Two Australian High School Students Experience in Bhutan

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From the 26th of July until the 23rd of December 2023, Archie and I, two Australian grade eleven students, spent our time studying in and exploring Bhutan, a place both of us had dreamed of visiting for long periods of time.

Originally, the two of us discovered Bhutan through our passion for travel and geography, as both of us are entirely aware of all the countries of the world. With this knowledge, many countries off of the beaten track stood out to us as destinations for a certain form of travel, however none as much as Bhutan. Originally, the idea started with my mother and me, brainstorming ways to get myself there in a cost-effective manner, which wasn't easy. Eventually, I brought the idea up with my close friend, Archie, who jumped to the idea and joined us in brainstorming. Months of planning led us to believe only one way would facilitate our travel, studying abroad.

The planning and approval process of reaching Bhutan was undoubtedly the most arduous part of 2023 for both of us, as much paperwork was required, as well as the approval of many figures, from our parents to the governments in both Australia and Bhutan. There were times when both Archie and I believed that we would never end up making it to Bhutan, the whole idea remained just too good to be true and we never believed it to be a possibility, yet we remained hopeful.

It was early July when we got confirmation that the final piece of the puzzle - our student visas, were in place, meaning we were going! This gave us less than a month to prepare ourselves to leave Sydney, Australia for five months. On the way to Bhutan, we stopped in Bangkok for a couple of nights before our flight to Paro, we also returned to Bangkok on the way back from Bhutan.

Surprisingly, Archie and I felt very minimal culture shock, as we had both already done a fair amount of research on the country and culture. This made our experience of settling in far easier, not to say it wasn't already easy due to the very welcoming and caring Deki Choden, the principal of ELC School, where the both of us stayed for the majority of our time in Bhutan. Without Madame Deki, and many others at ELC, our experience would have most definitely been far harder, however, they all made us feel at home, despite being ten thousand kilometres away from it!

Bhutan felt like such a dream come true for both of us. It was a crucial aspect of our childhood, as we developed a deeper understanding of who we are through exploring the parameters of well-being and meditation, as well as Bhutanese culture, Buddhism and Dzongkha. The majority of our time in The Kingdom was spent exploring six of twenty Dzongkhags (Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Bumthang, Trongsa, and Wangdue Phodrang) as well as finding the answer to how the people of Bhutan were so happy and ascetic compared to most westerners. While in Bhutan, we were featured in a 'Bhutan Today' Current Affair, a 'Bhutan Street Fashion' video, 'The Masterpeace Pod' and were lucky enough to meet with Her Majesty The Queen Mother. 

 

Looking back on our time there, we both have few regrets, as we ensured we fully immersed ourselves into all Buddhist and Bhutanese culture we could. The experience felt very all-rounded, and we have taken back much memorabilia and many memories which both of us will treasure forever - For example, the close communities found within Bhutan (like our tight-knit school or the ability to recognise someone you know walking down the streets of Thimphu) are something just irreplaceable and not something that one can find in where we live in Australia. For Archie and I, well-being, mindfulness, and meditation changed us. These aspects of our lifestyle there entirely altered our personalities for the better, making us both more aware mentally and emotionally of our surroundings. This can be accredited to our Wellbeing teacher at school, who doubled as quite the makeshift older brother figure for us - Sir Tim. 

It has now been close to a year since we left Australia for Bhutan, yet it feels like merely minutes ago that we swerved through Paro’s Himalayan ridges. The both of us of course wish to return in the future, where we can once again immerse ourselves in the most compelling culture on the planet.



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