- 18 years of age or above
- Good academic and disciplinary standing at Penn State
- 2.80 cumulative GPA or better at the time of application review
- Sophomore standing or above at the start of the program
- One semester of college-level ecology, biology, or environmental studies/science
- Note: SFS programs are very popular. Applications may close early if a program location reaches capacity for a given semester. Applications for the spring 2024 SFS Bhutan program have now closed.
Venture to the mountain kingdom of Bhutan, where change is on the horizon. Few foreigners ever step foot in Bhutan’s small villages and stunning Buddhist monasteries – not until 1974 did the country open its borders to tourism. Now, Bhutan is developing rapidly. At the SFS Center in Paro, you’ll explore the challenges of protecting biodiversity and maintaining traditional rural lifestyles in this time of transition. Study conservation and environmental issues firsthand against the backdrop of vibrant culture and Buddhist philosophy. Learn more about the famed principles of Gross National Happiness, gain an in-depth knowledge of local ecosystems, and wrap up the semester with an extensive field research project.
Embark on a multi-day cultural trek to through remote villages and high mountain passes to experience the natural beauty of Bhutan’s countryside and the traditional lifestyles of its people. Visit monasteries and take part in unforgettable tsechus (festivals) to learn more about Buddhism and Bhutanese culture. And explore Bhutan’s diverse range of biomes through trips to Himalayan ridges, the subtropical Punakha and Chukha Valleys, and the alpine meadows of Phobjikha.
This academically rigorous program follows a six-day/week schedule. The interdisciplinary curriculum is designed to help students actively discover and understand the complexities of environmental, social, and economic issues in Bhutan.
Fall: late August - early December
Spring: late January - early May
Refer to the SFS Bhutan website for the specific dates, if available.
The Center for Himalayan Environment and Development Studies is located in Paro, Bhutan. Its verandas overlook the flowing Pachhu (main Paro River) with sweeping views of the beautiful Paro Valley. Paro is set in the picturesque Paro Valley, offering views of the flowing Pachhu (main Paro River). This growing town offers a variety of shops, groceries, and cultural opportunities, and the cliffs surrounding the valley are home to the famous Taktsang Monastery (Tiger's Nest).
The Kingdom of Bhutan, referred to as the abode of the gods and home to immortals by Eastern classics and books of wisdom, is nestled in the remote and rugged mountains of the eastern Himalayan region. The culture and the traditional lifestyle of Bhutan are still richly intact and permeate all strands of modern-day secular life.
The eastern Himalayan region is characterized by extensive and numerous mountains and valleys, hosting the world’s highest peaks and a diversity of vegetation types ranging from subtropical broadleaf forests through subalpine conifer and alpine shrub and meadows. The country boasts a 70% forest cover and 26% of land area under formal conservation protection.
Bhutan has been identified as one of the ten biodiversity hotspots in the world and is home to an estimated 770 species of birds and an astonishing diversity of plants and orchids. Takin, snow leopard, golden langur, blue sheep, tiger, water buffalo, and elephant are among Bhutan’s diverse wildlife. Six vegetation zones are found in the country, ranging from subtropical broadleaf forests in the south, through broadleaf forests, subalpine conifer forests, alpine shrub and meadows as one gains elevation. The highest elevations comprise rock and ice. In the temperate forests, trees are related to the North American conifer and broadleaf taxa, including pines, firs, maples, and birches.
The field station is a former hotel located in Paro, Bhutan – a town located along the Paru Chhu River about one to one and a half hours west of the capital city of Thimphu. The rooms house 2-3 students and have a bed, desk, and storage spaces. Each student room has a private bathroom attached with showers, sinks, and western style toilets (these are rare – you’ll encounter many squat toilets during your time in Bhutan). The field station also has a classroom space, kitchen and dining area, staff housing and office space, and common spaces for students to relax. You will be staying in hotels and guests house while traveling on expedition, as well as camping.
Education Abroad in Countries with a Penn State Restricted Travel Designation
In order to comply with Penn State’s International Travel Policy, students interested in studying abroad in countries that Penn State has designated as “restricted” for travel, a petition for a waiver must be submitted. Once a petition is complete, and if the student is approved for study on the program in question, the student may be asked to meet with the Director of Education Abroad and the petition will be reviewed by the Penn State International Restricted Travel Committee (IRTC). The necessary petition will be included in the online application process for this program. To see if your program is taking place in a restricted travel country, please visit the Penn State Global website.
The cost of a program is based on Penn State tuition rates and partner institution fees. Due to the variety of locations and partner institutions, costs will vary depending on the program. Education Abroad works closely with our partners to ensure the most accurate cost estimates, however, fees can change quickly and without prior notice. Consult the cost sheets for your chosen program often and if you have any questions please contact your Education Abroad Adviser.
The Education Abroad Office awards a number of grants and scholarships to students who participate in an education abroad program through Penn State Global. The application for the scholarships awarded through the Education Abroad Office is included with your program application. Eligibility is based on academic merit and/or financial need. You must have a current FAFSA on file to be awarded. There are additional scholarship opportunities through our partner universities, Penn State Academic Departments, and other sources. To view a full list of scholarships, eligibility requirements, and deadlines visit Funding Study Abroad.
Program-specific Scholarships and Funding Opportunities
All students are welcome to apply for SFS need-based financial aid. Students who exhibit financial need for their program will be offered SFS financial aid. SFS aid is offered through a combination of scholarships, grants and loans. Visit the Financial Aid section of the SFS website for more information.
Penn State students who plan to study on a Penn State approved program can use most forms of financial aid towards the cost of the program. Exceptions include work-study awards and some athletic scholarships. If you have specific questions regarding your aid awards, contact the Penn State Office of Student Aid.
Withdrawal & Refund Policy
Withdrawal and refund details are dependent on the timing and reason for your withdrawal from a Penn State Education Abroad Program. For specific details and steps on how to withdraw, read the Education Abroad Policies.
Once a student has committed to a Penn State Education Abroad program, they are financially responsible for any fees incurred on their behalf. Therefore, if a student plans to withdraw from a program it is their responsibility to immediately notify the Education Abroad office, in writing; email is preferred.
Regardless of the timing or reason for the withdrawal, the student will be responsible for paying the Education Abroad Administrative Fees. Additional fees from the partner institution will be assessed according to their withdrawal and refund policies at the date of the withdrawal notice.
After the Start of the Program
If a student withdraws after the start of a program, any adjustment of Penn State tuition charges will be made according to the Tuition Adjustment Schedule as determined by the Office of the Bursar. Students may be responsible for up to 100% of program costs. In most cases, partial credit cannot be awarded for leaving a program before its successful completion.
For additional information on withdrawal policies, separate and apart from financial consequences, please consult the University Senate Policy on Withdrawal and Leave of Absence.