience in community research, students will also be contributing to strengthening ties between ILCS and surrounding communities, and contributing to the preservation of Bhutanese cultural heritage.

BCOB 201 Contemporary Bhutan, Institutions and Reforms (3)

This module will prepare the student to their professional life. It will impart them with knowledge, skills and personal development in order to make them informed citizens. This module will also be of particular interest for Bhutanese of different sectors, and especially the tourism sector. It will also attract foreign students in view of the future policy of accepting foreigners at RUB.

BENG 407 Women and Social Change (3)

This module is an attempt to study how women writers from different cultures have used the form to explore a variety of themes, socio-economic impact, character representation, love, tolerance, and challenges faced by the characters in the texts. It introduces the students to three fictional works and enables students to explore women's role within a setting. They will be able to explore the theme of assimilation, and clash of culture. And hence students will examine how life experienced and perceived by women is articulated in their narrative to voice their hopes and anxieties. Thus, through the study of this module they will be able to deconstruct ideologies and assumptions, analyze and synthesize issues, and carry out comparative studies among prescribed texts.